Roche’s Entrepreneurship Program

Harnessing the innovation appetite and transforming it to viable business cases.

The challenge

Innovation and entrepreneurship has always been at the core of Roche. As the dominant player in the global biotech industry, Roche is driven by the urge to develop cutting-edge health solutions, stemming from the unmet needs of patients. 

Within Roche, there is a lot of appetite for innovation and lots of ideas that aren’t always evolved and actioned. 

The solution

The Entrepreneurship Program was set up as an open call to all Roche employees, to engage, stimulate, and promote more innovation throughout the company and its affiliates around the world. The Entrepreneurship Program aims to harness the innovation appetite and bring ideas to life, by offering teams across the organisation the chance to participate in a three-month innovation program, supported by innovation coaches.

Board of Innovation co-designed the Entrepreneurship Program together with Roche, and continues to facilitate, host, and evolve the program throughout the different cohorts.

Roche's innovation perspective

From prescriber-focused to patient and ecosystem oriented

The affinity to innovate has remained unchanged in the over 100 years of Roche’s existence. The drivers behind that innovation have however shifted.

From a treatment and prescriber focused approach that reactively developed curative solutions to patients’ ailments, Roche increasingly focuses on creating a holistic approach to patient care; seeing them as human beings and people before patients, and designing tailored healthcare solutions that meet those standards.

Collaboration as the essence of healthcare innovation

At Roche, the shift from reactive innovation to healthcare ecosystem-focused innovation is in full motion, with initiatives such as Movement Health 2030, the Caring Project and the Entrepreneurship Program. At the heart is a collaborative and holistic approach that prioritizes patient-centricity and local partnerships with healthcare professionals, startups and a wide range of other stakeholders.

By focusing on ecosystem building, Roche emphasizes the need to work together with customers, patients, nurses and doctors to fully understand their needs and design solutions that address them.

Launching the Entrepreneurship Program

The Entrepreneurship Program was set up as an open call to all Roche employees, to engage, stimulate, and promote more innovation throughout the company and its affiliates around the world. Within Roche, there is a lot of appetite for innovation and lots of ideas, which the Entrepreneurship Program aims to harness and bring to life, by offering teams across the organisation the chance to participate in a three-month innovation program, supported by innovation coaches.

Board of Innovation co-designed the Entrepreneurship Program together with Roche, and continues to facilitate, host, and evolve the program throughout the different cohorts.

During the three-month program, participants receive guidance from internal innovation coaches on how to proceed with their ideas, and they are given the right tools to innovate with the end-user in mind. Moreover, they’re able to test and validate their products or concepts in collaboration with end-users, to help develop their ideas based on real insights. After the program, participants have the option to continue to work on their project, or already provide a Proof of Concept or an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), with the aim of getting sponsorship to bring their innovations to market.

Idea post-its
mapped stakeholders across business models
mapped pain points across customer journeys
new personas mapped

Project statistics from one cohort of the Entrepreneurship Program

A three-month journey of innovation and business impact

From the first cohort of the program, five teams were selected out of 45 different proposed projects, to proceed on a three-month journey to really focus on understanding the customer needs, develop their prototype and in the end pitch and present their outcome to sponsors to invest in their project. The project is currently hosting its third cohort, and the positive impact on the participants is becoming more apparent by the day.

Participating in the Entrepreneurship Program is a learning curve intent on delivering meaningful and real business impact. It’s about connecting different stakeholders and expertise, from pharma and diagnostics, and several affiliates to work collaboratively on the solutions at hand. Learning to apply the right tools, working intensely on a project, and involving end-users in the innovation process, allows for great learning opportunities for Roche employees. Moreover, it’s an excellent way of giving momentum to innovative ideas and concepts, as well as an opportunity to find sponsorship and mentorship from different experts. 

Whether a project progresses and gets funding after the program, depends on the project itself. Statistics however indicate that the majority of the projects do continue, and some move on to get funded after being developed or iterated further.

The impact

Instilling skills

Everyone involved in the Entrepreneurship Program emerges a better, more experienced individual. Participants are being challenged to identify methods that resonate well with them and take lessons learned back to their organizations. It’s about learning which tools can create the highest impact with the highest value.

The diversity within the program provides an added advantage. With a wide range of projects from different countries and regions, the program pools together professionals from diverse fields and backgrounds. The new partnerships that participants forge, greatly enrich their experience and outlook.

Lessons learned: the importance of collaboration

Across the various projects involved in the Entrepreneurship Program, there were a couple of key learning outcomes. One of which is to engage with as many stakeholders as you can, from as early on as possible. Have an open mind and don’t hold onto your assumptions, but continue to engage with end-users – even if that means pivoting your idea into a different direction, in order to adapt fast to the needs of the customer.

Another key learning is recognizing that collaboration is key for innovation. Partnering with external partners and the entire ecosystem benefits innovation and the end-user too. The Entrepreneurship Program stimulates external collaboration, but building true partnerships is an art that requires an adapted skillset and mindset.

the impact

Innovating together, accelerating the possibilities

The Entrepreneurship Program has a real, tangible and meaningful impact on the healthcare ecosystems around the world by launching innovative solutions that address patients’ and stakeholders’ needs.

Its distinct model based on extensive collaboration and networking with partners across multiple countries, with an emphasis on experience and lesson sharing, also boosts Roche’s innovation trajectory. Sharing successes also provides the opportunity to accelerate innovation within the company.


One of the projects that stemmed from the Entrepreneurship Program is the Digital Organizer.

The Digital Organizer puts patient care first. After a cancer diagnosis, patients also find themselves overwhelmed by critical communication and administration tasks. Such tasks include keeping track of crucial clinical reports, letters, and insurance documents. Looking to alleviate the administrative burden, the leaders of this project teamed up internationally to simplify organizing, storing, and retrieving key documents. 

The Digital Organizer will allow each patient to access a secure virtual space on their phones to upload files and documents in multiple formats. As a helpful feature, all papers can be made anonymous when patients agree with sharing them with third parties. The tool is meant to guarantee they will always have important information at hand while making sure their strengths are focused on fighting the disease. The solution’s value hypotheses expect to reduce patient stress and missed appointments, improve reimbursement processes, and optimize communication between patients and their healthcare partners.

Through the Entrepreneurship Program, emotional and administrative unmet requirements were addressed. This solution looks after the needs of cancer patients, whose focus should be on avoiding additional stress, and fighting to tackle the journey ahead. The Digital Organizer is planned to go beyond document management. It will feature appointments and history timelines, a diary and medical summary profile, a community chat assistant, and secure file sharing between patients and their doctors. The digital platform will be available in a pilot of an open patient ecosystem led by patient organizations offering end-to-end support along the entire medical journey.


The Entrepreneurship Program has been a hotspot for numerous projects founded on a strongly human-centered perspective. The Digital Learning project is essential as an example of how innovative redesign may change the course of healthcare ecosystems.

The project sprung from the desire to modify the design and execution of clinical trials by offering an immersive learning experience. The team’s express mission is to provide internal and external partners access to real patients’ perspectives, intending to upgrade clinical processes. 

The Digital Learning project is already at its pilot phase, and has secured the funding required to move forward and the internal support and backing of the idea. The team will be working closely with clinical scientists and patients alike, identifying the pain points of specific scenarios to co-design new processes through validated results.

The forecasted benefits of the Digital Learning environment aim to reinvent the creation and procedure of clinical trials. The outcome promises more than an emotional and practical connection that results in future improvements based on real patient experience. Senior investors have attributed this immersive experience with the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry as we know it.

An impactful example: merging diagnostics and screening with telemedicine

One of the projects that stemmed from the Entrepreneurship Program is the Home Health project, in Hong Kong, focused on cardiology screening for atrial defibrillation. Evidence shows that people don’t see the need for screening until they’re confronted with visible or severe symptoms. Lots of patients remain undiagnosed, and when symptoms present, they manifest and may advance rapidly.

Through the Entrepreneurship Program, the project started by locating the right stakeholders to create a sustainable, systematic screening program. It aimed to combine screening technology with a local NGO with the network required to distribute these applications. Many stakeholders got involved in the project, and the viability of the business case was thoroughly examined.

Today, the Home Health project is looking to partner with a telemedicine company, in which some of Roche’s blood biomarkers could be provided. The project is now searching for partners, such as private hospitals and clinics, to discuss the possibility of offering digital consultation services to patients. The project is mapping the expectations of different stakeholders and, once they get the approval, they can use the app to share these new screening biomarkers.

The next step would be to get all partners involved – Roche, the telemedicine company and the private clinics – to agree on and streamline the business model and roll out these new programs.

What’s next?

The program undergoes constant monitoring and evaluation to fine-tune and bring out its very best. Looking to the future, boosting external collaboration with an increased number of external partners will be of crucial importance and impact. One example is having patient organizations become part of a project team, to help keep the focus on the unmet needs of end-users. Promoting even more diversity in terms of projects, participating countries and regions is another focal point for the future. 

The program is currently hosting it’s third cohort of participants and will continue to run, encouraging more impactful innovations and collaboration across Roche’s organization.

The collaboration with Board of Innovation is great and we really
co-designed the program together. As the journey continues it’s a truly unique partnership where we’re developing, evolving and experimenting with this program, hand-in-hand

Alain Bindels
Head of Innovation Facilitation & Digitalization at Roche

Related work

Movement Health 2030

A global mission and collaborative platform aimed at solving major health challenges, through local and global partnerships.

Caring Program

Accelerating the innovation process with a shared knowledge platform and a solid innovation framework, aimed at solving the unmet patient needs.

Roche's Innovation Journey

Board of Innovation is working with Roche across their innovation journey, focused on transforming healthcare ecosystems with an outside-in approach.

Get inspired by Roche’s Innovation Journey in Healthcare and learn the methodology to apply.

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