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Our 2020 half-year report

Published September 2020

The first half of 2020 has been challenging for our clients, our people and society. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we managed to carry out brilliant client work, keep our team together and deliver a strong financial performance. In the second half of 2020, our business performance and outlook continue to be positive. In this report, we cover some of the highlights including how we’re responding to COVID-19 and bringing ingenuity to life for our clients, our communities and people.

Responding to COVID-19

We’re the firm trusted by clients to deliver meaningful, impactful work when they need it most, in good times and in bad. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve worked tirelessly with clients to support their businesses, protect society and support the economy.

When the UK Government realised it would run out of life-saving ventilators for critically ill COVID-19 patients, they called us. Working alongside senior leadership at the centre of government, we led one of the largest mobilisations of innovation, science and engineering since the Second World War. We assessed hundreds of new ventilator designs, set up manufacturing programmes for more than a dozen, sourced more than 40 million components from around the globe, and got the devices approved, into hospital and trained staff on their use all within a matter of weeks. Every single patient who needed a ventilator got one.

With care homes disproportionally impacted by COVID-19, and in-person visitations all but suspended, we teamed up with Marie Curie to create an innovative way to enable hospice residents to make virtual visits with friends and family. And with hospital staff stretched thin as the number of new COVID-19 arrivals climbed, we developed a nationwide clinician matching system in the US for the American College of Chest Physicians and the American Thoracic Society to get medical teams to hospitals where they were needed most.

As we responded with clients to the effects of the pandemic, we also took prudent steps internally to ensure that we could continue operating through uncertain times. To keep our team together, we asked all PA people to take a salary reduction, and delayed bonus payments to our senior team. In the UK we furloughed a small number of people and paid them at 80 per cent of their full salary. Our success in the market has meant that we’ve been able to avoid the business impact experienced by many of our competitors and we have now restored salaries to their full levels and are paying foregone salary from September. We’ve also paid the delayed bonuses and, while there was no legal requirement to return the money, we’ve repaid the furlough monies received from the UK Government.

Bringing ingenuity to life for our clients

In addition to our COVID-19 efforts, we’ve continued to deliver ingenious work that demonstrates how we unite diverse capabilities across a range of sectors to bring ingenuity to life for our clients.

Underground line breaks can be very expensive for utility companies because they’re hard to find and fix. So knowing in advance they’re going to occur and then using planned maintenance techniques dramatically improves customer service and reduces operating costs. With San Diego Gas & Electric Company, our utility reliability experts co-developed a proprietary machine learning-based product called iPredict, which predicts asset failures so the utility can address them before they become costly issues.

Around the world, more than 1.8 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water, making sanitation, cooking, education and business life a daily struggle. With Water Source Australia, an Australian start-up, we developed a transformational cloud-connected water treatment unit that uses IoT for analytics, treatment and maintenance. At the start of our engagement, we defined the business capabilities required to deliver the product and incorporated these into the platform design. And, in the first half of this year, we continued to work with the client to help them commercialise the product both within and beyond Australia.

And finally, we’re revolutionising cell and gene therapy manufacturing with Ori Biotech. Ori’s platform technology has the potential to enable the production of cell and gene therapies at market scale, for market relevant cost, making it possible for patients to get access to high quality care. Our experts at our Global Innovation and Technology Centre are accelerating product development towards launch, utilising our broad range of scientific, engineering, manufacturing and design expertise.

Our clients expect us to bring ingenious thinking to their biggest challenges. Our expertise can be seen through our thought leadership. In the first half of the year, we published a range of reports on topics like why COVID-19 has created a renewed imperative for the UK Government to be more purpose-led, adaptive and collaborative; why the pharmaceutical industry is perfectly placed to provide end-to-end services that deliver valuable health benefits to people; and how to gain a competitive edge by taking out cost.

We are also delighted to welcome ASTRO Studios, an award-winning brand strategy and product design agency, to our firm. ASTRO Studios provide us with a new centre of excellence for innovation and design on the West Coast of the United States and improve the front-end of our innovation capabilities. Astro Studios is our sixth acquisition in three years and strengthens our ability to provide our clients with the very best end-to-end innovation offerings.

Bringing ingenuity to life for our communities and people

We give time and expertise to support communities, increase diversity and inspire the next generation of ingenious leaders. Our annual Raspberry Pi Competition – now in its eighth year – promotes STEM education by challenging schoolchildren to invent something that benefits society using engineering and coding skills. This year, we held the competition virtually, and the theme was building the sustainable city of the future. The winning projects included an innovative way to detect pollution levels across a city and an object recognition device to reduce food waste.

Our Women in Tech programme partners with Code First: Girls, a social enterprise aiming to teach 20,000 more women to code by the end of this year. To support the attainment of this goal, we launched web development and Python programming classes for beginner and experienced coders.

And our Springboard programme provides talented young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity, the chance to develop their skills with expert guidance from PA people. We expect to run this programme in the second half of the year.

We firmly believe that successful businesses are inclusive and diverse. They’re businesses where people of any age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic group or ability are given the opportunity to bring their true self to work and excel in what they do. At PA, inclusion and diversity is of the utmost importance to us. Following the death of George Floyd in the US in May of this year, we’ve developed and agreed actions to support our people and communities, to help fight racism and to drive lasting change. We’re determined that PA will play a role in positive change that will make a significant and enduring difference.

In challenging times like these, clients turn to PA. We’ve said before that our Purpose guides our every move. And now, more than ever, that’s clear.