Product design through research and development
A Syngenta case study

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Page 3: Research

Research is at the heart of Syngenta”s activities and enables it to discover new products with outstanding performance in the field. Syngenta”s scientists carry out research to identify active ingredients that:

  • are effective
  • are specific to solving crop-related problems
  • have a novel mode of action i.e. how the chemical works
  • are safe.

Syngenta's research process is like a funnel: thousands of chemical compounds go into the process but only a few successful ones come out the other end.  Out of every 100,000 compounds examined, only one or two will make it into production as fully established products.

Identifying compounds

To help speed up the process of identifying appropriate active ingredients ('lead finding'), Syngenta has a collection of about two million different chemical compounds. These have the potential to develop into active products. Its scientists test about 50,000 chemicals each year to assess their biological activity and identify the most promising chemical compounds for further research.

Screening and testing

Syngenta uses the latest technology to make procedures more efficient. Part of the screening of chemical compounds is carried out by fully-automated robots. This type of technology can prepare and formulate hundreds of potential ingredients every day, at far greater speeds than scientists can achieve. This gives high throughput with lower costs.

The system helps Syngenta scientists by freeing up their time to be more innovative and productive. The research phase also includes simulating different growing conditions in field trials and in glasshouses. These allow scientists to see how the chemical behaves over time.

At the chemical stage it costs about £100 per test. A field trial of a full product might be as much as £100,000 or more. New computer software can assess soil conditions in fields. This helps scientists to understand how much water is needed for growing the crop.

Syngenta | Product design through research and development