Syngenta and Thought for Food: A Food-Security Innovation Platform
(7 pages of text)
In 2015, the corporate affairs executive of the leading Swiss agribusiness company Syngenta Crop Protection AG (Syngenta) and founder of the next-generation innovation platform Thought for Food, faced a dilemma about whether to register Thought for Food as an independent non-governmental organization, or to keep it housed within Syngenta. The choice had implications for Thought for Food’s potential for future growth and for its impact on global food-security challenges. To grow within Syngenta, Thought for Food would have to close the gaps between its open innovation practices and Syngenta’s traditional operations. To grow independently, it would have to develop a business plan that assured financial security. In either case, Thought for Food had to continue growing in relevance to its non-financial stakeholders, like the student participants and expert judges in its annual innovation challenge and summit.
This case addresses the key concepts of food security and sustainability, non-linear innovation, and open innovation models such as incubators and accelerators. It can be used in an undergraduate- or graduate-level course on innovation, agribusiness strategy, or sustainability. It can also be used in a general business strategy course to introduce these general concepts. After completion of this case, students will be able to
- describe the mega trends that threaten global food security and drive the search for breakthrough agricultural innovations;
- identify factors that inhibit a mature company’s non-linear (or disruptive) innovation capabilities, and recommend organizational changes for improvement;
- distinguish the business models and resource needs of incubators and accelerators for bringing innovations to market; and
- identify the key design factors of successful innovation challenges.
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