Last week, PhRMA submitted comments to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in response to a request for comments on the National Strategy for Expanding American Innovation. PhRMA’s comments focus on the types of initiatives and efforts that could be included in a national strategy to make the innovation ecosystem more diverse and inclusive and that build on the breadth and depth of biopharmaceutical initiatives that both bolster the STEM talent pipeline and support D&I in the workplace. This comment letter follows the release of a PhRMA report rich with insights into how PhRMA member companies are increasing opportunities and addressing workplace disparities for underrepresented and underserved populations. Below are five key takeaways from the comments:
- Mentorship. PhRMA member companies have seen first-hand how effective mentorship and networking can be used to encourage all students, including underrepresented populations, to join and remain in the STEM field. Our comments suggest that the national strategy should increase diversity in the innovation ecosystem by encouraging organizations to utilize models or programs like mentorship, which serve as a push mechanism to grow the pool of inventors.
- Public-private partnerships. PhRMA member companies suggest using public-private partnerships and working with community organizations to supplement formal education. This can be done through programs such as after school programs, summer camps, STEM competitions or science fairs, to raise awareness of STEM topics, build skills and increase interests in STEM, inventions, entrepreneurship and IP among students of all ages, particularly students in rural or economically disadvantaged areas.
- Student engagement. PhRMA member companies are currently deploying targeted scholarships, support for STEM focused schools and experiential learning experiences to overcome geographical, financial and relational barriers to accessing the innovative ecosystem. The national strategy may consider including programs modeled from the industry’s work in these areas.
- Teacher support. PhRMA member companies recognize the critical role educators play in building the pipeline of and inspiring the next generation of innovators. Our comments suggest that the national strategy consider emulating existing models of successful programs or initiatives such as onsite visits, programs to raise career awareness, supporting teacher workshops/professional development and assisting in curricula development.
- Workplace culture/implicit bias training. Innovators and inventors thrive when cultural and institutional barriers within workplaces are minimized and removed. PhRMA member companies have taken a multipronged approach to making the workplace more diverse and inclusive, especially for women and minorities. Specifically, focusing on education and training to help minimize cultural and institutional barriers, and suggests that the national strategy consider including educational initiatives such as unconscious or implicit bias training for organizations throughout the innovative ecosystem.
Bottom line: Prioritizing D&I across federal agencies, taking best practices from across high R&D-intensive sectors known for high levels of patenting, as well as bringing together leaders from across federal agencies is key to assessing challenges and barriers, best practices and potential models for public-private collaboration to make progress. A national strategy outlining clear metrics and identifying best practices, such as some of the efforts by PhRMA member companies to grow the STEM talent pipeline and support underrepresented populations within the workforce, can help improve the diversity of entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators across the ecosystem.
Learn more about PhRMA’s overall equity efforts here.
Abigail Lore Abigail Lore, MPA, is Director of Policy and Research at PhRMA. At PhRMA she is responsible for developing educational materials and research studies on a range of issues impacting innovative biopharmaceutical companies including FDA policy issues, the R&D process, and emerging technologies such as digital health tools and cell and gene therapies. Before joining PhRMA in 2019, she worked at a patient advocacy organization as a project manager. Abigail came to Washington, DC via New Hampshire to attend American University, and fell in love with the city including the running and biking trails, endless restaurants to try and the DC sports teams. Abigail has seen the first hand benefits of biopharmaceutical research and is passionate about advocating for a strong STEM workforce as well as the patients they work to help.