Public-private partnerships: Product output specification

Product output specification

» Product specification
» Users and attributes
» Research scope, feasibility, and risks
» Standards
» Reality check
» Key questions
» Technology-pull
» User participation in product definition
» Timescale


  • Providing clear product and market specifications is a “must” for success. Partners do not always give this topic enough attention. Failure to be specific can seriously limit a PPP’s ability to deliver benefits.
  • The SFSA recommends special emphasis on defining the product outputs and reaching a common understanding on expectations. These underpin the basis of the collaboration.
  • “Product specification” is a stand-alone qualitative and quantitative description of the product(s) that researchers intend to generate.
  • “Users and attributes.” This list specifies potential users, scientific features needed to meet their requirements, and the benefits to users.
  • “Research scope, feasibility, and risks.” This section highlights aspects that may affect the shape or size of the research program, including technical or other product-related risks that could make delivery more difficult. An example could be the need for large-area field trials to evaluate performance. The list may also include characteristics that, if present, could result in limited or no use of the product. Examples here include yield drag and lack of resistance to key pathogens.
  • “Standards” mean the standard of performance for which the research program must aim.
  • “Reality check.” Creating a product specification helps to ensure that users’ needs are really understood, and avoids assumptions. It also provides a methodology for understanding the specific technical challenge, and points to indicators of research success.
  • Key questions. Specifications need to include answers to the following:

1. Who is the final target farmer or final user in the value chain?
2. What are the agricultural benefits for the end user?
3. What is the socio-economic impact and benefit of the product to the end user?
4. Who is the user of your product?
5. How many users are you aiming at?
6. Where are they based?
7. How will they determine the quality of your product?
8. What profile and attributes must the product have in order to be used?
9. What secondary features could compromise its attractiveness to farmers or other users? 


  • Technology-pull. Experience shows that when new products really match user needs they are highly sought after. This “pull” tends to accelerate development and ensures greater uptake than approaches that rely on technology “push”.
  • User participation in product definition. Analysis of key drivers of change is essential for meeting farmers’ future needs, as is involving farmers directly in product development. Mapping how products reach the farmer (also known as an “impact pathway”), finding out the requirements of stakeholders in the chain, and listening to farmers about their requirements will ensure that products developed will be adopted.
  • Timescale. Appropriate timescales also need consideration. Macro- and microeconomic market trends must be taken into account.