Agri-food systems innovation and partnerships

Increased demand for food, plateauing productivity and changing patterns of competition and consumption are just some of the reasons that we need innovation in agriculture. By innovation, we mean introducing something new, for example a new technology.

In partnership with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC), we have developed a framework to better understand the relationship between different innovation configurations (partnerships, networks, and practices) and impact.

The framework identifies three very broad patterns of innovation with distinctive configurations and processes, each with different scope for scale of impact:

  1. Incremental innovation or systems optimisation: deliver valuable local improvements to livelihoods of smallholders and profits for value chain actors. The scale of impact, however, is often restricted by the absence of policy, institutional and market systems changes and investments needed to spread and sustain these innovations.
  2. Radical innovation or sub-systems transformation: step change improvements in specific sub-sectors created from new types of products and services. Open up new economic and other value-add opportunities, new incremental innovation opportunities in production and marketing systems, and opportunities for the delivery of a wider range of products and services through the delivery systems established.
  3. Transformational innovation or systems transformation: far-reaching, deep systems changes that have pervasive implications for the entire agricultural sector. Impact is underpinned by broad-based consensus that significantly advances the economic, social and environmental frontiers and open up opportunities for new waves of radical and incremental innovation. Is not demand driven, but emerges from a broad-based consensus on the need to pursue new directions or take advantage of new platform technologies.

These three modes of innovation all have a value in progressing equitable and sustainable economic growth, albeit with different scales of impact. This framework provides (i) a portfolio lens to explore existing combinations of investments (ii) a way of exploring factors that lock practice and investment in incremental innovation pathways; and (iii) a way of understanding and planning transformational innovation pathways.

Contact Andy Hall for more information.