Meetings No 23
Pressure on Meetings International
Atti Soenarso: “At this point, we do not believe our ears.”
Cover Story
Catherine Boissier, Astra Zeneca
“Meetings are a vital tool.”
Cities across Canada Are Attracting Global Meetings
Due in large part to academics and industry innovators across a variety of sectors.
The Cost of Not Thinking
Mark Turrell: Applying conscious thought makes a big difference.
Dubai Tourism Launches Sponsorship Scheme
Designed to empower leisure event organisers.
Economic Development
Dubai Expo 2020 to Deliver $33bn Boost to UAE Economy
Expo 2020 is a long-term investment in the future of the UAE.
Calgary’s BMO Centre Set for Expansion
Funding approved for a $500 million expansion.
Longterm Development
The Potential of Cambodia
Visothy So: “We want to attract a lot of meetings and events.”
Canada Is the First Country to Have a National AI Strategy
Canada is in the lead of a global AI race.
‘She Means Business’ Digs into Diversity at IMEX Frankfurt
Diversity and inclusion are the linchpin of ‘She Means Business’.
The Business and Power of Placemaking
Placemaking in the spotlight at IMEX.
IMEX Frankfurt Shines a Light on Diversity and Inclusion
“Diversity means diversity of people, minds, ideas, and approaches.”
IMEX Agency Directors Forum
A highly relevant and future-focused programme.
Emirates Working on AI-Powered Flight Assistant
“The advancement of the next wave in aviation innovation.”
How to Fireproof Your Productivity
Exponential gains in your exceptionality, productivity and impact.
Volvo Car Group, a Human-Centric Meeting Culture
Paul Welander: “It’s always best when you meet live; for me that’s a meeting.”
The Art of Taking the Chance
“Many of the participants said it was the best congress ever.”
joining forces
Meet in Reykjavík
is now under the umbrella of Promote Iceland.
New knowledge
Brain research
shows added value live events.
BTM World 2020
transitions to virtual.
post-pandemic momentum
Dubai Tourism forms Business Events Stakeholders committee,
host first meeting as industry resumes activity.
hotel news
Scandic expects
occupancy of 30-35 percent for September.
Covid developer
Scandic Hotels
launches the largest network of coworking spaces in the Nordic countries.
planned for 16-17 Sep
Update on GIAF
- New dates set for 5-6 November 2020.
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
is now a carbon neutral venue.
positive impact
The Hague webinar
celebrates partnerships and first anniversary of Ottawa MOU.
expanding network
ICCA Partners up
with Geneva International Associations Forum (GIAF).
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Catherine Boissier, Astra Zeneca
An ache, a sprain, a niggle or a nagging throb can occur at any given time, which is the cue for us to go straight to the medicine cupboard and reach for the staple we all have in there, the painkiller.

Whichever of the most common ones it may be, such as aspirin, paracetamol or maybe even an ibuprofen, we know that within a short time the active ingredient will alleviate our pains and enable us to get on with whatever it is that we need to do.

When we pop the pill, however, what most of us are not aware of is just how complex the full contents of that little tablet can be. Alongside the active pain-killing agent are a multiplicity of others without which the medicine wouldn’t be possible: sweeteners to ensure we can consume it easily, a polymer coating to help ingestion and release the active ingredient, disintegrants to help it break up in the digestive system, binders to hold the tablet together before it gets down there, and a host of other active substances and excipients that all come together within this little pill.

One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, British-Swedish multinational Astra Zeneca is responsible for the research into and manufacture of pills that go far beyond the scope of painkillers, producing some of the world’s leading-edge medicines for conditions such as oncology, cardiovascular, renal & metabolism and respiratory. And just as the medication for all of these conditions brings together a multiplicity of ingredients in the same manner as the humble painkiller, so too do the meetings held at Astra Zeneca to ensure it can continue to deliver the most innovative solutions to today’s most pressing medical needs.

“Astra Zeneca is a global biopharmaceutical company working worldwide and in different disciplines, so there are a variety of competencies that we need to have within our company,” says Catherine Boissier, Associate Professor and Associate Director, working as a Chemistry, Manufacturing and Control (CMC) Project Lead at Astra Zeneca in Gothenburg, Sweden. “We go from early discovery to late phase developments, establishment and commercialisation, and all of that has to come together in the end, there are so many skills involved. In addition to that we are also a research intense company and we rely on research to bring new and innovative medicines to patients.”

Put all of that together with the fact that a medicine is not only what you put in your mouth, it is so much more beyond a clinical area, and so we have so many disciplines that have to come together just to bring something new to a patient. Scientists and science have to be open. We have to encourage openness and inter-disciplinarity, otherwise we will not bring innovation and novelty to what we need for innovative medicines to come through.

“Meetings are a vital tool to achieve that,” says Catherine Bossier. “Regardless the science, we need to encourage scientists to communicate and collaborate, and that’s why meetings are so important. It is also important just to get people to communicate and when we are speaking specifically of meetings there is not one type of meeting, as the type of meeting that can take place can differ so much.”

With a company base of more than 60,000 employees globally, as well as the three strategic research and development sites with one in Cambridge, one in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, and one in Gothenburg, Sweden, there are clearly a lot of different types of meetings taking place at any given time.

“The type of meeting that can take place may be very diverse – in my view the overarching purpose is primarily for people to meet, and to attract and retain competence.”

Engaging externally for meetings is part of a much wider and productive collaborative initiative that also brings scientists at Astra Zeneca into close interface with some of the other companies and institutions in the Gothenburg region, heightening intellectual exchange and driving innovation.

“Here in Gothenburg we have one of our global strategic research sites. Beside the research we do within the company, it is also important to partner up with others, for example, the Sahlgrenska University Hospital, and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm being another that is very important for us.”

“It’s not only hospitals, but also the universities, academia, consortia and other research partners that we can team up with to ensure we interact with different parts of science and diverse competences. We reinvest a substantial part of our growth back info R&D and science, more than €13.1 million every day.”

Acknowledging the significance of such meetings and collaboration as well as their wider contribution to the region, the city of Gothenburg took the initiative to work in partnership with the region’s key sectors to explore how best to attract more high-profile meetings to the city and also how best to elevate it to being the top destination worldwide for people working in those fields, bestowing the title of Meeting Ambassador for the city on those engaging with them.

“Together with the city we decided to team up in 2016 and see whether we could attract more scientific meetings to the region, which is important to increase the competitiveness within the whole region, and one way to do that is to attract people with the right competencies, but to also retain those people in the Gothenburg area.”

“Astra Zeneca is only one player here, but still one of the biggest in the region with 2,400 employees in our research site here and those employees come from more than 50 countries worldwide. We play on a global arena. Putting Gothenburg in that context I think we are working in the right direction; we have big universities, we have a big hospital with a lot of students coming into the city, which all helps. Sweden has a strong culture in science going long back.”

“What benefits other regional companies of course in the end also benefits us. Because if we can nurture the region and bring people in and get them to see how attractive and vibrant it is to stay in Gothenburg it benefits the whole arena,” says Catherine Boissier. “It’s not only what we do as a large company here, but it’s also that network that the city of Gothenburg has created to enable this, so together now we are starting to ask how we can collaborate further.”

Some of the early win meetings that have been generated by the partnership with the city could provide the catalyst for further collaboration, such as a successful one that came about through taking the opportunity to cast a lens over the kind of meetings the city might be able to attract as it moved forward with its longer-term ambitions.

“When we kicked off this initiative what we did as a company was to map out what the existing meetings were globally and what was out there, but equally importantly and together with this network to map out what we couldn’t see and what was not out there and to then start to fill in those missing gaps. We then started to work towards those scientific meetings together in this network by teaming up with Chalmers University of Technology and also Sahlgrenska University Hospital. One example of an outcome was to kick off a congress called ’Engineering Health’, to further strengthen the collaboration between disciplines in the life science area, based on this role as an ambassador in the city.”

“What happens when an engineer interacts with a medical doctor? I would say this is a really good example of what we can do in the region,” says Catherine Boissier. “We got worldwide speakers to come here and talk about the innovation that was created in that meeting and that has now continued. It’s a good example of what we can do together and a really interesting way of meeting. In the region the whole life science sector is trying to gear up towards innovation and this is one way of creating innovation, which for me is about that multidisciplinary, the coming together and meeting, so we need to foster that as a whole. This was one example, but I think if the whole region comes together in this network to interact, I’m sure we’ll see others.”

As the Gothenburg network evolves and continues to engage and collaborate for the purposes of progressing its meetings industry – and by extension the attractiveness of the region as a globally leading one for its main sectors – the key players involved increasingly understand the important role of hosting successful meetings in order to deliver this and the necessity of always being innovative in planning a meeting and constructive with its outputs.

“The key to preparing a good meeting is to have the overview of what you want to achieve and an openness, which for me is key to a lot of things here. You need to bring in the required disciplines, but in this region as a global multidisciplinary company it’s also to expand and push the boundaries of everything we do, so in setting up a meeting I always personally try to encourage bringing in new aspects oriented to the agenda from the start.”

“It’s important to be innovative in creating new meetings, to bring new things in, to get excitement into the meeting,” says Catherine Boissier. “For the outcome they should bring aspects of innovation, not only in a way that is beyond business but also in a way to bring something back to science, what new can we do based on what we learned together? That, for me, is a good meeting.”