Home / Report on the CGIAR Public-Private Sector event

Report on the CGIAR Public-Private Sector event

CGIAR Public-Private Sector event - Report
October 21, 2015 By: F&BKP Office Image: Rolf Kruger

Linking Public Goods with Private Interests to Scale Up Agricultural Innovations and Impact

Monday September 21, 2015, The Hague, the Netherlands

In the designing phase of the next generation of CGIAR Research Programs a public-private sector event was planned in the Netherlands to enable the private sector and its partners and CGIAR research leaders to engage more meaningfully together. This CGIAR Public-Private Sector event was co-organized by the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR Consortium), the Netherlands Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), The IDH sustainable Trade Initiative, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the Food & Business Knowledge Platform. The objectives of the meeting were to share best practices from companies and researchers that inspire and create insight; create a shared understanding around role, position and opportunities for researchers and private sector in public-private sector research partnerships; and clarify how to shape such partnerships and what it means for development of the new Research Programs. For a short video impression of the whole day, please follow this link directly to YouTube. 

This report gives a detailed overview of the event, including several PowerPoint presentations, photos and video clips. The day started with an opening by Kees Rade, Ambassador Sustainable Development, and Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium. This was followed by a “Dragons Den” exercise, of which you can find a video impression below. During the event several examples from practice were shared both by the CGIAR and the Netherlands. Furthermore, a Signing Ceremony of the Partnership between the CGIAR and the Netherlands was held. During Open Space meetings, there were various opportunities to discuss views and concrete ideas with interested parties. Finally, Lucas Simons gave a presentation about his book ”Changing the Food Game”. In his closing remarks, the CEO of the CGIAR Consortium, Frank Rijsberman, called the event very successful.


Kees Rade (Ambassador Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) opened the meeting. He stressed that in order to be effective in achieving the SDGs, all stakeholders have to be involved. Within the Netherlands, there is an intense cooperation between public sector, private sector, academia and civil society, the so-called ”Dutch Diamond” approach. Rade pointed out that the challenge of the day was to intensify cooperation internationally and with the private sector and initiate CGIAR Research Programs in 2017 relevant for the SDGs.

Frank Rijsberman (CEO CGIAR Consortium) explained that the CGIAR enters a new phase and updates its strategy. While the CGIAR has been working with private sector for 20 years, he emphasized that there is more potential than the current good examples of cooperation and success. Rijsberman: “From our side, we are hoping that two things will come out of this day. On the one hand, it would be great if some of you found interesting partners. The other is, thinking a little bit more about the instruments, the things that we can do a bit more structurally, what kind of incentives are there that could stimulate better private sector collaboration between the CGIAR and private sector in the future. A possible instrument could be a platform on collaboration with the private sector to have incentives, to discuss best practices and to share portfolios.”

Dragons Den

Amanda Harding, the facilitator of the day, explained the programme and the Dragons Den. Three directors of Consortium Research Programs made a pitch to a panel of private and public partners, the ”Dragons”. After the pitch of approximately five minutes, the Dragons interrogated the speaker in order to get a very clear perspective on what is worth investing in. The investment is more than a financial investment, it is about partnerships.

The three pitches included:

  1. De-risking agriculture with hard climate science – Sonja Vermeulen (CCAFS)

Agriculture and climate have an uneasy marriage. There is a risk for large agricultural areas and for the quality of food. However, there are also opportunities for using data about the weather that can help increase yields of farmers. With the investment of private and public sector and the analytic skills of the CGIAR and a network of 2.6 million subscribed researchers, we want to create a big data revolution to increase equality, not inequality.

  1. Healthy Nutrition: Healthy Business John McDermott (A4NH)

There is a strong demand for nutrition and health. The private sector is an important player in the people, planet, profit nexus. “People” is around nutrition and health and here lies the biggest business risk for the agribusiness sector. There is a need of highly nutritious food. We want to introduce a food based solution for better nutrition by tackling the fundamentals of the food system. Therefore we need from the private sector: engagement and investments in value chains in target countries (Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Kenya and Nigeria), and active participation in food platforms/partnerships in these countries. We as researchers provide: cross-sector insights (social protection schemes, agriculture and health), de-risking the bottom of the pyramid, monitoring and evaluation.

  1. Better aligning the cost, price and value of ecosystem goods and services Jeremy Bird (WLSE)

Imagine you are food processing businesses in emerging countries. Your biggest risk is water. You need to think about water not just within your factory, but also beyond. Moreover, it is not about the quantity only, it is also about the quality (pollution). Regulatory frameworks do not exist and will not exist for the next 20 years in these emerging countries. We need to move away from the linear value chain towards a circular economy. This is a collective responsibility. Research offers diagnostic statistics, adapting business models, Multi Stakeholder Partnerships (MSP) and monitoring and evaluation. Quick wins for industry are lower energy and water costs (Return on Investment); and on the long term, secure water source for the future (water stewardship).

The panel of Dragons consisted of Howard Shapiro (MARS Inc), Janny Vos (CABI), Lucian Peppelenbos (The IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative) and Rob Diks (Unilever Group Supply Chain). The Dragons were quite critical of the pitchers. The Dragons acknowledged e.g. the importance of the “big data revolution” in the first pitch but questioned the value proposition for poor farmers as many farmers are not bankable. They also stated that there is already much more information available to create a big data revolution than was proposed in the offer. The Dragons Den exercise showed that it is very difficult to sell a Research Program to a panel that expects a concrete proposition which has added value for their own business.

During the discussion with the audience a number of additional comments and lessons learnt were shared:

  1. All three pitchers were not asking the right questions. You should NOT ask what the role of the private sector is, but rather show what value you bring to the private sector.
  2. There are three phases in projects and programs and in every phase there is a responsibility per actor. Discovery, translation and scaling-up: all three need an engine. Private sector should be involved in every step.
  3. Smallholders need more players than the private sector to make impact happen in their interest. Work from local demand (local governments and local enterprises since local trading is important), then look for international companies to collaborate with local business.
  4. Governance of research is very difficult and engagement of all actors involved is needed. “For science to be relevant, research needs to be governed.
  5. Pilots are very important. When a successful pilot is multiplied, you can prove success. Then you are ready to expand success. The CGIAR could help monitor this (including the expansion of success).
  6. Failure must be recognized as it is extremely important to identify factors that were previously not recognized and to determine the way forward within a project, but also for other projects. However, if you fail, fail fast and do not drag on. Recognize failure in PPPs.

Exploring the opportunity frontier

Dutch perspective on international public-private cooperation

Marcel Beukeboom, Head Food & Nutrition Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Marcel Beukeboom’s presentation focused on the transformation from donor to partnership. A partnership is more than being just a donor. It is about being equal partners and generating mutual benefit. The Minister has two portfolios, Aid and Trade, and the policy is aimed at eradicating poverty, sustainable and inclusive economic growth and success for Dutch companies abroad. The Netherlands historically has developed such a strong and dynamic agro-sector through the strong interlinkages between research, private sector and higher education. However, in practice it is not always easy to work in partnerships and Beukeboom presented a set of lessons learnt. For example: start with the business case, i.e. business with development spin-offs. Also, the private sector should be involved in defining the orientation of public research budgets. Beukeboom: “Think ahead of what you want to achieve. It is important to step away from biases, and think about what you mean by a meaningful partnership. That means thinking about the impact you want to have, building on a proper business case and thinking of various options for financial inputs.”

Please download the PowerPoint presentation (PDF) of Marcel Beukeboom ” Dutch persepctive on international public-private cooperation”.

Linking the supply chain with the demand chain for a novel food commodity: Growing the Allanblackia Market

Tony Simons, ICRAF & Rob Diks, Unilever Group Supply Chain

Tony Simons and Rob Diks gave their presentation on the investment in growing the Allanblackia market. The fruit of this plant is the basic material for solid food oil with an unique oil profile. The aim of the research program was to cultivate this wild plant and complement existing supply chains. Researchers, private sector and NGOs had to tackle a number of biological, cultivation, logistical and social challenges. Simons listed ten success factors, amongst others early returns for smallholders and the long-term perspective of Unilever. One of the lessons learnt is showing by example early on, such as with demonstration farms.

Simons’ final slide showed a matrix of the various needs of research institutions and private sector that may play a role in a partnership. Clarity on these interests helps to build a successful collaboration. Diks pointed out that over-promising partnerships may create false expectations. It is better to keep the partnership simple, be selective and have the right partners. Diks: “You can walk with your head in the clouds, but you need to have your feet on the ground. So, you can promise and have a prospect, but it should be founded and you should be allowed to fail.”

Please download the PowerPoint presentation (PDF) of Tony Simons and Rob Diks “Linking the supply chain with the demand chain for a novel food commodity: Growing the Allanblackia Market”.

Public-private research collaboration to drive impact in supply chains: example from cocoa

Lucian Peppelenbos, The IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative

Lucian Peppelenbos presented the cocoa project of The IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative. This project involves 20 partners and they choose fertilizer-ready farms to invest. They have existing value chains to deliver fertilizer and provide guidance to farmers on how to apply fertilizer. They have found that there is a huge knowledge gap between farmers and researchers in fertilizer testing and monitoring. They are also conducting a soil mapping study on what is proper fertilizer for cocoa, since there is very little understanding on the nutrition a cocoa tree needs.  Therefore, a third study is mapping out the basic knowledge around cocoa, with partner Wageningen University. According to Peppelenbos, we need shared governance of research. The research process should be opened up for the needs of the supply chain and be more engaged with other stakeholders.

Please download the Prezi presentation of Lucian Peppelenbos “Public-private research collaboration to drive impact in supply chains: example from cocoa”.

Scaling Inclusive Business Opportunities

Eelco Baan, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation

Eelco Baan from SNV presented a few examples of SNV projects with public-private partnership and best practices on scaling. He mentioned the roles of the different partners in the ”Dutch Diamond”. Baan listed a few principles to start with: systems should be market based and at the core there should be a viable business case. He pointed out that for SNV, small and medium enterprises are the entry point for intervention. Some of the lessons learnt from SNV projects are: build in scale from the start (“Pilots never fail and pilots never scale”); an enabling environment is key; focus on co-creation; and show quick wins.

Please download the PowerPoint presentation (PDF) of Eelco Baan “Scaling Inclusive Business Opportunities”.

Audience short interventions and concluding remarks by Allert van den Ham (CEO SNV World)

Erwin Bulte, Professor of Development Economics from Wageningen UR, commented that both the CGIAR and the Dutch ministries need to have long term focus. His experiences are that we should allow failure and build trust in order to form a new cooperation. Public-private partnership is important and the CGIAR should look for focus both at local and national levels. The government should use subsidy as a mechanism to influence PPP. Bulte also pointed out that although PPP is very important, the big picture is not just this. Other approaches should also be taken into account to reach the SDGs.

Several participants commented on the challenge of scaling. Maaike Groot (East-West Seed Company) referred to the importance of extension projects. Jack de Wit explained that his company Rijk Zwaan focusses on the quality of seed, but the success of the value chain depends also on logistics, education, supermarkets, etcetera, and he questions how NGOs could play a role in developing those value chains.

Coosje Hoogendoorn from KIT said that science tends to overinvest in research and not enough in partnerships. She presented a figure in attempt to answer the question how to involve each other in the different phases (see Figure).

Pierre Schonenberg, Rabo Development, pointed out that it is very important to engage the local financial sector in programs at an early stage so that continuity is guaranteed when the foreign investors fade out. Someone else pointed out that although many focus on the producers, consumers should not be forgotten and private sector is e.g. setting the price of products. Ken Giller from Wageningen UR believes PPPs can play a role but eradicating hunger requires other approaches as well, as the bottom of the pyramid is very difficult to reach.

Bart de Steenhuijsen Piters (KIT) mentioned that scientists are not trained to set up and facilitate partnerships. He asked more attention for the particular role of brokers in PPPs. He stated that we should rethink our funding mechanism, how PPPs should be financed and who represents the voice of smallholders in PPPs.

Allert van den Ham from SNV concluded the session with a summary of important messages. There is no single actor that can solve the poverty issue. During the entire discussion it was clear that we need each other to reinforce PPPs. However, the implementation remains challenging because of different backgrounds, different languages, and different interests. Getting to know the real interest of the other partners is crucial. Van den Ham stated that one should not take for granted that PPPs will work as the relation with the environment is decisive. The public sector has to create an enabling environment (e.g. extension services). Meanwhile, upscaling needs to be taken care of and also in that phase the public sector has an important role to play. Van den Ham’s final comment was that the market and consumer perspective both need more emphasis next to the supply and production side.

Signing Ceremony Partnership between the CGIAR and the Netherlands

The signing ceremony was opened by Professor Arthur Mol, Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University and Research centre.Mol stressed the importance of PPPs and the need to act together – cross discipline, cross sector, cross country -, to make a joint effort to reach the SDGs. The strategic plan of Wageningen UR is to reinforce transdisciplinary approaches together with different stakeholders such as NGOs, businesses, policy makers and farmers. It is important to make the Dutch expertise available and to mobilize this expertise.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Hans Hoogeveen (Director General Agro and Nature of the Ministry of Economic Affairs on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture), Reina Buijs (Deputy Director-General of International Cooperation, on behalf of the minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation) and Frank Rijsberman (CEO CGIAR Consortium).

Hans Hoogeveen: “To realize the SDGs, we need a paradigm shift. First of all, we need a paradigm shift of Governments. I think it is very important we are now not just donor of the CGIAR anymore, but become partner. And partner means, we are going to change the way of cooperation”. He emphasized that it is important to involve private sectors; not only the Dutch companies and knowledge institutes, but also the local SMEs and knowledge organizations. Furthermore, Hoogeveen stressed that the guiding principle of the partnership should be that it is demand-driven. “What can research do for a farmer in the field?”

Frank Rijsberman expressed his appreciation of the fact that the Dutch government wants to be a strong partner of the CGIAR. These changing institutional arrangements are in line with current external changes and challenges, as well as circumstances within the CGIAR and of a Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that deals with Aid and Trade, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs that deals with agriculture as well. This MoU demonstrates that in these changing times we still intend to reshape our partnership to be most effective, to make use of what the Netherlands and the CGIAR have to offer with the goal of contributing to the SDGs.

Impact pathways: Open Space meetings

A number of meetings were organized on different themes to discuss more in depth the opportunities for collaboration and follow-up actions to enhance PPPs in CGIAR Research Programs. Short reports and presentations are available for some of the meetings.

Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH); Healthy Diets

Ruerd Ruben – Wageningen UR, Herbert Smorenburg – AIM, John McDermott – CGIAR

The CGIAR is developing a proposal for a six year (2017-2022) “flagship” project “Food Systems for Healthier Diets” as part of their Agriculture for Nutrition and Health Research Program. The flagship project aims to contribute to the goal of healthier diets for poor and vulnerable populations through identifying and enabling interventions and innovations by private, public, and civil society actors in national and sub-national food systems. The CGIAR has asked the Netherlands, and more specifically Wageningen University, to lead this flagship project, because of its experience in working with private, public and civil society actors, the role that the Dutch play in the global food system and the fit with the Dutch policy on Food and Nutrition Security. A summary of the project focus areas and geographical scope is available here.

At the meeting the key features of the flagship were shared as well as the context and the planning of the proposal development. One of the topics discussed during the meeting was the lack of focus. The scope of the project is still very broad and has to be further specified. Another issue was the involvement of stakeholders from sectors outside agriculture, such as actors in the value chain (retailers and input), the health sector or economics. There should be a stronger focus on the consumer/marketing part of the value chain when one advocates a ”systems” approach. People with transdisciplinary experience should be involved in this project.

Ruerd Ruben concluded that programs promoting healthy diets should be science based, consumer led, and benefit civil society. Furthermore, we should be clear about the type of deliverables of the partnership and these should be demand driven. Talking about nutrition and health goes substantially further than agriculture and food. Therefore, to upscale, other disciplines should also be involved. Though for broad ambitions, a reasonable scale should be considered since the transaction costs of PPPs should not be forgotten.

Please download the PowerPoint presentation (PDF) of Ruerd Ruben and Herbert Smorenburg “Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH); Healthy Diets”.

Private sector priorities for R&D partnerships to achieve impact at scale

Eelco Baan – SNV World and Lucian Peppelenbos – The IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative

Representatives of Yara and Mondelēz started the discussion by presenting their experiences in working with research institutes and the research priorities which have both business and development relevance.

During the discussion, private companies expressed their concern that there is a lot of knowledge about for example cocoa but it is difficult to actually apply all this knowledge. The private sector asked what public research institutions can bring to the private sector. One of the answers was that research institutions should collect information and share this with farmers. A general impression of the private sector towards the CGIAR is that there is a gap between the knowledge that the CGIAR possesses and what the farmers know and do. The CGIAR claims that it has programs that try to bridge this gap.

There were some intense discussions between the CGIAR and a private company on contract arrangement with smallholders. It seems that experiences from the company show difficulties and complexity of contract arrangement with smallholders while the CGIAR has also positive and successful experiences.

Land tenure and water problems are considered a major challenge in PPPs. With respect to the water problem, it is crucial to find out where the real issues of water are in many countries and how to get more water.

CGIAR Public-Private Sector event - Open SpaceImage credit: Rolf Kruger

PPP in dairy sector in Zambia. Research and learning on agro-finance

Pierre Schonenberg – Rabo Development

Pierre Schonenberg presented the PPP between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rabo, Zanaco (the local partner bank of Rabo) and Rabo International Advisory Services (RIAS). These partners, together with the Dairy Association of Zambia (DAZ) and local dairy processors (a.o. Parmalat), support the development of the dairy sector in Zambia. The partnership focuses not only on smallholder farmers but also on emerging entrepreneurial farmers and cooperatives. An important success factor is the collaboration with local suppliers: Rabo offers ingredients but the local client will always be the ”chef cook”.

Schonenberg listed opportunities for collaboration between the financial sector and research institutes:

  • Regional or national market studies and identifying/prioritizing needs in promising sectors;
  • Agronomic aspects like seeds/genetics, feed improvement, management tools, marketing, and impact measurement;
  • Initiating and supporting the ”golden triangle-approach” in developing sectors;
  • Regional climate change impact related to important agri-activities;

During the discussion a number of topics were added: monitoring commodity flows and identifying trends; analyzing and showing best practices on access to finance; potential of insurance instruments. Also the issue of food safety in the dairy sector was raised. Schonenberg concluded that it is important to investigate how to assure food safety in Zambia’s dairy value chain.

Please download the PowerPoint presentation (PDF) of Pierre Schonenberg “PPP in dairy sector in Zambia. Research and learning on agro-finance”.

Linking Public Sector Goods with Private Sector Interest.  “What does the CGIAR need to bring this further”

Representatives from the Dutch ministries (Wijnand van IJssel, Patricia Wagenmakers) and the CGIAR (Frank Rijsberman, Tony Simon) led the discussion.

One subgroup looked at what the CGIAR needs to bring the collaboration with private sector further. The following topics were discussed:

  • What came out very strongly is that there is a clear need for brokerage between farmers, companies and research in PPPs. There should be dedicated capacity for such brokering available. A practical instrument to organize this could be some form of facility for the CG.
  • To enhance learning a Community of Practice or a similar instrument, could bring knowledge on PPPs from different countries together including the many experiences of the CG in the past.
  • Such a community should of course be complemented by a number of CRPs with clear private sector engagement strategies.
  • Stratify the different segments of the private sector: international and national companies,  local SME’s, farmers and farmer organisations, since all need a different approach. Moreover there are two main entry points for private sector involvement: farmer’s needs to be linked to markets and company needs for stable and responsible sourcing.
  • Do not overlook the need for more systematic SME engagement for BoP markets.
  • Risk management was raised as an important consideration for the private sector in complex partnerships.
  • CG has already some basic infrastructure in place for working with private sector.

CGIAR Public-Private Sector event - Open SpaceImage credit: Rolf Kruger

Charting a new future

Changing the Food Game – Lucas Simons, New Foresight

Lucas Simons gave a presentation about his book “Changing the Food Game”. The story gives a systemic view on why agriculture is so unsustainable and why it is such a persistent problem. It gives insight into systemic change and how you can transform markets when you recognize the patterns. Some of the key insights Simons gave is that you will need to act from a holistic understanding on why a certain sector problem persists, before thinking about solutions. Also, Simons pointed out that it is important to know when it is time to start working together, since it will depend on the phase that you are in. Furthermore, more research and action is needed on delivery and on enabling environment: how do you get the research to the farmers? An “inconvenient truth” he pointed out is that, according to Simons, agriculture is the safety net of a failing economy. There are too many people trying to make a living of agriculture, therefore we need to start working with the “farmer of the future” by rewarding quality and by ensuring an enabling environment, while some people need to get out of the “game”. This needs to be part of the research agenda as well. When interested, please follow this link for one of his earlier presentations.

Please download the PowerPoint presentation (PDF) of Lucas Simons “Changing the Food Game”. 

Closing remarks Frank Rijsberman (CEO CGIAR Consortium)

“Today was a successful meeting, with more than ever private sector people participating on a CGIAR event. Today was also a wake-up call in the sense that researchers should speak another language to link up with private sector to define common research. We need brokerage, we need in a way help to talk to each other. Another important lesson is that within partnerships, you will have to be prepared to accept failure. The acceptance of failure and associated with that the management of risks runs through this. Some interesting examples were presented in various presentations of today.”

“We should be able to learn from and build on these experiences shared today and beyond. We could set up a Community of Practice, bringing people together who can share experiences and hopefully learn lessons. We can think about whether we want to upgrade this to a platform, where there would be more resources available. As shown today, there is quite some willingness to share the experiences from the Netherlands as a partner. The signing of the MoU was a key step in this strategic multi-year partnership of the Netherlands and the CGIAR. We were able to give this partnership a push, not just by signing the MoU but also by sharing our experiences and coming up with some instruments that we can work with.”


Leave your contribution here

(will not be published)

Latest F&BKP posts
F&BKP Office
March 23, 2021
F&BKP Office
March 23, 2021
F&BKP Office
March 23, 2021
F&BKP Office
December 18, 2020
FBR end conference
F&BKP Office
December 18, 2020