Recently, a group of Merck employees decided to hold a new kind of workshop; one they hoped would let them think outside of the corporate box. Interestingly enough, this workshop had them go … into an actual box.

This "box" was actually the Brädo Innovation Lab, a high-tech design “laboratory” designed in a portable shipping container. Inside this specialized container, the group worked on developing new, innovative packaging designs for one of our investigational therapies (an investigational therapy is a medication that is currently involved in a clinical study).

“We wanted to consider potential enhancements to our existing packaging for one of our medicines,” says Kate Fagles, associate director, Global Market Research, Virology, who helped to spearhead the workshop. “So, we called in the most creative pharmacists and consumers to participate in a hands-on design session alongside Merck experts, as well as our own design team.”

Inside the shipping container, participants used pipe cleaners, whiteboards, cardboard and other simple materials to design their ideas. Then modeling software and 3D printers brought dozens of those ideas to life, allowing participants to see, touch and evaluate potential ideas. Some worked; some didn’t. But both failures and successes were important. By watching and interacting with participants in the lab, Merck experts and the agency design team were able to better understand customers’ preferences and ensure that their ideas were aligned with technical and regulatory requirements.

At the end of the three-day effort, the team left with a number of viable prototypes in hand.

Lessons Learned in the Lab

“The innovation lab allowed us to fail quickly so we didn’t waste time and money going down the wrong path,” says Jeff Silsbee, director, Global Marketing, Hepatitis. “Now, with viable prototypes in hand, we have a jump start on bringing the product to the market.


Innovators beyond Merck took notice of the team’s hands-on approach. In 2016, Merck received The Market Research Event (TMRE) EXPLOR Award for Innovation for our approach to package design. Each year, TMRE presents the award to a company, agency or academic institution that submits a high-impact case study where technology or new methods have advanced the research process. The 2016 award finalists also included Microsoft and Chase.