Case | HBS Case Collection | September 2013 (Revised April 2017)

PAREXEL International Corp.: Stages of Innovation

by Regina E. Herzlinger and Natalie Kindred


Through the lens of biopharmaceutical contract research organization (CRO) PAREXEL, this case traces the evolution of the firm as it reinvents itself in response to the transformation of the CRO sector from a small, secondary cluster of firms into a major player with essential capabilities for global drug development. The case begins as PAREXEL is pursuing an expensive globalization and IT strategy while many of its competitors focus on cost cutting. Over the prior 20 years, CEO Josef von Rickenbach had grown PAREXEL into a billion-dollar company by taking calculated risks and making bold investments based on anticipated industry trends and client demand. Now, despite slowing demand for CRO services, PAREXEL is betting that a global footprint and technology capabilities will become its key future competitive advantage. Near the end of the case, the timing transitions to a decade after Rickenbach made this strategic decision, describing the development of the industry and PAREXEL's place within it.

Keywords: Research; Innovation and Invention; Competitive Strategy; Pharmaceutical Industry;


Herzlinger, Regina E., and Natalie Kindred. "PAREXEL International Corp.: Stages of Innovation." Harvard Business School Case 314-056, September 2013. (Revised April 2017.)