The 20th Century began with a rapid ramping up of national investments in and institutions engaged with research for food and agriculture. Private philanthropic organizations launched agricultural R&D initiatives around the middle of the century to spur technical change in poor-country agriculture. This broadened to include jointly conceived public and private efforts to fund international agricultural R&D in the 1970s. As the 21st century unfolds, the global science and agricultural development landscapes are changing in substantive ways, with important implications for the funding, conduct and institutional arrangements affecting internationally conceived and conducted research for food and agriculture. While there is a general consensus that the present and prospective future of the agricultural science landscape bears little resemblance to the situations that prevailed in the formative years of today’s food and agricultural research policies and institutions, many of these changes are poorly understood or only beginning to play out. In this paper we report on new and emerging empirical evidence to calibrate the private and public choices being made that affect food and agricultural R&D worldwide. We investigate the research lag, benefit appropriability, and R&D spillover realities facing innovative effort in these areas. We also discuss the economies of size and scope of R&D, and broaden the research perspective beyond innovation to encompass technology development, uptake and regulation. Seemingly seismic shifts in the global agricultural productivity landscapes are also quantitatively examined, along with new information on the trends in investment in R&D that have consequences for food and agriculture.
Report prepared for the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD), Montpelier, France, March 29-31, 2010