23) The Agri-Science Park @ ICRISAT achieves new successes (12 February 2005)
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has successfully built public-private sector partnerships through the Agri-Science Park @ ICRISAT (ASP). The Park, which is the social marketing initiative of ICRISAT, has achieved successes in all the four of its components: the Agri-Biotech Park, Agri-Business Incubator, Public-Private Sector Research Consortia, and the SAT Eco-venture.
According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the success of the ASP shows that ICRISAT has effectively blended its strengths in scientific excellence and partnerships to develop new initiatives which will result in improved application of agricultural technologies.
In the two years since its inception, the ASP's successes are:
- Collaboration initiated with the Andhra Pradesh Government to get funding from the Andhra Pradesh R&D Fund grant for the ASP.
- Three ventures have joined the Agri-Biotech Park. Amongst them is a facility for testing aflatoxin contamination in food crops. The two other collaborations are with Avesthagen and the Suri Sehgal Foundation.
- Projects on the anvil in the Agri-Biotech Park are the establishment of a Rice Biotech Park in collaboration with the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), and the establishment of a food safety and allergenicity testing laboratory.
- Ten companies joined a new private sector Biopesticide Research Consortium (BRC). Together, the consortium will work for the development and commercialization of biopesticides developed and tested by ICRISAT.
- Four companies have joined the Agri-Business Incubator to incubate technologies. They are: Rusni Distilleries for the production of ethanol from sweet sorghum; Bioseed Research Ltd. for the development of transgenic cotton; Seed Works Ltd. for the development of transgenic cotton and vegetables; and Sessler Tom and Hyglass for the development of fermentor and agricultural implements.
- The Andhra Pradesh R&D Fund grant is being used to build a second P-2 facility and purchase equipment for the Aflatoxin Testing Laboratory.
- Under the AP R&D Fund grant, VASAT and MSSRF have developed a program to train AP farmers on the use of biotech products and bio-safety.
- There are now 29 public and private companies that have joined the Sorghum and Pearl Millet Research Consortia. The Pigeonpea partner group now has seven members.
- In collaboration with the Virtual Academy for the Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT) training for farmers on biosafety issues, and extension and education activities have been initiated under the AP R&D fund grant.
- A MoU signed by ICRISAT with the AP Department of Tourism in February 2004 to collaborate in the development of agro-ecotourism at ICRISAT campus in Patancheru.
The ASP at ICRISAT was launched in December 2002 with the objective of initializing collaborative research and/or establishing joint ventures with private, public, and government entities to find commercial applications for ICRISAT or partner technologies. The ASP would also help in the incubation of startups through the Agri-Business Incubator.
To meet more specific objectives, the ASP has four components. They are:
- The Agri-Biotech Park (ABP), is the venture in which mature businesses can establish facilities to tap into ICRISAT's upstream research expertise and use its world-class infrastructure either on a contract basis or through joint ventures.
- The Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) enables startup agri-business companies to tap ICRISAT's scientific and managerial support resources grow and develop into viable ventures. This initiative is funded through a collaborative project between ICRISAT and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
- The Public-Private Sector Research Consortia, which includes hybrid parents research consortia for sorghum, pearl millet, pigeonpea and biopesticides. The consortia members provide grants to ICRISAT to support research on these crops and products. The consortia are managed by ICRISAT with input from a member steering committee.
- SAT Eco-Venture is the agricultural eco-tourism initiative being developed in collaborative partnership with the AP Department of Tourism. A MoU was signed by ICRISAT with the AP Department of Tourism in February 2004 to collaborate in its development.
It is still early days for the ASP at ICRISAT. With ICRISAT's scientific excellence and the strengths that the partners bring into the venture, it could well become a premier facility in South Asia in the days to come.