Innovation Seminar Series

The Privatization of Wheat Research in the UK: Lessons for Canada

Presented by Dr. Richard Gray, Professor in Department of Bioresource Policy, Business & Economics, University of Saskatchewan

Abstract

This paper explores the UK experience with the privatization of wheat breeding that began with the sale of Cambridge Plant Breeding Institute to Unilever in 1987. The analysis presented in this paper is based on interviews with sixteen experts currently involved in wheat research/breeding in the UK, all interviewed during the month of July 2012. Taking a snapshot of UK wheat research today, it would be easy to conclude that the UK sector made a smooth transition from public to private breeding. However, this is not the case. The UK faced many challenges in establishing an integrated wheat innovation system and has only recently developed policies and funding processes that have allowed upstream public scientists to work with the downstream private wheat breeding industry. As Canadian policy makers contemplate the privatization of wheat breeding in Canada, important lessons can be drawn from the challenges and successes and within the UK experience.

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