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CI Meets AI at Pharma CI

Last month saw many of the world’s leading pharma and biotech companies deploy their competitive intelligence (CI) specialists to Newark. Specifically, to the Pharma CI Conference and Exhibition that took place on 20th and 21st of September. I joined them, and it was one of the best iterations of the conference that I’ve been to in years.

My main role at the Pharma CI conference was to present the Evaluate World Preview report to the assembled CI crowd. The World Preview features Evaluate’s market forecasts out to 2028, and we focused on areas that will impact CI teams, particularly the importance of reliable data and disease area expertise.

Of course, one of the joys of attending these conferences in person is the opportunity to reconnect with familiar faces and meet new people; and the Evaluate team did plenty of that! As well as talking to people about our newly-expanded competitive intelligence practice, it was interesting to note a few recurring themes in the discussion and in the presentations. One of which – perhaps unsurprisingly – was Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI has the potential to seriously impact the CI space in pharma. After all, it is able to locate and collate huge amounts of data and information in no time, which is a big part of any CI team’s role. More significantly, generative AI may be able to take this a step further, creating recommendations and strategies that other teams, such as brand management, may be able to take forward themselves. Naturally, this makes CI teams nervous.

It is important to keep perspective, though. Yes, AI is able to do a lot of the heavy lifting for CI teams now, but these teams are not getting replaced any time soon.


Firstly, AI cannot yet be entirely trusted. Human eyes are still needed to confirm and corroborate data to ensure it is accurate and current. The good news is that these teams now have a valuable tool that can cut down on the manual trawling for input, providing more time for true analysis.

Secondly, AI is built on available data. There is a significant gap between what is currently being done and potential innovations for a company. At this point, spotting that gap and identifying potential strategies and opportunities is the domain of the human CI expert.

All that said, there are a lot of vendors pushing the idea of having an AI-enabled platform that can do much more. During the conference, a few of our pharma CI partners openly asked how long CI teams would be around for. It’s a valid question, but one that I think we can park, at least for the time being. Smart CI teams must take advantage of the technology and tools available to them and use their expertise to provide the value that the business requires from them.

It is quite possible that in the future (and don’t ask me when!) there will be a tool into which a brand lead can input a query and receive a set of recommendations and materials to share with leadership. In fact, many of Evaluate’s solutions use AI, more specially machine learning to digest data and bring valuable insights closer. Tools like these, though, should help CI teams and their advisors to focus on the strategic guidance their expertise allows, and the business requires.

The robots might be coming, but we needn’t fear them quite yet.


Alex Bour, Ph.D

Practice Area Lead, Competitive Intelligence, Norstella


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