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Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement

A hand holding beansTCI is part of an exciting new venture aimed at advancing plant breeding tools, technologies, and methods to increase yields, enhance nutrition, and improve crop resilience. Led by Cornell University and supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement is an integrated research and delivery program that will support national breeding programs in East and West Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement is a 5-year initiative thanks to $25 million from the U.S. government’s Feed the Future. The team brings together experts from Cornell University, Clemson University, Kansas State, Cultural Practice LLC, RTI International, and Makerere University.

TCI is leading the Innovation Lab’s institutional evaluation component.

Measuring Institutional Capacity

A central aim of the program is to empower national agricultural research centers, building their institutional capacity to reach nutritional, economic, and social goals for economic development and food and nutritional security.

TCI’s role is to measure the institutional capacities of national research centers to deliver genetic gains and new products to enable economic growth, resilience, and nutritional development. Specifically, TCI will evaluate the institutional capacities created by the Innovation Lab and study how those capacities lead to genetic gains and the introduction of new, economically relevant, and resilient crops that enable food and nutrition security in their respective regions.

The institutional capacity of research centers is defined as their capital endowment, human capital, management, and technical capacities that allow them to undertake activities that will allow for the diffusion of technology in breeding programs. Tracking the development of institutional capacity and diffusion of technology in breeding programs is essential for:

  • assessing the success of agricultural research in new technology implementation and the adoption of new practices;
  • understanding the multidimensional impact of research on productivity, farm incomes, nutrition, and social inclusivity; and
  • revealing constraints, bottlenecks, and challenges of technology development and diffusion.

Understanding the factors that influence and drive the successful adoption of tools, technologies, and methods will be essential to recognizing how Innovation Labs and scientific support groups can be successfully initiated and sustained.