International Potato Center and CGIAR appoint Dr. Simon Heck Director General and CGIAR Senior Director


7 February 2023, Lima, Peru – The International Potato Center (CIP) Board of Trustees and CGIAR leadership have appointed Dr. Simon Heck as Director General of CIP and CGIAR Senior Director.

Simon Heck, Director General of CIP and CGIAR Senior Director

Dr. Heck is widely recognized as a leader of successful international multi-stakeholder research-for-development programs focused on improving food and nutrition security, breeding climate-smart crops, and fostering inclusive value chains. Dr. Heck has led the scaling of CIP’s work on sweetpotato biofortification, which has reached more than seven million households across Africa and South Asia. He is currently CIP’s Director of the Sweetpotato Agri-food System Program and Lead of the CGIAR Initiative on Resilient Cities.

Dr. Heck said: “It is an honor to be named Director General of CIP, whose collaboration with national partners has enabled millions of farmers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to improve their income and support their families’ well-being with potato and sweetpotato. I’m excited to take on this leadership role within CGIAR, the world’s largest research-for-development organization, and to collaborate with people across and beyond CGIAR to develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

An anthropologist by training, Dr. Heck joined CIP in 2012 as Deputy Manager for Sweetpotato in Africa Program, where he led the UK-funded Scaling-Up Sweetpotato through Agriculture and Nutrition (SUSTAIN) project, which partnered with a broad array of government and non-profit organizations to help more than two million people in six African countries improve their food production and diet diversity. He previously worked with WorldFish, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the UK’s Department for International Development.

Dr. Helen Hambly, Chair of CIP’s Board of Trustees, said: “In his decade with CIP, coordinating multi-stakeholder partnerships and delivering innovations and improvements for vulnerable rural and urban communities in Africa and Asia, Dr. Heck has proven his ability to foster more productive, gender-responsive, and equitable food systems. Dr. Heck’s experience and research expertise, including in the important area of innovation in urban food systems, makes him the right person to lead CIP as we respond to growing global demand for the nutritional outcomes, productivity, and resilience of potato and sweetpotato agri-food systems, collaborating with other CGIAR Centers to deliver high-impact programs that tackle complex problems.”

In his new role, Dr. Heck will focus on expanding CIP’s proven track record of leadership in high-impact research in genetic innovation, and on delivery models along the commodity supply chain from farm to fork. This will involve supporting excellence in breeding in national crop improvement programs, strengthening the climate resilience of key agri-food production systems, and promoting market innovations to improve incomes, jobs, and access to heathy diets for marginalized rural and urban communities. Dr. Heck will also serve as a CGIAR Senior Director and member of CGIAR’s Senior Leadership Team.

According to Dr. Claudia Sadoff, CGIAR’s Executive Managing Director: “Dr. Heck’s appointment, as with other recent CGIAR leadership appointments, supports our focus on developing and scaling innovations that improve lives and livelihoods across the global South. His abilities as a researcher and manager dedicated to science that benefits people and the planet will be a valuable addition to our leadership team as we work to increase the visibility and impact of CGIAR and our Centers.”

Dr. Heck will assume the new role on 1 March 2023. He will take over from Dr. Oscar Ortiz, CIP’s current Director General ad interim. Dr. Ortiz continues in his other current role as CGIAR Senior Director, Crop-based Systems.

For further information contact

Vivian Atakos, Outreach Manager, International Potato Center

+254 720 924 757

About CIP

CIP was founded in 1971 as a research-for-development organization with a focus on potato, sweetpotato and Andean roots and tubers. It delivers innovative science-based solutions to enhance access to affordable nutritious food, foster inclusive sustainable business and employment growth, and drive the climate resilience of root and tuber agri-food systems. Headquartered in Lima, Peru, CIP has a research presence in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.


CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. CGIAR science is dedicated to transforming food, land and water systems in a climate crisis. Its research is carried out by CGIAR Centers/Alliances in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organizations and the private sector.