Innovation and Supply Chains

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David Zilberman is a co-director of the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program. He is a professor and holds the Robinson Chair in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. He has served as a consultant to the World Bank, the USDA, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
by David Zilberman

Dear ELPers,

I am really excited as we approach our 16th summer program. Every year we modify the program to incorporate some of the new knowledge we obtain and new direction of research being developed at Berkeley. This year, we will have more emphasis on supply chain, innovation and the environment. Supply chain sounds like a technical term, but it really means the organizational structure through which new products or services are being distributed and move from the origin to the final user. We may speak of a supply chain for tomatoes, wine, or environmental services. As you know, I have been doing a lot research on innovation, especially with water and Integrated Pest Management. I realized that once you have an innovation, the next step is to design a great supply chain. The inventor or organization that wants to push the technology further must decide how and where to promote it. Some innovations, especially ones not embodied in new products, are delivered through the public sector or NGOs. Other technologies are transferred through the private sector, and there are many ways to transfer it. Sometimes they are developed by start-ups, in other cases patents move to large companies that then sell a final product.

I am interested in innovations that are part of the bioeconomy, namely innovations that are utilizing crops to produce food, fuel, chemicals, etc. and are crucial for moving from a non-renewable to renewable world. For these innovations, we need distinguish between feedstocks (the raw material) and their processing that produces the final products. Then we have the question of how to develop a bioeconomy sector. Should it consist of vertically integrated firms that produce a feedstock and refine it? Or should it rely on multiple farmers that produce feedstocks for refining? We develop a way of thinking about these issues and we will emphasize it in the coming ELP.

As you know, the ELP has become part of the International Executive Program (IEP) of the College of Natural Resources, and this year we added an executive program on supply chain and innovation in agriculture that focuses on these topics. In the future, we would like to host a short workshop on supply chain for environmental management. We hope that some of the ELP alumni can join us in these new programs and that we can develop some of these specialized programs in different parts of the world.

I am looking forward to another great ELP program and hope to see as many of you as possible in the near future.

One Response to “Innovation and Supply Chains”

  1. Gbolagade LAMEED says:

    Great idea and futuristic hope for development (Biofuel, Integrated Pest Management. environmental management, chain supply or add value etc). ELP program will continue to be renovated for the support of humankind… Kudos to you David.

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