DuPont Pioneer, one of world’s largest agriculture companies, recently launched an Open Innovation program because, in the words of the company’s Mat Müller, Director of Business Development, and an Ag Innovation Showcase advisory committee member and speaker at this year’s Ag Innovation Showcase, “We are fully aware that we cannot do it alone.”
In an age when agriculture technologies and innovations have accelerated dramatically, DuPont Pioneer has launched their initiative to invite wider and deeper collaboration with scientists and innovators around the world, at both public and private institutions. Mat and his colleagues seek to solve immediate problems and make available to their collaborators the powerful tools that exist today in genomic sequencing, genome editing, and field evaluation.
As expressed by a 2016 Ag Showcase panel on genome editing that included Mat’s colleague, Neal Gutterson, Vice President, Research and Development, DuPont Pioneer, the cost of DNA technologies including genome sequencing and data analysis tools have come down so far as to democratize their application beyond the big ag companies. This democratization gives smaller players an opportunity to apply the technologies to crops and traits that appeal to markets of various sizes, providing both farmers and consumers what they need and want. This broader application of technologies should help the industry as a whole develop the “social license” to practice genome editing for public benefit and offers the opportunity to avoid mistakes made in the 1990’s around GMOs and the polarization that resulted in public opinion. One way DuPont Pioneer hopes to accelerate this democratization of technology is through collaborations enabled by Open Innovation.
DuPont Pioneer anticipates their initiative will expand and amplify the efforts of their internal R&D teams to solve problems and make advances in agriculture more quickly, more creatively, and more effectively through new collaborations. Their Open Innovation initiative builds on a long commitment to science and technology, beginning right from the start of the Pioneer Hi-Bred company that Henry Wallace built in the 1920’s to commercialize corn bred from hybrid crosses of inbred parents.
Open Innovation provides a point of entry into the DuPont Pioneer research community and resources. Mat and Neal began discussions about building an Open Innovation program 18 months ago and sought the advice of open innovation thought leaders in other industries. The DuPont Pioneer team launched their website in June 2017 with a Challenge to create algorithms that automate with greater than 99% accuracy the classification of scatterplots that have been previously either manually scored or autoscored with lower accuracy. Response rates were very promising with more than 480 innovators picking up the challenge and dozens of solutions submitted in August. These solutions are now undergoing evaluation.
What does DuPont Pioneer offer global scientists entering collaborations?
- Commercial lineages for major crops from the Pioneer breeding program
- Genomic sequencing tools and expertise
- Genome editing tools- based on the CRISPR-Cas systems that have the potential to edit more efficiently
- Efficient transformation technologies for many of the major crops
What does DuPont Pioneer seek?
DuPont Pioneer wants a wider sourcing of ideas to solve known problems and a process to attract novel ideas into collaborations with DuPont Pioneer. Areas of interest include but are not limited to:
- Genome editing enhancements
- Durable disease resistance solutions to protect crops
DuPont Pioneer believes that the global scientific community can do truly innovative work when it collaborates, and they invite the ag innovation community to join forces to develop sustainable solutions for agriculture challenges. For example, a current grant opportunity is open (closing October 1, 2017) for applications in the areas of genome editing (template-based CRISPR-Cas innovations) and in robust, sustainable and durable solutions to crop disease problems.
The size of the award for current grant opportunities ($5,000-50,000), is suitable to provide additional support for a graduate student project in an academic lab and as an initial exploration for potential longer-term collaborative relationships.
Visit DuPont Pioneer’s Open Innovation website to learn more.