Syngenta Biotechnology Inc.
“We’ve grown and evolved over the years. We believed we could get up and running more competitively and quickly here at Research Triangle Park than other locations around the world.”
-- Stephen Goldsmith, director of corporate affairs at Syngenta
Syngenta Biotechnology: Innovation That Feeds a Hungry Planet
Syngenta was one of the first biotechnology companies to establish a presence in Research Triangle Park (RTP) and remains one of its most dynamic. The company, based in Basil, Switzerland, arrived in RTP in 1984 to tap the region’s research universities and agricultural infrastructure.
“We’ve grown and evolved over the years,” says Stephen Goldsmith, director of corporate affairs at Syngenta. Much of Syngenta’s work at RTP, where it now employs 400 people, centers on discovery of drought resistant food crops. In 2011, it launched construction on 136,000 square-feet of greenhouse “growing chambers” off I-40 as part of an R&D strategy that is long-range and global in nature. “This is where we can carefully monitor and study how plants respond to various stimuli,” Goldsmith says of the $72 million facility, which can simulate the growing conditions of any farm in the world.
Improving the efficiency by which plants utilize moisture is imperative to the challenge of feeding the planet’s surging population on limited land and water resources. Moreover, as millions in the developing world adopt U.S.-style diets rich in animal protein, much of the world’s burgeoning demand for grains is being redirected from human to livestock consumption.
Syngenta officials considered locations in Asia, Europe and South America for its expanded ag-bio operations before selecting RTP. “We believed we could get up and running more competitively and quickly here at RTP than other locations around the world,” says Goldsmith. Syngenta also finds the Research Triangle Region a welcoming environment for its diverse international workforce. “We’ve got people who have come here from all over the world,” Goldsmith says. The company’s ability to recruit from a worldwide talent base is complemented by the rich inventory of skilled workers produced by universities here. “NC State [University] has long been an ag-bio leader, nationally and internationally recognized for its programs and projects in plant breeding and advanced genetics,” he adds. The company also works with Duke University and UNC, whose biostatistics, I/T and business graduates also bring the company critical skills-sets.
In July 2013, only months after completing its previous expansion, Syngenta unveiled plans to add another 150 R&D jobs at its Innovation Center in Research Triangle Park. It is investing $94 million there as it grows its crop protection and seed development operations. Syngenta officials considered locations in Iowa and Minnesota for the facility, but the Research Triangle Region’s moderate cost-of-living, attractive business environment and formidable talent pool again steered the company here. Once complete in 2016, the Innovation Center will explore the nutritional needs and external stresses of corn, soybean, cereal, rice, vegetable and sugar cane.
While Syngenta was the product of a 2000 merger of the agribusiness units of Novartis and AstraZeneca, its corporate roots extend to the founding of J.R. Geigy Ltd. in 1758. Today, Syngenta’s worldwide workforce totals 27,000 across operations in 90 countries.