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. 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.

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.

www_iconAgricultural 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 2020 – an orientation paper on linking innovation and research. This 2013 European Commission paper reflects on potential themes for innovation, in operational groups or the proposed focus groups of the network facility of the EIP. This is followed up with a reflection on innovative innovation policies that EU Member States could use to foster innovation and participation in the EIP. this report builds on an earlier 2012 paper – Agricultural knowledge and innovation systems in transition  – a reflection paper.

www_iconAgricultural 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.

Adaptive Collaborative Approaches in Natural Resource Governance: Rethinking participation, learning and innovation. This book review by Danielle Spruyt points out that the book reminds us that “despite massive expansion of participatory decentralized approaches to natural resource governance and management over the past three decades, success has remained limited”. The experiences documented in the book reveal the political dimensions of ACA as an explicit project of social change, and illustrate the real challenges in fitting these approaches into the traditional processes and institutions of the project site, of the project sponsor or of the larger bureaucratic and political processes and institutions. The first chapter of the book by Ojha, Hall and Sulaiman is available – Adaptive collaborative approaches in natural resource governance: An introduction  here.

  The evaluation of regional innovation and cluster policies: looking for new approaches This paper by Maria Angeles Diez and Maria Soledad Esteban points out that from a learning perspective regions appear as focal points for learning and knowledge creation in this new age of global, knowledge-intensive capitalism and, as a consequence, earning regions are increasingly important sources of innovation and economic growth. The paper then looks at the role of evaluation in supporting and learning lessons from this approach so policy can be increasingly targetted.

Cluster Policy: A Review of the Evidence. This 2012 paper by Elvira Uyarra and Ronnie Ramlogan highlight that  cluster programmes often provide a suitable framework to mobilise resources and actors towards advancing the innovation potential of the target regions and sectors of activities. They also provide some guides around that to help policy makers better consider and target their support.

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.

The Role of Innovation Brokers in Agricultural Innovation Systems. This thematic note by Laurens Klerkx and Peter Gildemacher looks at how innovation brokering expands the role of agricultural extension from that of a one-to-one intermediary between research and farmers to that of an intermediary that creates and facilitates many-to-many relationships.

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.