Philip Blake was appointed Senior Bayer Representative, U.S. in July 2012. He is responsible for all U.S. activities of the worldwide Bayer Group.
In addition, Mr. Blake serves as Regional Head of Bayer Pharmaceuticals for the Americas, a role he assumed in October 2015. In this role, he leads the pharmaceuticals division of Bayer for Canada, the United States and Latin America.
Since 2012, Mr. Blake has been a strong advocate for Bayer’s U.S. science literacy program, Making Science Make Sense®. Making Science Make Sense is a presidential-award winning, company-wide initiative that advances science literacy through hands-on, inquiry-based science learning. Not only has Mr. Blake been a staunch supporter of employee involvement in MSMS, he has advocated for increased STEM-education awareness on a national level. Mr. Blake has engaged with U.S. Senators and Congressmen, the U.S. Department of Education and other state and local political leaders on the importance of science literacy to our schools and to our future workforce. In October of 2015, Mr. Blake was invited to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama as part of a discussion on the role of science literacy in America’s schools.
Previously, Mr. Blake served as President & CEO, Bayer Inc. and Head of Bayer HealthCare in Canada.
In his 30 plus year career with Bayer, Mr. Blake has held leadership positions around the world focusing on global strategic product marketing, business development, clinical planning, product development and sales management.
Philip Blake obtained his degree at Bristol University and undertook further executive training at The Open University, INSEAD (Institut européen d’administration des affaires) and Wharton Business School. He is a Chartered Corporate Director – earning this designation in 2006 from the Directors College at the DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University.
In my role as President of Bayer in the U.S., I’ve become quite accustomed to public speaking in many settings—it comes with the territory. However, eighteen months ago, I stood on a stage between a popular U.S. Senator and a NASA astronaut attempting to speak to about 50 local New Jersey students on the import role of STEM-education in our schools, jobs and society. I say “attempting” because it was clear that these 8th grade students were much more enamored with the tales of space exploration and political theatre from my fellow speakers than they were in hearing from some corporate executive with a funny British accent. Didn’t they understand I was explaining how vital STEM-careers will be to their generation? Didn’t they understand the importance of corporations like Bayer investing in STEM education nationwide? Didn’t they care?
In short—not really.
This realization that a group of 13-year-olds weren’t captivated by long-term career insights and national education policies isn’t exactly breaking news. The teenage version of me was more concerned about what time soccer practice started than how many engineers our workforce would need 10 years from now.
Workforce? You mean, like a job? Jobs are for adults.
And 10 years? Well, that might as well be a lifetime.
Such abstract or theoretical concepts just simply didn’t register on my radar. To me, abstract concepts sounded like something out of a textbook, and textbooks were boring.
This doesn’t mean I was completely science-averse growing up. Like these 50 New Jersey students, I too was fascinated by stories of space exploration and (though I did not know it at the time) other STEM-related activities. As a boy, one of my best scholastic memories was peering through a microscope at the cellular workings and functionality of a common snowberry. Slicing open the berry, identifying which cells did which actions—I wasn’t reading about science, I was doing science.
For those of us invested in promoting STEM-education, we must meet students at their level in ways that will resonate with them. Individuals who will be society’s scientists, engineers and mathematicians twenty years from now most likely don’t even know that yet. We have the opportunity to shape their curiosity, to foster their interest in these fields now. That means engaging with them hands-on. Students won’t learn or be interested in science because it’s a good career path or because some business leader tells them to. They will learn about science by doing it—and they’ll do science because it is fun!
Just to recap so far: Space exploration and dissecting snowberries = fun. Abstract concepts and textbooks = not fun.
At Bayer, we’ve spent the last twenty-one years advancing this idea that a student’s true interest in science can only be achieved through hands-on, inquiry-based learning. Through our Presidential award-winning initiative, Making Science Make Sense®, Bayer has helped hundreds of teachers and tens of thousands of students develop science literacy through experimentation and hands-on learning. An integral part of the Making Science Make Sense initiative has been Bayer’s work to forge long-standing, deep-rooted partnerships and spearhead important curriculum change. Together with our partners, Bayer is working to implement standards-based, inquiry-centered curricula and provide teachers with ongoing professional development in science content and pedagogy.
At the heart of Making Science Make Sense is the commitment of Bayer volunteers. Our employees provide hands-on science learning experiences through STEM-focused activities, classroom visits, teacher workshops and community events near Bayer site locations nationwide. Bayer’s MSMS volunteers let students experience the fun of science through various experiments with vividly descriptive names such as Balloon Skewers, Sticky Icky and Alka-Rockets. It is only after the laughs and gasps subside, and the experiment is complete that the instructors delve into the “science” behind the activity. In this way, we help demonstrate to students that science is the reason behind the fun experiment. Once they make this connection that science is the reason for this fun activity, science suddenly becomes much more interesting.
Back to my story about the senator, astronaut and 50 8th graders—it didn’t take long for me to realize that my prepared speech about career paths and education policies wasn’t going to gain any traction with this audience, especially given my on-stage competition. Fortunately, I had one last trick up my sleeve. I signaled across the room to one of my staffers who promptly tossed me a replica soccer ball used during the most recent 2014 World Cup.
“Who here plays soccer,” I asked the students.
Soccer? I play soccer! Six or seven hands went skyward. Finally I had their attention.
I tossed the ball to a boy in the front row who had raised his hand.
“Did you know a Bayer scientist created the materials in this ball” I asked.
It’s true—Bayer did make the materials in the World Cup ball. In 2014 Bayer still had a division dedicated to plastics and polymers. That division has since been spun-off.
“How the ball moves when you kick it. How it rolls on the turf. All of these factors are based in science,” I continued. “And if you can start to understand the science behind the ball, you can predict what the ball will do. And if you can do that, you can really improve as a player.”
I had made the connection. I had reached these students on their level, in a way that they understood and more importantly, in a way that they cared about. Maybe they didn’t quite grasp the long-term impact an interest in science would have on their lives that day, and that’s ok, because some day they would. What mattered that day was that someone showed them science isn’t just some far-off abstract concept—science can be fun.
And that someone wasn’t even a senator or astronaut.