Innovation learnings: Interview with Marc Centellas, innovation manager at Gebro Pharma

We continue to inspire the ecosystem through good innovation practices applied to other organizations.  Today we invite  Marc Centellas,Senior Innovation Manager to Laboratorios  Gebro Pharma,S.A.

We are interested in his case as he has participated in the creation of the innovation unit in a family pharmaceutical company that, in its franchise in Spain, is formed by almost 150 employees, the equivalent of an SME. A profile that fits especially with the Open Innovation Ecosystem of the Port of Tarragona.

Therefore, in this interview, Marc explains his experience in promoting open innovation from a family business and what have been the main challenges and opportunities he has experienced in the process.


Marc Centellas is 42 years old, he studied pharmacy at the University of Barcelona and also has a MBI (Master in Business Innovation) from Deusto Business School. He considers himself an observant and curious person. Cooking, DIY and sports are a way of relaxing for him. He lives  couple and is the father of three children.




 Good morning Marc. For us, it is a pleasure to have your participation in this initiative and we want to thank you for your willingness to give us this interview.

Tell us, what has been your career path to become head of innovation at Gebro Pharma?

While studying pharmacy I did an internship in a veterinary laboratory. This first work experience helped me see that the business environment was what I liked. A short time later I made the leap to human health. I have been in different companies in the sector – both multinationals such as Alcon (now Novartis), and in national companies (Ferrer Group, Uriach). Even in a startup (SOM Biotech). In all these companies I have held different positions mainly in the areas of R&D&I, and business development. Therefore, I would say that this varied experience in different sectors, companies and activities has allowed me to see many models of enterprise and business, and I have been able to learn different ways of working and approaching challenges.

What does it mean to you to be responsible for innovation? How would you define your role?

My job is very varied and includes a creative and executive part. With regard to the first one, we have had to create a whole culture of innovation and a network to promote it, both inside and outside the company. As an example, I highlight an activity that we do with doctors, and that we call “Innovation days” , where we invite different specialists to share the problems and difficulties with the medicines of their day to day with the pathologies they treat. Problem identification is an inexhaustible source of ideas! The second part, the execution, begins when the ideas become projects and we generate working groups, we hire suppliers of specialized services, and finally, we do the corresponding project follow-up. This phase ends when the drug is fully developed and it is only necessary to request formal approval from the health authorities.

How do you structure innovation at Gebro? What are the roles associated with innovation?

Gebro is a goal-oriented company, and its innovation also reflects this philosophy. This is an innovation that has focused primarily on the product and could be defined as incremental innovation. In a very brief way, my job is to improve the drugs that already exist, such as changing the route of administration, improving the dosage, or its effectiveness.

The main objective of my role is therefore to contribute to expanding the company’s product portfolio through the development of new medicines.

 How do you think the process of promoting open innovation as an international family business has been? Tell us, how do you collaborate with the ecosystem to make innovation?

It is an ongoing process that evolves over time. We are well aware that talent and good opportunities will not only arise from within our organization, and that is why we must look for it outside the company. Gebro’s innovation unit works very similar to a startup and is made up of a small group of people who are dedicated to the most strategic or “core” tasks. Everything else is worked through an extensive network of contacts. This ecosystem includes specialized but also medical service companies, patient associations, as well as universities, research centers, etc.


Therefore, the success of the projects also depends – and a lot – on the partners with whom we collaborate. Many times we have worked on the formula of initiating collaborations with new suppliers defining low-impact and short-term projects. In this way, we validate the compatibility of working together and generate confidence to face more complex challenges.

 How is innovative DNA promoted as a key element of the organization’s culture taking into account the day-to-day challenges of the company?

It’s not easy. The day-to-day of the company leaves little room to think about the medium-long term. In our case, we work on 3 axes to promote innovation: internally, externally with customers, and with the sales network itself. Internally we have an innovation committee that meets every three weeks to define challenges, discuss new proposals, monitor and approve new investments or projects. We also have a multi-departmental working group that varies depending on the projects that we call “drivers”. Its task is to address a challenge previously defined by the innovation committee in which it will work using innovation methodologies. Finally, we have created a direct communication channel with the sales network so that they are our ears and eyes when they are in front of doctors or specialists. They are the ones who are seeing the reality, and that is why an open channel of communication is very useful, for example, to identify improvements and opportunities for innovation.

What have been the main satisfactions or milestones related to innovation at Gebro?

The first great satisfaction that comes to mind is to have been able to complete a cycle of product innovation in an environment as competitive as the pharmaceutical one. This means having gone from the creative process of identifying and analyzing an opportunity to the most operational part of project management. The end result has been the development of a drug of innovative presentation in different European countries.

I would also highlight it as great satisfaction to see that the Innovation Unit has become a relevant actor within the laboratory when it comes to identifying business opportunities. Everyone at Gebro sees it useful to have this Unit that allows the development of innovative medicines of our own.

What advice would you give to Som-Inn Port’s innovation agents to make the most of belonging to an innovation ecosystem?

I find it difficult to give advice because each organization has a unique way of working and approaching innovation. Anyway, I would like to highlight two characteristics of our personality that can help achieve all the challenges we set ourselves: Resilience and courage. With regard to the first one, I am referring to the ability to endure in difficult and uncertain times: –  innovation is not always easy! –  But with patience and support the results end up coming. The second is intrinsically linked to the first, innovation involves uncertainty and questions and we must take a certain risk if we want to innovate.

 What do you think are the main future challenges you face in relation to innovation at Gebro?

An immediate challenge that we set ourselves in Gebro has to do with the concept of “challenge”. That is, to focus completely on the problem as a starting point for any innovation project and not from a possible identified solution.

Other challenges on the table are to give an opportunity to other ways of innovating. Innovation – in general – also encompasses innovation in processes, new business models… etc. This type of innovation also contributes, and not only economically, but in a more intangible way.

Finally, the reformulation and definition of the project’s risk binomial and the degree of innovation would be a third challenge that could allow us to tackle more uncertain and risky projects, but which may lead to greater disruption.

And finally, tell us what has been the main innovation learning you’ve gained since you started this tour at Gebro?

We started this adventure with a well-defined generic goal but without a marked path, with many uncertainties or any previous experience in innovation issues. So, it has been a great path of personal and professional growth. Innovating is not the same as doing R&D!!.

It is difficult to highlight the main learning, but surely I am left with the assimilation and implementation of innovative working methods, and the ability to have created multidisciplinary teams that have generated results in shape of new drugs, contributing significantly to expanding the laboratory’s drug portfolio.


Marc, thank you so much for sharing with the members of Som-Inn Port your experience in open innovation!! We hope to continue collaborating and we hope that you and your company will continue to have success on the road through the world of open innovation


July 30, 2021

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