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Institutional impacts of north-south partnerships in agricultural biotechnology

Seife Ayele

Principal investigator(s):   Joanna Chataway   David Wield

Funding: ESRC Science in Society programme

November 30 2003 – August 1 2004


The study investigated partnership projects formed between agricultural research institutions and non-profit and private sector participants from African countries (south), from developed countries (north) as well as multilateral organisations. The study, with supplementary funding from the Open University, was completed in August 2004, and the project evaluation confirmed that it has fully achieved its objectives.

Aims and objectives

  • How are north-south partnerships in agricultural biotechnology set up and what core technology transfer and development processes do they undertake?
  • Do these partnerships contribute to the development of institutions, scientific and technical capabilities necessary for agricultural biotechnology?

Research methods

The study comprised an in-depth investigation of three case studies: Millet and Sorghum Improvement Initiative in Mali; the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa project in Kenya; and the Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute in Egypt.

Data from these case studies were supplemented by data generated through an inventory of public private partnership (PPP) projects and major players.

Key findings

  • A workshop on Technology Based Public Private Partnerships and Innovation Systems in African Agriculture was held on 19th November 2004 in London.
  • Several presentations were given at international and national forums, including at the Africa-Canada-UK Experience: Building Science and Technology Capacity with African Partners, 30 Jan – 1 Feb 2005 in London (Wield, Chataway and Smith); at World Bank Workshop, Washington (Chataway); and in Cairo/Egypt and at CESAGEN International Conference, London (Ayele).
  • New research ideas have emerged from this project. Chataway, Wield and Ayele have been awarded a £46K grant by the ESRC Science in Society Programme to undertake research on the ‘regulatory practices and challenges of the African crop biotechnology sector’.
  • This study contributed to the innovation systems analysis, a valuable conceptual tool to look at the way different organisations and institutions interact as part of the overall innovation process. Findings also challenge some of the more traditional frameworks for explaining the emergence of PPPs. Transaction cost analysis and resource based theories, commonly used to explain partnerships in industrially developed contexts do not adequately explain the emergence of this type of north-south PPP.
  • Motivations and incentives require conceptualizing in ways that bring together analytical frameworks used to understand public sector agricultural R&D structures, international aid institutions and private sector incentives.


Ayele, S., Chataway, J. and Wield, D. (2006). Partnerships in African Crop Biotech, Nature Biotechnology, 24, pp. 619-621.

Ayele, S. and Wield, D. (2005) Science and Technology Capacity Building and Partnership in the African Agriculture: Perspectives on Mali and Egypt in the Journal of International Development, Vol. 17 No 5.Chataway, J. (2005).  Is it possible to create pro-poor agriculture-related biotechnology? Journal of International Development, 17, No 5, pp. 597-610.

Ayele, S. (2005). Biotechnology generation, delivery and adoption: the case of Bt bio-pesticide in Egypt, International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 4. No 2, pp.75-91.

Ayele, S., Chataway, J., Hall, A., and Smith, J. (2005) (Editors). Perspective on Institutions, Agricultural Biotechnologies and Development. Journal of International Development, Vol. 17 No 5

Further information

For further information contact Seife Ayele,