Wendy Wintersteen, dean of Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spoke on Sunday of the importance of public-private partnerships in strengthening global food security during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.
During her talk, part of a panel on research and development for sustainable agriculture and food security, Wintersteen stressed the importance of partnerships in providing the innovation necessary to meet global challenges.
She said climate change, pests, plant disease and other serious threats to global food security are too grave for any single agency or organization to solve alone. Instead, she urged universities, government agencies and private-sector organizations to find partnership opportunities to pool research and expertise.
"Research partnerships are an important way to leverage the strengths of federal, state and private contributors to achieve maximum benefits," Wintersteen said. "They help leverage scarce resources, provide exposure to diverse perspectives, build on long-term investments in research and development and get us closer to a shared vision for our future."
Wintersteen said such partnerships fit well with the mission of land-grant universities like Iowa State. "Partnerships in research, education and extension are encoded in the DNA of land-grant universities," she said. "The most successful engagement efforts we have are associated with strong, healthy relationships with partners in government, business and the nonprofit world."
She pointed to Iowa State's BioCentury Research Farm, a first-in-the-nation integrated research and demonstration site dedicated to biomass production and processing, as a success story of such an approach. More than a dozen industry and government partners are currently working with ISU scientists at the research farm on improved crop practices, more efficient harvesting, storing and transporting systems and advanced biomass conversion technologies.
Wintersteen said partnerships played an important role in elevating public investment in agricultural research to a national priority. She cited a 2012 report to President Obama from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which calls for the creation of six multidisciplinary innovation institutes focused on emergency challenges in agriculture that would be supported by public-private partnerships.
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