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Breaking down silos to enable collaborative R&D at scale

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented collaboration and accelerated use of real-world evidence. R&D departments are critical to help organisations distinguish themselves from competitors and bring innovative products and services to the public. According to Harvard Business Review, silos are among the most commonly identified obstacles to organisational success. Here, we summarise silos and the importance of breaking them down to enable collaborative pharma R&D at scale.


Silo is a business term that has been discussed within organisations for over 40 years. The ‘Silo Mentality’ is a mindset that is present when certain departments or sectors for whatever reason, do not share information with others in the same company. This mentality reduces operational efficiency, reduces morale and may also impact company culture. The Silo Mentality mostly occurs in larger organisations and can be countered with the introduction of shared goals and increased internal networking activities.

Breaking down silos in R&D

In terms of pharma R&D, many data experts believe there is missed opportunity when pharma teams silo data rather than making it easily available for further exploration. R&D over the past five years has changed. Previously, research and development work use to be very independent. Now, the wall between these has crumbled and there is increased collaboration.

The most common causes of silos include:

  • Companies value domain expertise
  • Divided ownership of processes
  • Business units and functions are geographically dispersed

In order to break down silos, leaders must be aligned to clarify the path forward. Additionally, governance must be developed to provide guidance along the way. There needs to be clear roles and responsibilities for teams, with joint incentives. Moreover, rather than creating separate groups of functional unit representatives, cross-functional teams should be developed. While, geographic dispersion is often inevitable, attempts to keep teams in the same physical location should be made.


At our recent D4 Global virtual event, Dana Caulder, Head of Research Informatics & Software Engineering, Genentech, provided insight into how Genentech are breaking down silos within their organisation. Caulder emphasised that “no one does science in isolation” and highlighted the importance of orchestrating collaborative science at scale. She also noted that this transformation must come from the top-down to ensure support is appropriately implemented.

Failing to break down silos is risky. Silos not only impacts departments, it also impacts the organisation as a whole. Breaking down silos will make organisations more flexible and more agile for the future, which is particularly important during these uncertain times.

Image credit: By dooder –

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Covid-19 / R&D / Silos

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