You conclude with a great question – will there be a “virtual R&D” solution for pharmaceutical companies? There are already several startups that offer on-demand laboratory support. For example, Transcriptic (https://www.transcriptic.com/) bills itself as “outsourced research for the modern drug company” and enables companies to quickly perform biomarker / cell-based / biochemical assays remotely. Science Exchange also lets companies and researchers outsource research & development. Through these platforms, AstraZeneca may be able to reduce the need for researchers to co-locate. However, as there are security, quality and scale concerns, AstraZeneca should still pursue your other recommendations.
It’s a tough choice – leave the U.S. and relocate to lower cost areas, consequently accelerating the “America First” movement and facing higher tariffs OR double-down in the U.S., committing jobs (as in South Carolina & Austin) in good faith that U.S. policymakers will not impose higher import duties. Because of entrenched interests by State Governors and Senators to retain jobs in their constituency, I would advise Samsung to carefully consider where it places its next production facility, accounting not only for financial factors and the job force, but also for the relationships it can develop with key policymakers involved. In addition, Samsung can maintain goodwill by generating non-production related jobs in the U.S., such as careers in logistics, sales, and service. This may have the effect of increasing SG&A, but keeping the unit-costs the same or driving them lower (by relocating to lower cost countries).
This article reminded me of the Nike Football case study; the protagonist in that case faced a similar question you are raising here – should Nike be marketing the sustainable aspects of its product? In that scenario, it was the removal of a greenhouse gas from Nike’s air pockets; here, it’s the use of sustainable cotton or more sustainable cotton-substitutes. I do think consumer preferences have changed in the last ten years, such that purchasing decisions are more influenced by perceptions of a company’s sustainability initiatives. Consequently, I think Nike can use the opportunity to promote its sustainability practices, but at the same time emphasize through its marketing that its quality is the same, or even better [I don’t think Nike will shift practices at the expense of quality]. To your question about acquisitions, I think a better approach is to take minority stakes in many small companies to keep track of high / low performers, and then be in the position for a full acquisition if the opportunity arises.
This is a timely topic, especially since Bitcoin just crossed the $10,000 threshold, up 900% since the start of the year! However, with all the hype around crypto-assets and blockchain technology, there are many questions as to why for some applications it’s a better approach than centralized cloud-based databases. It is great to see that Walmart and other food supply-chain players are exploring its potential, but I hope that Walmart is also considering more traditional approaches to data management as they might find blockchain tech to be prohibitively under-developed or expensive. Yes, blockchain creates a single distributed, historical record / ledger of transactions, but it also has many downsides that make it a sub-optimal technology for certain applications: transaction times can take several minutes as transactions are validated by the network (https://blockchain.info/charts/median-confirmation-time), significant security concerns (e.g. network hacks), hard to trace, non-recoverable assets (e.g. if you lose a physical asset or you’re hacked). I’m excited that Walmart is exploring how to use blockchain in its supply chain, I just hope it’s also looking at solving traceability problems through more traditional methods as well.
As you discuss, it’s critical for the industry to consider both the impact on quality of life and cost to serve a single patient, as well as the total volume of patients served. Pending regulatory decisions on net neutrality may play a significant role in either holding back or promoting telemedicine. Current Federal Communications Commission rules make it illegal for internet-service providers (ISP) to block or slow content from a specific source. If the rules are repealed, ISPs may be able to charge more for telemedicine services because they tend to take up a lot more bandwidth than other sites. This would drive up internet costs and make telemedicine prohibitively expensive, especially for patients and hospitals in rural areas. Many questions are still up in the air – will net neutrality laws change? if they do change, how will ISPs react? even if costs increase for telemedicine, are the savings so substantial that it will just slow, rather than halt, adoption?
Thanks for your perceptive analysis of Freight Farms. You are right to point out the questionable savings in energy production, weighing off transportation savings with higher utility consumption. There are, however, several other benefits unrelated to climate change: all-seasonal farming to drive year-round productivity, less spoilage through transport & refrigeration, lower pesticides use / exposure to infectious disease, and higher quality. Aside from the novelty, the greens typically sell for a significant premium to restaurants because they are both fresher and more unique; since the growing environment is controlled, growers are able to tinker with color, taste, texture etc. [Farm One, for example, is a vertical growing startup in New York selling their produce same-day to high-end restaurants]. Lastly, to your question about scaling production, Plenty, a company promising warehouse-sized indoor vertical farming raised $200M from Bezos, Softbank and other investors in July. Will be interesting to see if they can drive down costs!