How Embrapa Manages its Research and Development Programs – II

Embrapa Management System - SEG. Click to see a larger image.

Founded in 1973, Embrapa always pursued innovative strategies to broaden and diversify the scope of agricultural research in Brazil.  The organization always placed strong emphasis in institutional development and, during its past 37 years of existence, it experienced four different research and development models:  a)  the Concentrated Research Model; b) the Circular Programming Model; c) the Embrapa Planning System (SEP), and d) the Embrapa Management System (SEG).

The Concentrated Research Model, implemented during the organization´s early phase was based on the creation of its network of national R&D centers, concentrated on major cropping and animal production systems as well as in eco regional and national themes. The Circular Programming Model was conceived and implemented in the 1980’s and placed emphasis on new and more inclusive strategies for definition of research programs. The establishment of the Embrapa Planning System (SEP), in 1992, inaugurated a systems approach to R&D planning at Embrapa, with emphasis on society´s demand for technologies, products and services, and integrated operation through national programs.

The current model, known as Embrapa Management System (SEG), was conceived and implemented between 2001 and 2003 and brought significant change to the scope and focus of R&D organization and management within the Embrapa system.  Also, for the first time a management model promoted the alignment of the R&D process with the organization´s efforts in communication, technology transfer and Institutional Development.

Conceptual Basis of SEG

The SEG system incorporates planning, execution, follow-up, assessment and feedback of all Embrapa´s projects.  Also, the system introduced the concept of portfolio  management through Macroprograms (MP), which are programmatic instruments designed to fulfill the institutional goals, and secure the program’s scientific quality and strategic merit.

Through SEG, Embrapa has pioneered the implementation of induction thought an internal competitive system designed to mobilize its research Units and teams, emphasizing themes and challenges of great strategic importance.  Also, the competitive process is essential to promote scientific quality and strategic merit of proposals, as well as to streamline  resource allocation.

Currently the SEG system contemplates six Macroprograms, covering R&D, communication, technology transfer and institutional development.

Macroprogram 1, focus “Major National Challenges” and supports large transversal networks dedicated to themes and challenges of great complexity.  Of these, it is worth highlighting the “Brazilian Genetic Resources Platform”, “Biological security”, “Climate Change and Agriculture”, “Organic agriculture”, “Precision Farming”, “Climate Risk Zoning”, among others.

Macroprogram 2 is designed to promote less complex, thematic networks and projects aiming at sectoral competitiveness and sustainability.  For example, all Embrapa networks dedicated to genetics, plant and animal breeding are supported through this MP.

Macroprogram 3 targets incremental development through less complex arrangements and projects.  Its main goal is to focus development activities, validation, tailoring of existing technologies to new realities and needs, development of prototypes and other related activities that do not demand complex arrangements.

Macroprogram 4 –Technology Transfer and Communication and Macroprogram 5  – Institutional Development, provide guidance and support for the development of these activities through well designed projects conceived in close connection and alignment with the R&D Macroprogams.

More recently a Macroprogram 6 – Small Farmers Agriculture – was implemented, focused on supporting small holders and promoting economic viability and sustainability of family farming systems in the country.

The SEG planning system places strong emphasis in peer review and evaluation of scientific and technical merit of proposals. Also, projects are evaluated by their strategic merit and emphasis to social and environmental dimensions and perceptions, participatory knowledge construction and socio-economic issues.

In general, the conceptual model of SEG is geared towards enhancing agricultural diversity and efficiency, while minimizing negative environmental impacts of agricultural systems.  Also, there is strong emphasis to specificities and vulnerabilities of the complex Brazilian agroecossystems, which require optimization of input use, adequate soil and water use and management, attention to agrobiodiversity use and management and close assessment of environmental impacts.

During the past eight years the SEG system has contributed to integrate and align Embrapa´s efforts of R&D, communication, technology transfer and Institutional Development.  The system is still evolving, but it definitely helped Embrapa move in the direction of more cooperative efforts, expanding its networking capabilities and intensifying efforts towards agricultural innovation in closer contact with its stakeholders and with society as a whole.

Click here to see more information about the Embrapa Management System.

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