What can we learn from Kate the Great about Supply Chain Strategy?

3 min read
Oct 1, 2023 9:01:07 PM

Do you know Kate the Great? No, she isn’t Peter the Great’s baby sister but the honorific nickname of Kate Bingham. Kate was called for help by Boris Johnson in May 2020 to “Help us stop the killing” as Boris eloquently . I had asked her. I had not read about her, but she is cum laude biochemist by training and had worked for 30 years as a venture capitalist funding biochemical and pharmaceutical startups. She managed to enable that the UK has obtained the best access to Covid19 vaccines so that the NHS could get 35 Million inhabitants vaccinated already.

So, as humble supply chain practitioner, what did I learn from this case study?

   1. Network enables agility
   2. Analytics and fact-based research make better decisions
   3. Smart contracts ceate win-win partnerships
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Having a connected network increases your agility if you have an urge to take action. Kate had a readily accessible network of the who-is-who in this domain and did not simply focus on a tender-style consultation as the EU or gamble on a shortlist. With lighting speed all relevant players were engaged, ranging from the industry giants to start-ups. This ability to execute was also decisive in the selection process itself: Non-networked options were moved aside because their idea could be promising but they were not connected to execute at scale in days and weeks


Kate’s team worked as a VC / hedge fund and assessed these companies on a variety of metrics and KPI’s, including an assessment of their supply chains and their finances. By making a fact-driven supplier selection from an investor’s perspective they came up with the best shortlist, not with the cheapest or the most established suppliers from an RFQ. As VC’s are also used to account for the fact that more ventures fail than survive, her team set the target figure on 400M doses: More than 7 times the actual requirement.

Smart Contracts

It was only in January that the EU started to realize that Kate’s team had outsmarted them with their Smart Contracts. A lot of political statements were made about unfair policies, but the reality on the ground is that based on the supply chain assessment of Kate’s team they pro-actively reached out to suppliers from the start. Based on their own SWOT analysis the proposed to help them ensure that critical ingredients would be sourced and secured by the UK government on contracts that in turn obliged the Supplier to deliver the end product to the UK. They had preo-actively assessed production capacities, logistics bottlenecks and came with proposals to solve these and fund these for the supplier, including things as chilled warehousing. The Smart Contracts were not only about money; they also spearheaded access to 400.000 volunteers for the field trials to accelerate the certification. By building contracts from the mindset of in investor in stead of the mindset of procurement they simply provided what was needed with an out-of-the box approach that was much better suited to a crisis situation than a classical EU tender process aimed at maximizing value for money


As we are now preparing for the re-bound of the worldwide economy and unprecedented trillions of any currency are parachuted on the economies, your answer to this rebound can’t be “business as usual” and pick up the old spreadsheets from where we left them.

You should ensure to tap into readily accessible supplier and logistics networks. You should make decisions based on supply chain dashboards with leading indicators. Not last month’s results. You should shift from a Procure to Pay mindset to a “Collaborate to Profit” one

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