17) ICRISAT now a top ranking global research institution

Bouncing back from a challenging period in the nineties, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) turned itself around to join the ranks of top international agricultural research centers today.

Delivering a keynote address on ICRISAT's turnaround at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, India, recently, the Director General of ICRISAT, Dr William D Dar, said that the turnaround was made possible by pursuing a strategy that built synergies across the Institute's core strengths, especially its human resources. Dr Dar was invited by the premier business school in India to talk about ICRISAT's turnaround in the last nine years.

"The aspects of change included making the governance and organizational structure more effective; fine-tuning the organizational strategy and institutional culture for success; strengthening organizational capacity and institutional innovations; improving financial performance and delivering impacts," Dr Dar said.

Through this concerted effort, ICRISAT surmounted the challenges it faced during the mid-1990s, to be rated as an 'Outstanding' Center of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) for two consecutive years - 2006 and 2007. Prior to this, ICRISAT was also rated as 'Superior' from 2003 to 2005. These top ratings by the CGIAR recognize ICRISAT's good science, great impacts, institutional health and financial health. It places ICRISAT's performance on top of the 15 international agricultural research institutes of the CGIAR.

ICRISAT's Governing Board, with a well-diversified membership and a good mix of regional, gender and multi-disciplinary skills, significantly strengthened governance at the Institute. The Board ensured strong and dynamic leadership and an effective oversight covering strategy, program, resource and risk management. The Board also established robust financial and internal control systems and introduced effective delegation of authority.

Organizationally, programs and projects were unified into thematic groups driven by a lean organizational structure, Dr Dar said. The research themes were streamlined into four, namely: 1) crop improvement; 2) agro-ecosystems development; 3) biotechnology; and 4) institutions, markets, policy and impacts. Broad responsibilities and authority were delegated to the Directors of the African regional hubs. Regional work plans were developed and aligned with the Institute's medium term plan.

ICRISAT's research strategy focuses on integrated genetic and natural resource management (IGNRM), and results are delivered through public-private-farmer partnerships. The Agri-Science Park (ASP) at ICRISAT was established to strengthen these partnerships, enhancing the development, promotion and utilization of ICRISAT's innovations.

ICRISAT has delivered cutting edge research impacts across the globe, said Dr Dar. A total of 609 improved varieties and hybrids developed by ICRISAT and partners have been released in 77 countries between 1976 and 2007.

Other innovations include hybrid pearl millet developed through molecular-marker selection technology, and the world's first pigeonpea hybrid commercially released in India as Pushkal.

According to Dr Dar, ICRISAT's effective planning and management has ensured sound financial health for the Institute. Innovative resource mobilization strategies included tapping non-traditional sources for special project funding, marketing the Institute's work, cutting edge products and impacts, and emphasizing cost optimization.

These measures have resulted in a leap in ICRISAT's financial health in the last five years, with gross revenue of US$24.2 million in 2003 growing to US$42.1 million in 2007. The Institute also registered a financial surplus during these five years.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.