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Innovation and R&D
Current position: Bioavailability Group Lab Leader, Biology Department, Crop Science, La Dargoire Research Center (CRLD)
Joined Bayer in: 2002 (recruited in 1987 by Rhône Poulenc at the CRLD)
"Researchers and technicians are constantly faced with new biological, economic and regulatory challenges, to which they have to adapt."
What is your current role?
I've spent my whole career doing research into combating plant diseases. I'm currently Lab Leader in the Bioavailability Group of the CRLD's Biology Department, and a member of Bayer's scientific community of experts (Research Fellow), which is comprised of around 100 people. As such, I'm involved in establishing outside collaborations, transferring knowledge within the company and achieving wider recognition of Bayer's credibility and scientific excellence in terms of innovation.
Innovation is a common priority throughout the Group...
Bayer devotes a large share of its net sales to innovation and R&D. For Crop Science, the aim is to discover new crop protection solutions that are suited to the current and future challenges of agriculture and sustainable development, where chemical products will remain a major asset in combination with biocontrol agents and seed selection. In a very coercive and fast-changing regulatory context, the R&D process has become longer (10 -12 years). It now represents an average investment of €250 million as against €150 million in 2003 (1) - an increase caused by the obligation to carry out an ever-increasing number of toxicological and ecotoxicological assessment studies.
What impact has this had on the approach to innovation?
The group now advocates the use of complementary forms of crop protection: biocontrol agents, seeds and new synthetic molecules that act in new ways. To find new solutions, we have to be able to challenge what we do, and develop and adopt tools and methods in step with advances and technological innovations in chemistry, biology, biochemistry and toxicology. We also need to use miniaturization, automation and other advanced analytical technologies, from the collection to the computerized processing of data and information in order to establish, as early as possible, the effectiveness and toxicological characteristics (2) of our products.
So the watchword is adaptability?
Researchers and technicians are constantly faced with new biological, economic and regulatory challenges. Nothing is ever set in stone in R&D. You need to be passionate about your work, have a sharp and inquiring mind, and be ready to challenge what you do in order to move beyond what you already know.
Innovation is also a collective endeavor...
We work in a very collaborative way between different disciplines on the same site and between different R&D sites. That way, we share the detection and optimization stages between a team of biologists in Monheim and the biology/bioavailability and biochemistry teams based at La Dargoire.
In France, the stakes involved in innovation extend beyond the borders of science...
We have a lot of communicating to do to answer society's questions about the use of agrochemical products, by more effectively explaining how we work and the potential benefits in agriculture. We act very professionally throughout the R&D process and beyond; and we are especially proud to be providing vital support for agriculture.
(1) Source: UIPP
(2) Carried out at the Sophia-Antipolis facility