The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)


Innovation management in agrobiotech companies

Dr. Klaus Menrad
Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research

Modern biotechnology and genetic engineering approaches have gained increasing relevance in agriculture and their „traditional" supplying industries in recent years. Mostly, these approaches widen the available „toolbox" in R&D activities (e. g. in plant breeding or the development of agro-chemicals) or allow the creation of plants, micro-organisms or animals with specific characteristics. Since modern biotechnology and genetic engineering represent rather complex techniques with a fastly-moving creation of new knowledge, especially small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) of the agricultural supplying industry in Germany face specific challenges in order to adopt these new approaches in their technology portfolio and to use them for the development or production of new products.

In addition, a limited number of specialised agrobiotech companies has been founded in Germany during the last decade. These companies are often R&D oriented and offer specific services or products to „traditional" companies of the agricultural supplying industry or other clients. They face particular difficulties in financing their business activities as well as marketing their products/services on a national and international level.

Due to these framework conditions the management of innovations based on modern biotechnology is crucial for both type of companies. Existing approaches and instruments of innovation management mainly focus on big multinational companies and are not fine-tuned to the specific requirements of biotechnology SMEs. Hence, there is a need for analysing the current practice of the management of innovations in small and medium-sized agrobiotech companies.

In different projects of our institute we have analysed the management of innovations in biotechnology companies in Germany. In ongoing research we focus on the innovation management of traditional and young biotech companies in different application areas. In this project we cover the field of agricultural biotechnology as well. Starting with a literature overview on existing approaches and instruments of innovation management, case studies have been elaborated in more than 15 companies based on personal interviews. The current practice of technology and competition analysis, the applied technology strategy, market analysis and marketing, organisation of the company, personnel affairs as well as co-operation management have been investigated during these interviews. Company-specific problems of innovation management have been identified in a second step of the case studies. The project team elaborated possible solutions for the identified key-problems based on recommended instruments of innovation management as well as the applied practices in other companies. The solutions have been presented in the companies and discussed with the company management.

During the suggested paper presentation we will give an overview of existing approaches and instruments of innovation management at the beginning. Afterwards we will present empirical results of specific problems in innovation management faced in small and medium-sized „traditional" companies of the agricultural supplying industries as well as specialized, young agrobiotech companies. Based on these empirical findings we will elaborate modifications of existing approaches and instruments of innovation management in order to meet the needs of agrobiotech companies.

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