Innovative spirit meets experience abroad

The Global Mobility Program sends employees packing: Researchers and managers temporarily leave their usual workplaces so they can share knowledge with other teams and drive innovation. When they return from their assignment abroad, they bring valuable new perspectives back with them.

For the next period of time, Swabian “spätzle” noodles will frequently take the place of traditional Japanese ramen in Takuma Katayama’s diet. Katayama, who holds a PhD in chemistry, actually works in Kobe, Japan, where he leads a team in the area of medication development. Now he will spend three years as the project manager of research and development teams at the German location in Biberach. In January 2019, Katayama relocated to Germany with his little daughter and his wife, who was then expecting their second child.

Though it was a real adventure for the young family, it wasn’t a step into the unknown for the Katayamas: “We were looking forward to seeing our friends and colleagues here again,” says the chemist. Starting back in 2011, he had already spent three years as a scientific assistant in Biberach. “The first time I came here, my main priority was gaining a better understanding of the development team’s processes in Biberach,” Katayama recalls. The objective of his time overseas was to bring the technical collaboration of the teams even closer together.

We were looking forward to seeing our friends and colleagues here again.

Dr. Takuma Katayama

After returning to Japan, Katayama took on a role in the global research and development team. “As next step, it made sense for me to return to Biberach and work there as the head of several research and development projects. So, I could get to know my colleagues and understand the superordinate team structure.” When Katayama goes back to Kobe again in 2021, it will be his job to see that the German-Japanese development teams are even more effectively integrated for optimal collaboration.

Already during his first stay in Biberach, Katayama knew he could count on the support from the Global Mobility Program during his time abroad. From its headquarters in Ingelheim, the Global Mobility Team acts as a Center of Excellence for the international deployment of employees. In 2019, about 120 employees changed their places of work for up to six months as part of an “extended business trip”. In addition, approximately 400 employees were sent abroad for a longer period of time. “No one is left to rely on themselves,” explains Annette Späth, Head of the Global Mobility Center of Excellence. Among other things, the company takes care of the move as well as visa and tax questions, and helps find good schools for its employees’ children.

Dr. Ingeborg Jost

For two years, she leaves her home in Biberach and supports setting up the quality control for the new production unit in Spain.

The Global Mobility Program is currently undergoing a transformative phase. “We want global mobility to become easier and more natural for employees,” says Späth. In the future, Boehringer Ingelheim will offer even more tailored deployment approaches to support the business, drive innovation and develop a global workforce. This is an important step in Boehringer Ingelheim’s development. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the family business has grown into a global player. “This is also changing everyday working life. Employees are collaborating with their international colleagues more than ever,” explains Späth.

The change has been enriching for me, both professionally and culturally.

Dr. Ingeborg Jost

Dr. Ingeborg Jost is currently having this experience. She traded the timbered houses of Biberach for Sant Cugat, a Catalan city north of Barcelona. In Germany, she led a laboratory team for inhalation products in Biberach. Now she is responsible for the quality control at the new RESPIMAT® production unit in Spain. “The production site in Sant Cugat has started construction on a new line for inhalation products as well,” Jost explains. With her experience from the development of the RESPIMAT®, she can provide the Spanish team with optimal support in setting up quality control for the new production unit.

Because Jost will work with the team in Spain for two years, she moved there with her family. Her two daughters attend a local German school. “The change has been enriching for me, both professionally and culturally,” says Jost. She quickly realized, for example, that agility is particularly in focus in the Spanish teams. “I certainly expect to bring back a few ideas and experiences that could also help our team in Germany.”