Our purpose is to build a better tomorrow by reducing the health impact of our business through offering a greater choice of products for our adult consumers. This will help deliver a better tomorrow for our consumers who will have enjoyable and stimulating choices; for society by aiming to reduce the environmental and social impacts of our business; for our employees by creating a dynamic and purposeful place to work; and for our shareholders by delivering sustainable superior returns.
It was great to have the opportunity to spend time with delegates attending this week’s Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum . During the week, I had the privilege of participating in a chief scientific officer panel chaired by world-leading physician Teo (Teddy) Forcht Dagi. For this session, I was joined by Joe Thompson, Maria Gogova, and Ian Jones, and we reflected on the biggest challenges, opportunities and importantly the responsibilities for the scientific community within the tobacco and nicotine industry.
We discussed our efforts to generate robust data, and how we are developing and applying new research methods, as well as using real-world data to get the answers we need. But collectively we acknowledged the data gaps that exist and how crucial it is that we work to fill them. This will ensure we have the evidence needed to inform and engage with stakeholders about tobacco harm reduction in future.
So, where will these data be found? How can they be generated? There are lots of countries around the world where uptake of alternatives to cigarettes or new category products have been available for some time now. That means data could be gathered from these users that could inform and build upon the in vitro studies we have done and continue to undertake. This evidence could also further inform consumer choice and progressive public health policy.
Another challenge we face as scientists is not the quality of science being carried out within our industry, rather the ability to effectively communicate it in a fair and unbiased way, with the same access to journals and outlets that others outside the industry are given. We have a responsibility to communicate the facts to consumers.
We discussed the need to attract the best talent, particularly from new and emerging areas of science, such as genetics and analytics. I highlighted the influx of talent we have had into BAT - scientists who want to conduct world-class research and deliver work that contributes towards the company’s purpose of building A Better Tomorrow. There is much for us to do, but our industry offers the opportunity to work on some exciting and pressing scientific questions.
Finally, we reflected on COVID-19 and the need this has created for us to apply our science. Not only is scientific firepower being turned on this disease, but the language of science has become far more prominent and understood within wider society as a result. As I mentioned on the panel, we couldn’t have imagined before this pandemic that a virus’s R-number would become a commonly used term among the general public. There is therefore an opportunity to take lessons from how COVID-19 science has been communicated and ensure that this simplicity and desire to generate trust, understanding and confidence with our audience continues to embody all we do in the future.
Consumer preferences and technology are evolving rapidly, and we are staying ahead of the curve with a global network of digital hubs, the creation of innovation super-centres, and further development of our world-class R&D laboratories.
Adult smokers are more likely to switch to new products if they can find satisfying alternatives that offer sensorial enjoyment.
We have a deep understanding of our consumers and we use these insights to develop an exciting product portfolio across a range of categories, including vapour, tobacco heating products and modern oral products.
Product safety goes hand in hand with sound science. We conduct cutting-edge research to evaluate our new category products and apply the highest standards for product safety and quality.
I’m asking people to judge us fairly on our actions. I think that science has a fundamentally important role in building trust in our products and in this company. We put our science through peer review all the time and if people have doubts about the science, we encourage them to challenge us on it and to do what good scientists do – repeat it. The science that can be repeated is the science that survives and is believed.
We have become real experts in areas such as consumer electronics. In the space of a few years, we’ve gained an awful lot of knowledge, and that has been hard won. It has been enhanced by recruiting brilliant people from the tech world.
Another discipline that is new to us is technology scouting. Now, a fundamental part of our R&D programme is to identify and acquire promising technologies that are in their infancy but we think could have a powerful role in making better products for smokers. In fact, some of the technology behind our Vype product iSwitch was identified years ago through our technology scouting team.
New category products can only meet their potential if they are widely available with the right regulatory and market conditions in place, alongside high standards and responsible practices across the industry. To support the success of our new category products, we advocate for regulation that enables market availability, applies the highest product quality and safety standards, allows communication of the potential benefits and risks, and ensures affordability for consumers by taxing them appropriately, whilst preventing youth appeal and access.
We are open and transparent about our science, and we publish in peer-reviewed journals. We also open our doors to visitors who want to understand our R&D work. Our approach is about providing transparency to consumers and regulators about both our company and our products.
I am very proud of our global team of world-class scientists and what they are doing to ensure the performance, efficacy and safety of our products.
I’ve met people who haven’t heard of us and I’d say, 9 times out of 10, they are pleasantly surprised and amazed by what we’re doing here. This is a vibrant, consumer-centric, technology-driven organisation. It’s very diverse and we have several generations all working together, which is a brilliant combination.
I think people feel they’re not just working for a great company but that they are part of history. They are helping to provide more choice to millions of cigarette smokers around the world.
Our ethos is about being bold, fast, empowered, responsible and diverse. It has been developed with significant input from our employees, and promotes a culture that is future fit by providing a foundation for sustainable growth.
We’ve come a long way and I feel both proud and privileged to be the Director of Scientific Research at this moment in our company’s history.