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Understanding company R&D strategies in agro-biotechnology: trajectories and blind spots

Chataway, J   Tait, J   Wield, D

Research Policy   33 (6-7) 1041-1057

January 2004   (Date deposited June 2006)

Research at Innogen: Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food Security

Companies innovating in agriculture-related biotechnology currently confront a complicated and controversial policy environment. Using analytical frameworks of technological trajectories and paradigms this paper examines R&D strategy in large companies. A large research project found that R&D related decisions taken by managers reflect company distinctiveness and can be characterised as cumulative in important respects. 'Economising' and 'strategising' strategies combine in different ways. But in many instances managers did not sufficiently recognise the importance of complex interactions between public policy and public opinion and failed adequately to incorporate public policy into strategic R&D decision making. This blind spot compounded initial difficulties in bringing products to market and has had significant impact on the rate and direction of innovation in this area, including contributing to the demise of the idea of an integration of agro and health sectors based on life sciences. The paper raises important questions about the relationship between technological paradigms, industry and sector level trajectories and decision making in firms.