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Message from Paul O'Nions, BHBIA Chair

September 11th, 2020

On 10th September I was proud and honoured to be able to address our membership at our first live event since taking on the role as chair of the BHBIA. This comes with a duty to take the organisation forward and ensure we create something strong for the future generations of Business Intelligence professionals. 

The BHBIA has entered its 60th year and the world has seen lots of change over this time, the BHBIA has also evolved with a rebranding from the British Pharmaceutical Market Research Group in 2001 to encompass the wider scope of Business Intelligence. Personally, I remember this vividly as it was my first industry conference in Bournemouth. In the last 19 years we have seen lots of technological changes that have made it easier to stay in touch and communicate on-demand. Who would have thought that in the year 2020 we would be so reliant on these technologies more than ever before?

It was unimaginable that we would be away from our regular workplace for six months, the things we take for granted such as an in-person meetings, lunch with colleagues or socialising over a draught beer all have been temporarily stopped or have heavy restrictions in order to protect our nation’s health. 

What a time to take over the chair of the organisation! I am pleased to have the full support and guidance of outgoing chair Nick Coolican-Smith who has successfully guided the organisation to this point and providing a strong foundation to allow us to plan with confidence our next steps. 

Last year as a Board we engaged Adelphi Research to help us to understand the needs of UK pharma companies. We wanted to understand the needs and desires to ensure a successful and sustainable future for Business Intelligence in the UK. I am delighted that we will reveal the full results of this research at our December event. However it is pertinent to reflect on the main findings that will impact our future which offer both opportunities and challenges: 

  • Business Intelligence is perceived to be a leader for commercial activity, driven by data analytics and research to inform decision making. 
  • The perceived value of Business Intelligence at a senior or company level is felt to depend upon the support ‘at the top’, but varies considerably between companies.
  • The role and importance of data in Business Intelligence has increased considerably, and will continue to do so in the future. Business Intelligence is perceived to be a leader for commercial activity, driven by data analytics and research to inform decision making. 
  • The majority of Business Intelligence teams are currently structured globally, but with local insight affiliates. 
  • In many companies, investment in analytics is already equal to, if not greater than Primary Market Research. However many stress that the value from market research is not to be underestimated. 
  • Companies are also investing in new and emerging promotional channels but engagement and progress vary. 

So what is the key to success? We as an organisation need to listen to this feedback and over the last few months myself and the board have shaped a vision for the future which we have shaped with the help of the Ethics and Compliance Committee, Analytics Forum and Fieldwork Forum. To be future proofed we need to be inclusive and embrace the diversity that exists across the membership. We hope our 500 member companies and 10,000 associated individuals can align with our future focus.

The UK is the place to be for excellence in healthcare insight 

This spans our ambition to have a thriving business intelligence community that is recognised throughout the world as an attractive place to invest for the development and dissemination of actionable insight. This investment covers capabilities, expertise and innovation. The UK has so much to offer, perhaps it’s our British stiff upper lip or being humble and reserved about our accomplishments that are holding us back! 

Our members, you, are our life blood. We exist to support you. We have three key membership categories all with differing needs i) pharmaceutical companies ii) agencies and iii) personal members. Our members span three main disciplines of primary market research, data and analytics and fieldwork. We need to be able to unlock opportunities in these areas to ensure that we can empower the UK healthcare insights community with clarity and confidence. In search of our ambition of delivering excellence with integrity. We will take this journey one step as a time and as a board we have set ourselves the ambitious goal that by 2023 the BHBIA will be the industry association for thought leadership, professional development and ethical standards for deriving insights within UK healthcare. 

These three pillars will guide our decision making and investments:

Ethical Standards 

  • Expand current areas of focus to ensure we cover all areas of insight generation to ensure we continue to raise standards 

Professional Development 

  • Provide networking opportunities at high quality events that the membership want to attend 
  • Focus on fewer training events but ensure they are of the highest quality 

Thought Leadership 

  • Facilitate bringing other industry experiences to our members to stimulate thoughts and inspiration
  • Hot topic discussions and latest developments that will resonate with our members 

I would ask you as members to hold us to account, we are here to represent you and your needs. It is my role as chair to listen, challenge and guide. You can expect to hear more in the coming months about our focus areas.

I believe that as an organisation, together we can achieve more. I’ve mentioned previously we want to hear from you. What are your ideas? What are the challenges you are having? Ideas for hot topics? Without a doubt you won’t be alone in your thoughts. We appreciate and thrive on feedback, please feel free to contact us at, follow us on LinkedIn and contribute to the discussion.

Let’s achieve our vision together and make the UK the place to be for excellence in healthcare insight. 

Kind regards 



Full BHBIA members can now view a recording of Paul's vision for the BHBIA - see link on the right of this page.