Research design

RIU has selected six innovation narratives under which it will organise its research. These represent the commonly found narratives that are currently competing for attention in development policy. Each of these narratives has implicit hypotheses and specific questions. Understanding when and under what circumstance these narratives have relevance will make a major contribution to better research planning:

1.     Poor user-led innovation

Hypothesis: Poor farmers and consumers should be at the centre of the innovation process as they have superior knowledge of their production and social context.  The role of research varies but is usually peripheral or of a backstopping nature

Key research questions include:

·       How to strengthen decentralised innovation capacities of this sort and what are the institutional and policy regimes needed to promote products that emerge in this way, particularly seed varieties? 

·       A related question concerns how can the governance of innovation ensure that the voice of the poor is heard in agricultural science and technology planning and implementation?

2.     Public-private partnership-led innovation

Hypothesis: The private sector has not played an adequate role in public agricultural research and allied activities. It sometimes has research expertise of its own. It also has incentives structures and mechanism to deliver demanded technologies to consumers, farmers and others in the value chain.

Key research questions include:

·       What types of innovation and innovation process are helped by involvement of the private sector?

·       When does the private sectors’ involvement help the poor and what sort of incentives and institutional arrangements are needed to allow this to happen?

·       How can social capital be developed between companies and other elements of the innovation system?

3.     Capacity development-led innovation

Hypothesis: The rate limiting step in technical change is not technology development or promotion per se, but the level of innovation capacity.  This capacity is viewed in a systems sense as the behaviours of loose networks of innovation-related players and the institutional and policy setting that shapes their behaviour and evolution.

Key research questions include:

·       What interventions can facilitate institutional and policy change? 

·       How can innovation capacities be made more responsive to changing social, economic and environmental conditions?

·       How can learning-based change be stimulated and accelerated?

·       What is the role of intermediation and innovation brokering services?

4.     Opportunity-led innovation

Hypothesis: Opportunities presented by large markets of poor people are leading the emergence of new types of innovation processes and products. Also emerging are innovation process that are invisible to research and corporate communities due to alternative professional views of excellence and success. These are described in various forms such as ‘bottom of the pyramid’ innovation and ‘below the radar’ innovation. Innovation along value chains is a key feature of these developments. 

Key research questions include:

·       What are the new modes of innovation that are emerging?

·       Do these genuinely present opportunities for developmentally relevant innovation?

·       How can largely invisible processes be identified and supported?

·        Do innovations along value chains allow poor producers and consumers befits from new market opportunities?

5.     Investment-led innovation

Hypothesis: Financial resources are a key incentive for innovation and are increasingly used to help encourage the development of new partnership configurations around specific problem areas and research products. Innovation prize funds, public buy back for privately development products, challenge funds and venture capital-type arrangements are example of this.

Key research questions include:

·       How effective are such mechanism in enabling innovation process that are developmentally relevant?

·       How useful are these mechanisms in building new capacities for innovation?

6.     Research communication-led innovation

Hypothesis: Research products need to be processed into forms suited to different audiences and made accessible through databases. This is particularly important for policy orientated research where concise, timely information can play a critical role in decision making.

Key research questions include:

·       What are the circumstances under which information limits decision making?

·       What are the most appreciate communication tools to fill this gap?

·       What patterns of networking between researchers, decision makers and others complements communication?

To explore these different innovation narratives RIU will investigate its own experiments in putting research into use, supplementing this with evidence from other similar programmes or other sectors. 


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