Barriers to outsourcing R&D: challenges are widely felt, says report

By Melissa Fassbender

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: iStock/ChristianChan)
(Image: iStock/ChristianChan)

Related tags Biotechnology Pharmacology

There are several barriers to outsourcing research and development (R&D) services, according to a recent survey of biotech and pharma leaders.

The survey was conducted by Science Exchange, an outsourced research and development (R&D) platform at several industry conferences in 2017, including the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) International Convention and the Drug Industry Association (DIA) Global Annual Meeting.

Elizabeth Iorns, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Science Exchange said the survey’s results inform the industry that the outsourcing challenges experienced are widely felt.

While outsourced R&D represents a significant part of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies’ innovation strategy, most R&D leaders who took the survey agreed that there are many barriers to the efficient use of outsourcing​,” she told

According to the company, 75% of those surveyed cited several barriers to the outsourcing of R&D services. These include: reviewing and signing contracts, securing IP, identifying service providers with required expertise, qualifying service providers, and negotiating pricing.

Given the urgency to bring innovative drug and device solutions to market, we found it surprising that more than 75% of survey respondents reported that the hassle of onboarding a new service provider has led them to choose a vendor already set up in their system over another more qualified provider​,” explained Iorns.

According to the survey, more than 40% indicated that they spend more than 20 hours to onboard new outsourcing partners.

The findings exemplify the potential impact of streamlining the R&D outsourcing process, said Iorns, who said doing so could drive productivity and efficiency throughout the biopharma industry – bringing new drugs and devices to market faster.

That is time that these R&D industry experts are spending on administrative tasks, rather than in discovery​,” she said. “Clearly, there is room for improving productivity and efficiency in the R&D outsourcing process​.”

How can the industry work to address some of these issues?

Iorns said the industry can address these issues by aligning the goals of researchers and procurement teams within an organization.

Many outsourcing challenges, such as the time required for onboarding providers and the difficulty of finding and qualifying new service providers, exist because the performance goals of R&D procurement teams may be focused on cost savings and contract compliance​,” she said.

R&D and procurement leaders at biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies must seek out ways to not only save money, but also find solutions for accessing innovation, shortening cycle times and increasing organizational efficiency​,” Iorns added.

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