Excerpt: How attitudes about open innovation have changed at AstraZeneca

Turning colleagues from open innovation skeptics to advocates isn’t easy, but Scott Wilkins says it has steadily begun to happen over five years of hard work at AstraZeneca, the $25 billion British pharmaceutical firm. (AstraZeneca will be among the participants at the Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston, April 23-26, 2018.)

“There’s just a lot of groups we had to work with [internally],” says Wilkins, Enterprise Innovation Director, “and I guess my advice is involve these folks early, and really try to partner with them, and have a balanced, risk-versus-reward discussion. I think that helped us move the conversation forward, rather than just focusing on risks…”

“You can have that conversation, but also balance that with the benefits. The benefits are that we’ve got 10,000 scientists, and we’ve got hundreds of companies, and academic institutions, and government institutions that we partner with. But there’s several billion people in the world, and those answers to our problems could be beyond our current scope right now, with the partners that we have and the folks in our R&D facility.”

Discussing the attitude his company now has about crowdsourcing solutions with help from around the world, Wilkins says: “The patient doesn’t care who solves the problem.”

This is an excerpt from our April 2016 Innovation Leader Live call with Wilkins and Rob Albert of AstraZeneca. You can hear the complete audio and read the transcript here.


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