With over 100 key universities and institutions in ASEAN, there is a lot of value in agriculture research that is yet to be unlocked in value chains. However, due to factors such as lack of access from the private sector and a misalignment of interests between researchers and agribusinesses, valuable findings often are not applied in agriculture value chains. Through the Grow Asia Learning Alliance (GALA), Grow Asia is committed to enabling more effective partnerships between researchers and agribusinesses to scale the impact of agriculture research in the region.
We recently delivered a “Navigating Business Partnerships” training in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia – reaching over 30 key institutions across the three countries. The training focused on providing researchers with tools and insights to help them communicate the value of their research in a way that is relevant to the private sector. The target audience of the training was GALA’s partners, specifically those with a research product – whether it be agronomic research or a digital solution for farmers – that could create a positive impact to both the business and smallholders involved.
The training was led by Cameron Johns, General Manager at Impact Innovation, who covered topics including the basics of effectively commercializing research products, tools and mechanisms that can aid collaboration with industry (such as considering the many forms of IP), and softer skills such as how to deliver an effective pitch to a business audience.
In the Philippines, the training was delivered in Los Baños – home of many of the leading agriculture institutions in the Philippines, such as the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). In Vietnam, we had representation from government research institutions and universities, startups, and international research institutions such as the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). In Indonesia, we had representation from major Indonesian universities such as Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB), and Universitas Jember, to name a few – many of whom are leading agriculture departments in their respective universities.
Image 1. Industry sharing session with Dr. Kip Bui Van (Bayer) and Huong Nguyen (Yara) at the training in Hanoi, Vietnam
Discussions during the training and Grow Asia’s own experience reveal a common challenge faced by researchers – a lack of understanding on how to partner with business. A few of the key learnings for researchers from the training include:
Seek to understand the key challenges and opportunities faced by your target client as well as other stakeholders along the value chain. This will help you to identify the opportunities along the value chain where your research product could create value.
Commercialization is a process of de-risking. As a researcher, you need to build evidence that your research is sound from a business-perspective and not just from a scientific-perspective. This could be done by investing more time and effort to talk to industry players to validate your assumptions, which will help you design effective business models for your research products.
Open innovation is a researcher’s friend as large global companies are actively looking for partners to help solve problems. Engaging with the industry early in your research process and focusing on how to help them solve their current problems is key to building lasting relationships.
Southeast Asia is a significant region in agriculture with a lot of value to be unlocked through research. The opportunity here for researchers and innovators to address some of the sector’s biggest challenges around rural poverty, food security and food safety is especially salient considering the increasing interest in open innovation amongst agribusinesses, and the proximity of research institutes and universities to the private sectors’ innovation and R&D teams. If you have any insights to share on how the gap between research and business can be bridged, please reach out to Nadia Soerjanto, Grow Asia’s Learning Alliance Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Grow Asia Learning Alliance (GALA) program is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). This is the first of a two-part blog series covering the GALA Navigating Business Partnerships Training. In the second piece here, we draw out insights from our conversations with Fay Fay Choo, Asia Cocoa Director for Mars, around the synergies that occur when business partners with the research community.