Innovation platforms in agricultural research for development
This article (PDF) by the Experimental Agriculture journal describes when and for what purpose innovation platforms provide an appropriate mechanism for achieving development outcomes, and what kinds of human and financial resource investments and enabling environments are required. Innovation platforms are fast becoming part of the mantra of agricultural research for development projects and programmes. Their basic tenet is that stakeholders depend on one another to achieve agricultural development outcomes, and hence need a space where they can learn, negotiate and coordinate to overcome challenges and capture opportunities through a facilitated innovation process. However, as the implementation of innovation platforms can consume significant human and financial resource investments, research and development donors will require evidence on the return on investments. This requires investments in structure monitoring, evaluation and learning, which is missing in many innovation platform initiatives. Furthermore, the study makes clear that not all constraints will require innovation platforms and, if there is a simpler, more cost- and time-effective approach, that should be considered first. It also provides an incentive to better reflect whether development outcomes can be achieved by building on existing platforms and networks, rather than initiating new innovation platforms. Based on the review of critical design principles and plausible outcomes of innovation platforms, this study provides a decision support tool for research, development and funding agencies that can enhance more critical thinking about the purposes and conditions under which innovation platforms can contribute to achieving agricultural development outcomes.