The VALGEN Group brings together expertise at the intersection of two domains of crucial importance in modern economies: science, technology and innovation; and regulation, policy and governance. Our focus is on the potential for life science innovation to create wealth in domestic and international economies. Our approach is to work with partners who seek answers to challenging (research) questions but also want a clear pathway from research to practice.
In 2016, the G7 Ministers of Agriculture placed food security at the core of the global agenda. They committed to improving sustainable agricultural production, productivity and food supply through a mix of research and governance innovations.
The urgency of the G7 call for renewed attention on global food security has been amplified by the impact of COVID-19, drawing attention to key vulnerabilities in agri-food production and distribution system, including:
Agri-food is the world’s largest sector, employing more than one-third of global workers, many of whom are engaged in subsistence, migratory, and low-paid seasonal work.
Productivity gains are necessary for growing populations, especially with rising urbanization, where food access and security are cornerstones of modern socio-economic organization.
Long and distributed global value chains are stressed to link producers and consumers with ever greater interdependencies.
Gene editing will surpass conventional biotechnologies for accurate deployment and impact on traits, productivity and nutrition, but is encountering regulatory uncertainty.
Climate change impacts the fundamental ecosystem dynamics supporting modern agri-food systems with uncertain consequences over shorter timeframes.
Enhancing food security means more than improving how to produce and distribute food. The key to success is developing new and better governance to enable innovation, regulation and systems of trade to expand improve the socio-economic impact of agri-food systems.
DOMAINS OF EXPERTISE
Regulation, regulatory burden and regulatory uncertainty are key determinants in many innovation investment decisions. Should the certainty of commercialization be too great in one country, capital can be redirected to others with greater regulatory efficiency. Capital has never been more mobile than presently, necessitating regulatory efficiency to attract and retain critical R&D investments.
Our goal is to identify and propose strategies to reduce the deadweight loss of ineffective governance and regulation related to innovations, products and technologies in the agriculture and food industries. Too often, industrial nations engage in weak, slow, complicated and incomplete processes – e.g. GMOs, new drugs, wireless auctions, 5G, strategic infrastructure, trade, competition, investment, etc. This is a major contributor to suboptimal productivity growth. Delays of up to one year reduce ROI by more than 1.5% on gross fixed capital formation. Increases in American regulations are estimated to have cost $4 trillion in reduced GDP cumulative growth over past 40 years alone.
COMMODITY GROUP CHALLENGE
Good regulations are the core of effective and efficient governance. Regulations at root draw boundaries and assign rights and obligations. In the context of public regulation of the risks of new technologies and innovations, regulatory processes can enhance certainty, reduce risks and facilitate adaptation and adoption. Mobility of technology, capital and labour complicates risk governance as the costs and benefits are often widely distributed. National and industrial regulatory regimes now need to be globally linked yet locally managed.
Crop production and food processing are some of the most innovative sectors in the modern economy. Supply chains are presently producing higher yields from smaller land use, than at any previous point in history. Incentivizing innovation is crucial to future successes with product and process innovations and dependent on regulatory efficiency. Ultimately, national welfare is best served by well-grounded regulatory processes. Governments, industry and civil society all have an interest in regulatory systems that minimize harms while allowing optimal change and development.
Innovation can generate new classes of products and services that solve existing or emerging problems in novel ways, adding value by both reducing input factors and improving output quality and efficiency.
In the case of incremental innovation, for example improvements in car safety, pre-existing systems of standards, regulations, tests and certifications can be relied upon to determine whether a design change or new material can be approved for manufacture and sale. Innovators, regulators, and the public have a shared interest in the continuity of these pre-existing systems because they provide predictable pathways leading to safe (low risk, but not zero risk) outcomes.
Transformative innovation, whether technological (semiconductors), social (social media) or a mix of the two (bitcoin), is more challenging for everyone. Disruptive innovations, especially ones that are massified but of lower quality (e.g. when MP3s disrupted CDs), have a tendency of redirecting R&D pathways. Other innovations, like high-pass turbofan jet engines that entirely transformed passenger air travel to make it widely affordable, require new related infrastructure and alterations in practices and standards (e.g. ETOPS - Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards).
The advent of a wholly new class of innovations can drive policy considerations – take for example early earthquake detection and warning systems. What does the technology offer that’s been previously missing? What are the benefits? How reliable is the technology? What are the costs of not using the technology? How can the technology be integrated into evolving emergency management plans, insurance and reinsurance, and how can the public be made aware of its existence? This example illustrates that when innovation drives policy, there are more questions than answers. Framing consideration of the challenges is vitally important to performance.
EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE
Our team has extensive experience working with government, industry and civil society in the global agri-food system. Our team works to identify and propose strategies to reduce the deadweight loss of ineffective governance and regulation related to innovations, products and technologies in agriculture, food and related industries. We are able to offer:
Access to an extensive and global network of experts;
A detailed depth of knowledge about global agriculture, innovation and regulation;
Advice and leadership in the policy development process, including design of optimal instruments and institutions, implementation tactics and evaluation strategies;
Proven strategies for design and management of large scale, multi-institutional research projects;
Experience with organizational design to create institutional structures that enable activity;
Design, management and implementation of large scale ventures;
Funding and management of large-scale infrastructure; and
Evaluation of programs and initiatives.
As partners, Phillips, Castle and Smyth bring over 60 years of work experience and research involving agriculture, innovation and regulation. During the past decade, we have aggressively delved into this research, raising $250 million for policy research and another $800 million for use by new research institutions. We have individual and collectively published > 100 journal articles, >50 book chapters, >15 books and have presented research, shared insights and consulted with governments in >6 countries and with a host of firms and international agencies.
Technology forecasting and horizon scanning
Foresighting and landscape analysis
Ex ante economic assessment
Ex post adoption impact analysis
Political economy mapping using a mix of social network analysis, agent-based modelling and complexity modelling
Attitudinal surveys, behavioral experimentation and focus groups capable of identifying knowledge gaps