How Monsanto leverages startups to catalyze transformation

Monsanto’s Partnership Platform encourages external and internal collaboration to drive innovation and accelerate digital transformation across the company.

Like most life sciences companies, Monsanto’s business relies on continuous innovation and disruption. But despite worldwide growth, it can be difficult to maintain a pace of constant innovation and repeated technological advances, especially for large, global enterprises traditionally slower to react to market changes. Monsanto is tackling that challenge by collaborating with startups to drive its digital transformation.

Life sciences and pharmaceutical executives are optimistic about the possibilities for growth in the global economy, but they're less confident about their own businesses, according to the 2018 PricewaterhouseCoopers global CEO survey. Of the 70 life sciences and pharmaceutical CEOs surveyed, “46 percent are very confident about their company’s prospects for revenue growth over the next [12] months — a drop from last year’s survey, when 63 percent reported being ‘very confident.’”

Monsanto has had success in leveraging partnerships with strategic startups to advance innovation within R&D. The company’s executive team, including CIO Jim Swanson and Stanton Dotson, vice president for digital strategy and innovation, believed the same approach could help accelerate digital transformation within Monsanto’s IT department and across other divisions, including supply chain, commercial, finance, and sales and marketing.

“We’ve been very successful in our R&D and life sciences divisions using startup-style innovation and external partnerships to drive R&D,” says Dotson. “At any given time, we might have several hundred partnerships we’re managing across the company; maybe the same type of external, entrepreneurial relationships and strategic partnership approach could also accelerate our internal culture and innovation.”

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