It’s not easy being a life sciences firm today. Companies in the sector have seen rising research and development (R&D) costs, in exchange for flat, or even diminishing, innovation returns. Many are staring over the edge of a patent cliff, the loss of intellectual property protection on drugs that are currently bringing tens of billions of dollars in sales and that subsidize expensive R&D efforts. This concern is greatest for the bio pharmaceutical sector, but other life sciences firms are suffering as well: medical device firms, for example, are also experiencing difficulties with their innovation programs.

How severe is this problem? And what can be done to ease these pressures and reinvigorate innovation efforts within the life sciences industry? These are the questions that this Economist Intelligence Unit study examines, based on a wide-ranging survey and in-depth interviews with senior executives at global firms across the life sciences sector.