fbpx Robert G. Urban, PhD, Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation Boston Innovation Center | JLABS

Robert G. Urban, PhD, Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation Boston Innovation Center


As the recent appointee to Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Robert G. Urban is expanding upon his previous role as Head of the Johnson & Johnson Boston Innovation Center. We caught up with him to learn more about what’s next for the organization. 

1. How do you see the business objectives of the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers expanding and/or transforming?
Since opening the first Innovation Center nearly three-and-a-half years ago, we’ve been able to expand the number of ICs into what we now refer to as our “four red doors,” or four embassies (Boston, California, London, and Asia Pacific), each strategically positioned across the globe, into which entrepreneurs from various regions can come and explore their ideas with us. Our Innovation Centers have connected Johnson & Johnson with some incredible consumer, medical device and pharmaceutical innovators, and it often begins with casual conversations. We’ve built a large portfolio of investments to date, and we see ourselves continuing to collaborate at an accelerated pace–getting better at what we do with each partner–and broadening coverage at supported by each center. As our network grows, the Innovation Centers will remained focused on providing an accessible destination for global entrepreneurs to meet with our unique teams of commercialization and marketing experts, legal advisors, R&D scientists and investment professionals.
2. How would you describe the Johnson & Johnson Innovation and the incubation networks’ (JLABS) journey and how they might continue to evolve?
The journey and evolution of Johnson & Johnson Innovation is really a result of the unique capabilities at Johnson & Johnson that have dovetailed to strengthen the collaboration and accessibility the ICs have to global entrepreneurs. We’ve integrated our incubation networks, JLABS, to provide on-the-ground support for innovators, and we’ve expanded our corporate venture arm, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., within each IC. We envision further collaboration and integration, allowing us to offer additional holistic support for our partners’ revolutionary ideas.
3. How do you envision the Innovation Centers further collaborating together to maximize the impact Johnson & Johnson Innovation has on shaping the market through its partnerships? 
We rely heavily on sharing talents between the teams at each Innovation Center, and see this as a critical component to our model of success. We have a dynamic notion about how teams can be formed to best support entrepreneurs—both within each Innovation Center and across multiple regions. We’re now seeing more and more of our team members rotating between Innovation Centers, bringing their expertise to different locations to help further strengthen our services to global entrepreneurs. We want to continue encouraging this kind of information sharing across our team and talent, while also positioning Johnson & Johnson Innovation in close proximity to the action.
4. How do you see changes in innovation shaping the healthcare market, and how does Johnson & Johnson Innovation fit into this new dynamic?
Innovation is now omnipresent in the healthcare market—a great idea can come from anywhere in the world. At Johnson & Johnson Innovation, we want to be right there in the mix because our teams can help bring new discoveries and capabilities into clinical and commercial reality. We have set up a model to serve as a “catchment” of ideas. We have the infrastructure, global capabilities and industry know-how to identify and transform ideas into healthcare solutions that we can deliver to patients everywhere.
5. You once wrote, “… the most successful innovation spaces will promote cross-pollination and inter-disciplinary collaboration.” How do you see the Johnson & Johnson Innovation teams embodying this ideal?
The Johnson & Johnson Innovation teams are a microcosm of that ideal—the architectural aspect of emphasizing proximity is a driving principle for us at Johnson and Johnson Innovation and it provides a important advantage in forging partnerships. Where people are and how they are juxtaposed can have lasting impacts on collaborations. With each successful innovation space, and as we grow, we actively find ways to create opportunities for collision, spontaneity and interaction.
6. What upcoming opportunities are you looking forward to for JLABS?
JLABS presents exciting opportunities to broaden Johnson & Johnson Innovation capabilities and accessibility. We’re seeing an increase in interactivity between our talent within the Innovation Centers and the entrepreneurial communities within JLABS, and we’ve heard firsthand how this model is better supporting their needs. Our JLABS @ TMC (Texas Medical Center) opening, for example, just open and already had 20 regionally based companies from the moment the doors opened. The facility is robust and will be home to many more, and we’re eager to continue to get to know and be available to help all of them.
7. You will soon open the doors to a new JLABS facility in Toronto, the first outside of the U.S.; can you discuss why this network of incubators has been so successful and why Toronto was selected?
Toronto is a medical mecca of remarkable institutions that are closely abutted. They have a longstanding history of working well together, coupled with a strong interest in entrepreneurial engagement. Together, these are the elements that are most important for JLABS location. The community leadership in Toronto has been remarkable supportive as well. JLABS @ Toronto will quickly be another demonstration of how this model helps to activate and catalyze the transformation of discoveries into innovative medical solutions.
Robert enjoys exploring various topics that directly or indirectly impact the healthcare innovation ecosystem on his personal blog, What’s “In” Innovation.