Over the past several decades, the private sector has assumed a larger role in developing improved technology for food and agriculture. Private companies fund nearly all food processing research and development (R&D) and perform a growing share of production-oriented R&D for agriculture. In addition, institutional partnerships for public–private research collaboration are growing in the United States and other countries.
This article outlines the major forces driving these changes and offers an interpretive framework to explore some of the implications for the volume and nature of research performed by the public and private sectors. One of the critical issues is whether public agricultural research complements and thereby stimulates additional private agricultural R&D investments. Another important issue concerns the role and contribution of alternative public–private partnership arrangements.
To date, changes in the institutional structure of public and private agricultural research have outpaced systematic investigation, and new theoretical and empirical research is needed to help guide policy and address key societal challenges, such as climate change, clean energy, water scarcity, food safety, and health.