Innovation Systems

Innovation systems principles – Strengths and weaknesses

On 18 and 19 November 2010, the Fodder Adoption Project organized a mini-symposium on feed in smallholder systems as part of the week-long discussions.

On the second day of the symposium, discussions focused on innovation systems principles and their application in livestock and feed research for development. The aim was to examine if such approaches are ‘the’ way forward, what are some constraints in implementing them, are they sustainable? and what are the next steps in this area?

Shirley Tarawali introduced three ‘defining principles’ of an innovation system approach, that it:

  • integrates the perspectives, knowledge and actions of different stakeholders around a common theme.
  • integrates the learning by stakeholders from working together.
  • integrates analysis, action and change across: environmental, social, economic “dimensions” of development; and different levels of spatial, economic and social organisation

She also highlighted some associated issues: that there is no ‘fixed’ approach, that the transaction costs (in time especially …) can be high, the difficulties encountered in identifying measurable results and impact (using the usual approaches), that success requires unusual capacities (of a standard research organisation), there are questions of sustainability (who keeps such initiatives going?), and that it is not a panacea for all locations and situations.

She concluded emphasizing that this is a promising way to mesh research technologies and innovation and a tool “for real R4D projects.”

As a device to dig deeper and better understand the strengths and weaknesses of innovation systems in reality, participants spent the remainder of the time in groups working on four assignments:

  • Outline the content of a poster for a national agricultural research meeting explaining the pros and cons of innovation systems principles
  • Draft the key bullet points of a powerpoint presentation to the international animal feed congress explaining the opportunities and challenges of using innovation systems principles
  • Prepare the principal points to include in a policy brief for your Minister of Agriculture outlining the value and relevance of an innovation systems principles
  • Prepare a text box to describe new innovation systems principles to be included in a new livestock value chain proposal explaining its benefits, and possible challenges.

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