Adrian Percy

New Innovation Center at La Dargoire –
Opening the Door to Understanding and Cooperation

One of the things I’ve learned over my career is the value of an “open door” policy.  While most of the people with whom I’ve worked were accessible whenever I wanted to see them, there was something special about those who always left their office door open. It may have been only a symbolic gesture, but to me it meant so much more.  When I think about how agriculture is perceived by so many people today, I believe it wouldn’t hurt to open a door – which is exactly what Bayer is doing in Lyon, France.

On November 17, I had the pleasure of participating at the opening of the new Innovation Center at our La Dagoire research facility in Lyon. Having spent several years working in France, it’s always nice to visit friends and colleagues and being there for this event was a great experience. The Center’s opening coincided with the 50th anniversary of the La Dargoire and its rich tradition of research, which has delivered some of the world’s most novel crop protection products and whose employees continue to search for that next break-through discovery.

Innovation is the life-blood of any science-based company. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to work in agriculture understand its importance and justifiably take pride in the accomplishments that modern agriculture has provided. Today, we’re feeding more people on less land and we’re doing it more sustainably than ever before. And there are exciting innovations on the horizon that will enable us to do even better. But none of that matters if our society doesn’t believe us or accept our products. Research tells us that most people support innovations that help grow more food and fight global hunger, but they are deeply concerned about food safety, water quality, soil health, and minimizing any negative impact on the environment. And that’s the critical crossroads in which we find ourselves today.

The theme for the dedication of the Innovation Center was “Open the Door” and I cannot think of a more appropriate metaphor to describe what it represents. The Center’s purpose is to reinforce the need for ag innovation and to improve its societal acceptance. At Bayer, we’re promoting “open innovation” in our research, which simply means that all ideas – no matter where they come from – are welcomed, if we are to address the food challenges of tomorrow. At the same time, we’re opening the files to our safety studies, which were once classified as confidential information, so that people can see for themselves the science-based methods we use to evaluate the safety of our products. We think data transparency is the right thing to do and that other companies will soon follow our example.

Adrian Percy
Adrian Percy
Adrian Percy, is the Global Head of Research and Development for Crop Science, a Division of Bayer.

The Innovation Center has literally opened the door to explain why agricultural research is so vital to our collective well-being. About 150 farmers, scientists, educators, media and other stakeholders attended the opening ceremony, which focused on agricultural innovation and its public perception. I was delighted to participate in one of two panels and to be one of several speakers, including Françoise Grossetête, member of the European Parliament and Michel Serres, a noted philosopher and author, all of whom dealt with the promise and controversy of science-based innovation.

However, what really struck me about the day’s activities was the passion demonstrated by the Lyon team that made it all happen. One cannot help but be impressed by how quickly the Innovation Center went from idea to reality—one year, in fact! But the Center is only the visible culmination of a much deeper effort: Its raison d’être was sown and nurtured by a dedicated team of AgVocates, who have made public outreach a literal part of their job. These scientists dedicate a significant amount of their time to improve societal acceptance of agricultural research, by helping people understand the benefits that innovation provides. With the Center up and running, they now have a permanent home with which to amplify their efforts. And while I remain an adamant supporter of agricultural technology, I know it’s the face-to-face personal interactions that will make the difference when it comes to gaining greater public acceptance.

An open door – whether it is at a home, an office, or a research facility – is more than a point of entry. It’s actually an invitation that brings people together and a passageway that leads to greater understanding and cooperation. While we won’t agree on every issue, an open door at least provides the opportunity for us to talk to each other. The Innovation Center is a visible reminder that we can’t accomplish much when that door is slammed shut and yet we can do so much more when it’s opened.

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