Biotechnology Institute Strategy Refresh

The Challenge

The client was a biotechnology research institute inside an Australian university with over a decade of history. It had faced a period of stagnation and identity crisis. Despite having a multitude of researchers and many projects, the institute’s efforts were scattered and lacked a cohesive, strategic direction. The existing strategy was merely descriptive, grouping projects into broad categories like ‘Cancer Research’ without any intentional strategic focus or deliberate investment decisions. This resulted in an entity that functioned more as a collection of individual parts rather than a unified, purpose-driven institute.

The primary challenge was its fragmented structure and the absence of a clear, actionable strategy that aligned with its aspirations. The researchers, while many and very talented, were embedded within various university departments, burdened by teaching responsibilities and responding to local priorities. This structure significantly hindered their ability to contribute meaningfully to the institute’s strategic objectives. The lack of a dedicated research workforce and a sustainable, strategic funding model further compounded these issues, leaving the institute at a crossroads, struggling to both define and achieve its goals.

What We Did

Our intervention was systemic, addressing fundamental issues at the core of the institute’s identity and operations. We employed a rigorous problem-based approach, systematically scrutinising each facet of the institute’s structure and operations to unearth the root causes of its stagnation. Our strategy was not confined to identifying ‘research themes’; it was a comprehensive reinvention, encompassing workforce realignment, financial model innovation, and the creation of a new commercial entity. The approach was designed to dismantle the barriers to the institute’s growth and reposition it as a differentiated leader in biotechnological research and innovation.

  1. Problem-Based Strategic Workshop: We initiated our engagement with a problem-based workshop, probing the fundamental question of the institute’s desired identity and the barriers hindering its realisation. This revealed the critical need for a dedicated research workforce, fully aligned and committed to the institute’s strategic vision.

  2. Strategic Workforce Planning: Recognising the need for a dedicated team, we embarked on a planning process to establish a workforce of 70 full-time researchers, financed and governed by the institute. This in turn required  a sustainable, non-grant-based revenue model to ensure continuity and stability.

  3. Innovative Revenue Generation Models: Through in-depth interviews with existing industry partners, we explored and evaluated various business models, including membership-based models and revenue-sharing arrangements. The goal was to establish a financial model that was both scalable and sustainable, capable of supporting the new strategic workforce without reliance on inconsistent grant funding which would jeopardise the mission.

  4. Establishment of a Commercial Entity: To facilitate rapid and flexible agreements and to ensure effective governance, we assisted in the creation of a new, commercially governed entity. This move provided the institute with the autonomy and agility necessary to pursue joint venture opportunities and to operationalise its renewed strategic direction.

  5. Balancing multiple governance requirements: Finally, the transformation also required a complete rethink of how the institute was governed – there was obviously the question of the commercial governance of the new entity, but there were fundamental questions about how the institute engaged and was integrated into the broader university. This required establishing new governance mechnisms.


The strategic overhaul within months led to a series of groundbreaking developments, signaling a new era of growth and innovation. They not just indicators of progress but are also foundational elements that will propel the institute into its next phase of development:

  • Successful Industry Ventures: The institute’s transformation has already borne fruit, with the successful launch of its first funded industry venture. This milestone marks a significant departure from the institute’s previous operational model and sets a precedent for future collaborations.
  • Strategic Employment and Educational Initiatives: Key staff have been strategically employed, focusing on the development of commercial educational offerings co-designed with industry partners. This initiative not only enhances the institute’s educational portfolio but also strengthens its industry ties and relevance and will very quickly generate revenue to invest in the scaling
  • Innovative Spin-offs and Endorsement: The institute witnessed its first spin-off under the new startegy, a testament to the efficacy of the new strategy focus on commercial opportunities and revenues.
  • Moreover, the strategy has received unanimous endorsement from the board, the university, and the institute’s members, accompanied by the authorisation to utilise substantial existing capital investments to execute the startegy.