This is the first in a new series of CGIAR Annual Performance Reports which reflect the introduction of new System-wide results reporting systems. The report presents evidence on progress, offers a reflection on factors that help CGIAR move from research results to achieving practical impacts on the ground, and discusses how CGIAR worked to improve its performance in 2017. The information in this main report is supported by detailed data, available in Annexes and in linked Evidence Tables.

Progress towards Strategy and Results Framework goals: Evidence from 2017

The report presents progress against an agreed Strategy and Results Framework (SRF), including 10 aspirational targets that feed into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Rigorous quantitative evidence is presented on the long-term, at-scale impact of relevant CGIAR innovations against each target. Examples include:

  • Large-scale adoption and impact of high-yielding crop varieties (e.g. rice, maize and lentils), biofortified crops, and improved fish varieties;
  • Impacts of improved policies and programs: e.g. environmental benefits of fire prevention in Indonesian forests; and
  • Impacts of other technologies and innovations, such as uptake of a technology to combat aflatoxins (fungal toxins in foods and feeds), and benefits recorded from adopting tree domestication technologies.

Much of the impact data presented comes from earlier investments in impact studies through the Strengthening Impact Assessment in the CGIAR System special initiative project (SIAC), which finished in 2017.

The report then presents data on the newly introduced Common Results Reporting Indicators with available data from 2017, together with examples and links to full databases with supporting evidence. Numerical highlights include:

  • 616 ‘innovations’ (significant products or findings from research), including 348 in a stage available for uptake, e.g. a variety released, or a technique ready to scale up.
  • 112 international and national policies, legal instruments, investments and curricula to which CGIAR research contributed in 2017.
  • 1,764 peer-reviewed publications, of which 61% were published in Open Access. A new prototype system, ‘GARDIAN’, gave searchable open access to 50,000 publications and 1,800 datasets from CGIAR by the end of 2017.
  • 348,927 participants (40% women) in CGIAR training courses or events, including 1,700 (30% women) on degree or other long-term courses
  • 1,961 formal partnerships were reported, of which just over half (51%) were for research and a third (33%) were for work on scaling or delivery of mature innovations.

A special mention is made of CGIAR genebanks, which represent the largest and most widely used collections of crop diversity in the world, with 768,576 accessions, including 25,301 in vitro accessions and 28,063 accessions held as plants or trees in the field. In 2017, 109,339 germplasm samples were provided by CGIAR genebanks to users (including CGIAR breeders). A total of 61,376 samples were distributed outside CGIAR, in 95 countries.

A case study of CGIAR’s work on biofortification, which has been distinguished by a World Food Prize Award, offers the chance to reflect on the factors that have led to success in turning research outputs into practical impacts on the ground. These included:

  • Risk-taking and perseverance (CGIAR research on biofortification started 25 years ago with a vision of what ‘might’ work, and is now scaling up to benefit millions of people);
  • Partnership;
  • A clear vision of potential pathways to impact, using research to systematically test the assumptions and links in those pathways;
  • Substantial investment in monitoring and evaluation; and
  • A critical mass of coordinated investment, enabling the above and creating a virtuous circle of increased evidence of effectiveness leading to sustained funding.

This report also highlights some new directions for some CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) in 2017, in response to expanding international demand. Examples included urban food systems and food safety in the informal sector in Africa; sustainable rice straw management to avoid straw burning in Asia; and linkages between ecosystem health, food production or systems and human wellbeing in areas such as synthetic proteins and water-related diseases.

Integrating gender and equity into CGIAR research for development

In 2017, CGIAR took several steps forward toward greater gender equality. An evaluation of gender in research and in the workplace found that there had been significant progress, but that CGIAR required a clearer overall vision and action plan for. A CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research was set up in 2017 within the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), building on the previous System-wide gender network. The platform held a first technical conference and a series of webinars, and launched a successful call for proposals for co-funded gender research. Six gender working groups were launched (or strengthened) on specialist areas of work, including breeding, agriculture and climate change, data and methods, seed systems, water and innovation. Many parts of CGIAR reported activities related to gender integration in research, and this report presents a selection of their results, including tools, measures and frameworks; major reviews; and CGIAR contributions to integrating gender considerations into national and international policy and programming.

Work on youth also surged across CGIAR in 2017, with several multi-country studies, meetings and literature reviews on rural youth and employment issues. The main lesson was that a broader approach to equity issues would be more effective than a ‘youth only’ approach, taking in different kinds of social differences as well as age and gender. Understanding differences in the way research products are used and affect different types of people is key to meeting the SDG goal of “leaving no-one behind”.

Improving CGIAR performance

This report presents a summary of progress made in 2017 with System-wide results and performance systems, taking in recommendations from an evaluation of results-based management. Components of a new System-wide reporting system were approved, and the ground laid for further development in 2018. The year 2017 also saw greatly increased adoption and harmonization of Management Information Systems (MIS), and these are expected to be adopted by all parts of CGIAR in 2018, increasing efficiency and checkability in System-wide reporting as well as program management.

The report also discusses the use of pooled funding (CGIAR Trust Fund Windows 1 and 2) to improve performance and provides a link to a compiled list of activities funded. Windows 1 and 2 were used for a wide variety of ‘value-added’ work. A few examples are: start-up investment on emerging research topics, supporting integration of gender; capacity development of national partners; and financing international policy engagement to leverage research results. Three stand-alone Platforms which work across CGIAR were also created (or strengthened) in 2017:

  • The CGIAR Genebank Platform (GENEBANK) supports the core activities of the CGIAR genebanks to conserve and make available the 35 crop and tree collections under its management, and works towards meeting international standards, improving efficiency, and ensuring more effective use of collections within a supportive policy environment.
  • The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture (BIG DATA), launched May 2017, aims to: mobilize CGIAR data to accelerate research and spur new data-driven innovations, build data collaboration internally and externally, and leverage CGIAR expertise while claiming a unique leadership voice in digital agriculture. It also supports and promotes Open Data.
  • The CGIAR Excellence in Breeding Platform (EiB), launched August 2017 aims to modernize breeding programs, drawing from innovations in the public and private sectors to provide access to cutting-edge tools, services and best practices, application-oriented training and practical advice to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of breeding. This has already resulted in some improvements in efficiency.

Collaboration across CGIAR has significantly increased since the inception of CRPs, adding value and improving learning across the System by taking advantage of expertise in areas such as economic modeling or climate change. A total of 192 specific instances of collaboration between CRPs, and between CRPs and Platforms were reported for 2017, as detailed in the report.

Partnerships with the private sector are often vital to delivering CGIAR innovations. The effective management of intellectual assets and intellectual property rights are an essential part of these partnerships. In 2017, a review was undertaken of the CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets, which seek to achieve a delicate balance between maintaining the founding value of  global accessibility of CGIAR research results and proactively achieving targeted impacts through the use of intellectual property rights and licensing. The review concluded that the Principles were appropriate and useful, and made recommendations to strengthen their application, some of which are currently being implemented. In 2017, CGIAR Research Centers reported a total of three provisional patent applications and two non-provisional patent applications, as well as 23 Limited Exclusivity Agreements and four Restricted Use Agreements with the private sector. These were all determined to further the CGIAR vision and to be consistent with the Principles.

The report also summarizes reported activities on monitoring, evaluation, and adoption and impact assessment carried out across CGIAR. Numbers of reported studies were relatively low in 2017, probably indicating both under-reporting and under-investment in this area. However, there are active cross-CGIAR communities of practice working to improve approaches and methods, and more than half of the programs reported holding learning workshops to feed results of studies back into programming.

A key advance in 2017 was the adoption of a CGIAR System Risk Management Framework and associated Guidelines. Building on expertise from the CGIAR Shared Services Internal Audit Unit (CGIAR IAU), Center management and Internal Audit teams, the System adopted five risk families and indicators to reflect best international practice.

2017 saw CGIAR’s System-wide advisory functions—the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) and its Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA); the Independent Evaluation Arrangement (IEA), and the CGIAR IAU—providing guidance and assurance on the status and performance of CGIAR’s research agenda, the quality of the work, its operational effectiveness and its impact.

Other highlights in 2017 included:

Funding and finance

Investments in CGIAR are delivered via a multi-Funder ‘CGIAR Trust Fund’, as well as on a bilateral basis. Harmonized funding is channeled through Windows 1 and 2 of the CGIAR Trust Fund. Window 1 (W1) contributions are pooled and may be used across the CGIAR System, while Window 2 (W2) contributions are designated for specific CRPs and/or Platforms. Funders may also allocate funding to particular CGIAR Research Centers through Window 3 (W3) of the CGIAR Trust Fund, and/or directly to specific projects in CGIAR Research Centers (outside the Fund), which is called ‘bilateral’ funding. In 2017, CGIAR recognized revenue of USD 849 million, of which the clear majority (78%) was Window 3 and bilateral funding, and 19% was Windows 1 and 2 funding.

Overall, the top three Funders were the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the USA and UK. The largest providers of Windows 1 and 2 funding were the UK, World Bank, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Australia, and Canada. The largest providers of bilateral funding were Germany, USA and Mexico. Of overall expenditure, 85% was on research led by CGIAR and its partners, and 15% on general, administration and System entity costs. Individual CRPs had annual budgets that varied from about USD 20 million to 90 million, with around 20% of the total (range 7-30%) being pooled Windows 1 and 2 funding.

Photo by K. Evans/CIFOR.