Learning in the Management of Agricultural Research and Innovation: The Mexican Produce Foundations

Jose Alexandre Vera Cruz, Metropolitan Autonomous University, Mexico City / UNU-MERIT

Since the 1980s, developing countries’ agriculture has become more complex and diversified. In general, the public research and extension institutions in these countries were criticized for not participating in the emergence of the most dynamic agricultural markets. In recent years, many of these institutions have struggled to adapt to the new environment but they could not overcome the hurdles posed by organizational rigidities, strict public regulations, deteriorating human capital, shrinking budgets and a model of science that hampered their integration into dynamic innovation processes.

In general, developing countries applied similar agricultural research policies: separation of financing and implementation of research, reductions in direct budgetary allocations to research and extension institutions, elimination or major reduction of public extension, and introduction of competitive grants programs to induce a transformation of research organizations. Strong anecdotal information suggests that these policies had limited impact.

Using a different set of instruments, the Mexican Produce Foundations (PF), led by innovative farmers, had major and diverse impacts on the agricultural innovation and research systems. These impacts resulted mostly from activities the PF introduced as they learned to manage competitive funds for research and extension. The PF were able to introduce these activities because they developed strong abilities to learn, including identifying knowledge gaps and defining strategies to fill them.

This presentation will focus on how an organization that manages public funds for research and extension could sustain organizational innovations over extended periods, and how it could learn and adapt to maximize its impact on the agricultural innovation system. Previous studies found that human resources, organizational cultures and governance structures are three of the most important factors influencing institutional change and innovative capabilities. Despite their importance, these factors have been largely neglected in the literature on agricultural research and extension policies. seminar analyzes what role these factors played in the Mexican experience.

About the speaker
Jose Alexandre O. Vera-Cruz got his first degree on Economic Planning at the University of Havana in Cuba and his PhD in Science and Technology Research Studies from SPRU, University of Sussex. During 1990 and 1991 Alexandre Vera-Cruz was associated researcher of the Technological Innovation Centre at the UNAM, Mexico. From 1991 he joined the Metropolitan Autonomous University, Campus Xochimilco in Mexico City as a researcher and professor of the Master and PhD programs in Economics and Management of Innovation. He was director of studies of that program from 2000 to 2004. He is member of the Mexican National System of Researchers; and regular member of the Mexican Academy of Science. He is member of the Strategy and Government Board of the University of Cape Verde, Africa. His PhD thesis hold awards in Mexico first as a thesis and after as a book. His research is focused on technological capability accumulation in developing countries firms, organizational culture and learning, and the impact of innovation policy on agents behaviour. He has published several articles, book chapters and books on these topics. Currently he is leading a research project on Sectoral System of Innovation in the Mexican agriculture, jointly funded by SAGARPA and CONACYT, respectively the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture and the Mexican S&T agency.

Date: 18 June 2009

Time: 12:30 - 13:30