Innovation systems

Understanding innovation systems can help us identify, design, and implement the investments, approaches, and complementary interventions that appear most likely to strengthen innovation systems and promote innovation and equitable growth. Often such innovation systems are referred to in terms of their knowledge and/or information functions. The term is most commonly applied in agriculture – e.g. Agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKIS) or agricultural innovation systems (AIS). However, there is also interest in innovation systems in other sectors such as health, business and technology. Because of the breadth of application there is no exact definition, but there is a common appreciation that innovation is often the result of the interaction among a range of actors. Key elements or structures within an innovation system include: i) actors; ii) institutions; and iii) technological factors.

Readers will note a lot of similarities with other concepts in the LfS site. An innovation system has a lot in common with organisational or social learning, it is also similar to adaptive management and how we innovate is also important for those wrestling with concepts such as social licence to operate (SLO).  The following papers and reports provide more detail on the concept, and provide some ideas about how innovations systems thinking can move us towards more collaborative and adaptive processes that are appropriately place and community specific.

Revealing power dynamics and staging conflicts in agricultural system transitions: Case studies of innovation platforms in New Zealand
James Turner et al. (2020) Journal of Rural Studies
This paper unpacks the complexity of power relations in two collaborative innovation projects in agriculture. A framework is developed to understand power relations explicitly in agricultural transition. Conflicts serve as a means to understand relations between actors and the wider institutional system, and changes in actors’ role perceptions require special attention to unpack power relations.

Agriculture 4.0: Broadening Responsible Innovation in an Era of Smart Farming
This 2018 paper by David Rose and Jason Chilvers argues that key dimensions of responsible innovation—anticipation, inclusion, reflexivity, and responsiveness—should be applied to the emerging technologically-driven agricultural revolution.  In making suggestions on how to construct a more comprehensive framework for responsible innovation in sustainable agriculture, they call for: (i) a more systemic approach that maps and attends to the wider ecology of innovations associated with this fourth agricultural revolution; (ii) a broadening of notions of “inclusion” in responsible innovation to account better for diverse and already existing spaces of participation in agri-tech, and (iii) greater testing of frameworks in practice to see if they are capable of making innovation processes more socially responsible.

Learning and Innovation Networks for Sustainable Agriculture: processes of co-evolution, joint reflection and facilitation
This 2015 paper by Heidrun Moschitz and colleagues introduces a special journal issue that discusses  the institutional aspects of joint learning and reflection in these networks, using lessons gained from the European SOLINSA project.. They identify  three integral features that need to be taken into account for enhancing transition towards sustainable agriculture: processes of co-evolution; joint reflection; and facilitation of these interactions and processes.

Agricultural Innovation Systems : An Investment Sourcebook
This World Bank sourcebook draws on the emerging principles of Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) analysis and action to help to identify, design, and implement the investments, approaches, and complementary interventions that appear most likely to strengthen innovation systems and promote agricultural innovation and equitable growth. Although the sourcebook discusses why investments in AISs are becoming so important, it gives most of its attention to how specific approaches and practices can foster innovation in a range of contexts.

Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems Towards The Future
This is an orientation paper on linking innovation and research. This 2016 European Commission paper reflects on the future organisation of research and innovation in the agricultural domain. It explains the AKIS and their role in innovation, and explores future developments in AKIS. It also focuses on  ICT-trends and ICT in the food chain and its implications for research and innovation.

Developing a framework for responsible innovation
This paper by Jack Stilgoe, Richard Owen and Phil Macnaghten recognizes the governance of emerging science and innovation is a major challenge for contemporary democracies. In this paper the authors present a framework for understanding and supporting efforts aimed at ‘responsible innovation’. The framework became a location to articulate and explore four integrated dimensions of responsible innovation: anticipation, reflexivity, inclusion and responsiveness.

Agricultural Innovation Systems: A Framework for Analysing the Role of the Government
This 2013 OECD report reviews recent trends in agricultural innovation systems (AIS) and discusses the impact of a wide range of policies on the creation and diffusion of innovation in the agricultural and agrifood sector. It suggests a framework for analysing the role of governments in fostering increased innovation, with a view to helping to identify practical actions that governments could take to improve productivity growth, sustainable use of resources, and resilience to future market developments in national and global agriculture and agri-food systems.

Critical issues for reflection when designing and implementing Research for Development in Innovation Platforms
This 2013 CGIAR report by Birgit Boogaard and colleagues  acknowledges the problems with looking for a recipe book approach on how to set-up or interact in and with innovation platforms. They instead raise a number of issues and questions that need to be reflected upon when researchers want to engage with innovation platforms, and provide some relevant insights and further references.

A number of other pages on this site point to material relevant to different aspects of managing innovation, including the social learning section. This includes pages on reflective practice and monitoring and evaluation. Other useful pages include facilitation tools and techniques and critical reflection. The full range of pages can be accessed from the top menu bar.