Embedding Research in Society: Supporting Agricultural Innovation in a Global Knowledge Economy


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With agricultural science, technology and innovation rapidly becoming the topic of choice for development spending, what should countries in the North do if they want to add value rather than just give money to the South? Andy Hall explains why this question needs to be considered in the light of an emerging global knowledge economy.

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Embedding Research in Society: Supporting Agricultural Innovation in a Global Knowledge Economy

  1. 1. Embedding Research in Society: Supporting Agricultural Innovation in a Global Knowledge Economy Dr. Andy Hall LINK-United Nations University-MERIT Learning INnovation Knowledge Policy-relevant Resources for Rural Innovation
  2. 2. Revisiting Development Assistance to Agricultural Innovation through 5 Lenses <ul><li>1. Emergence of the global knowledge economy </li></ul><ul><li>2. A systems understanding of innovation </li></ul><ul><li>3. Recent trends in development assistance to agricultural development </li></ul><ul><li>4. Changes in European development research </li></ul><ul><li>5. Historical patterns of development assistance and emerging gaps </li></ul><ul><li>What are the organising principles and niche options for development assistance to agricultural R&D? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the wider policy issues for Netherlands development assistance to agricultural ST&I? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Innovation in a global knowledge economy <ul><li>Features </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interconnections at multiple scales </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rapidly advancing knowledge frontier </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conduits include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>International value chains </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Global research networks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Global mobility of expertise through migration and the increased mobility of knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Outcomes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Market, technology and other contexts are changing rapidly, placing huge demands on sectors and countries to respond, cope and compete in a global arena </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cross-border concerns, such as animal and human disease outbreaks, climate/ environmental change are also connecting countries and making local issues international ones, rather than being developing country concerns alone </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Global Knowledge Economy and New Thinking about Knowledge, Research and Innovation <ul><li>Shift from research to innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Shift from research capacity to innovation capacity strengthening </li></ul><ul><li>Interlinking of technical and institutional change </li></ul><ul><li>Critically, the understanding of innovation capacity as the networks, practices and policies that organise and facilitate knowledge use in society. </li></ul><ul><li>This includes research organisations, but they are viewed as being embedded in these networks or systems that bring about innovation. </li></ul><ul><li>The boundaries of these networks are fluid, although for analytical purposes these can be thought of as having centers of gravity around productive sectors and sub sectors, or at the national level. </li></ul>
  5. 5. New Money for agricultural Innovation? <ul><li>US $150 million to Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations </li></ul><ul><li>US $306 million pledged by Gates Foundation for agricultural development </li></ul><ul><li>US $2 billion pledged by DFID for research in health and agriculture over next four years </li></ul><ul><li>US $450 million to be spent by multilateral donors in support of the CGIAR system in 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>2008 World Development Report suggests a renewed interest in agriculture by the World Bank. </li></ul><ul><li>Agricultural research budgets of national agriculture research organisations </li></ul><ul><li>What is striking is the balance between support for research and support for allied activities that will lead to innovation </li></ul>
  6. 6. Changes in European development research <ul><li>In the last 10 years European-based development researchers have seen their funding sharply decline </li></ul><ul><li>Their governments are, increasingly, spending on supporting research in the South. </li></ul><ul><li>The logic behind this is that Southern researchers are more sensitive to local institutional settings and ways of working and that research is better embedded in local systems that put new ideas and technology into use </li></ul><ul><li>This trend has created tensions among development researchers/ definitions of excellence. </li></ul><ul><li>This has led to deskilling with much tacit knowledge lost on deploying research for international development </li></ul>
  7. 7. A diagnostic overview of development assistance to agricultural innovation <ul><li>Development assistance to agricultural R&D shaped by the perceptions a robust agricultural scientific capacity is the central ingredient for innovation and development </li></ul><ul><li>The challenges and opportunities for agriculture and the rural sector of developing countries are not, for the most part, at the knowledge frontier. </li></ul><ul><li>Instead what is often required is the creative application of existing knowledge from different sources in order to meet the requirements of local contexts. </li></ul><ul><li>R&D often needs to be adaptive and the key challenges are about accessing and combining different pieces of information to enable innovation. </li></ul><ul><li>When frontier knowledge is required, it maybe more efficient to access it internationally and combine it with location-specific ideas. </li></ul>
  8. 8. A diagnostic overview of development assistance to agricultural innovation <ul><li>As a result of the role of agricultural research as a driver of innovation and agricultural development has been historical overplayed in national plans and development assistance. </li></ul><ul><li>This does not deny the importance of R&D nor the need to build scientific capacity in countries where it is currently weak. Rather, this is an issue of emphasis. </li></ul><ul><li>The most common weakness in the capacity of the agricultural sector to innovate for the poor and the market is the weak pattern of linkages between the key actors in the sector, including but not restricted to research organisations (World Bank 2006). </li></ul><ul><li>Weak connections to society and areas of economic activity have undermined the effectiveness of agricultural research as a development tool. </li></ul><ul><li>A weak mechanism to articulate the demand of poor stakeholders has further limited the impact of R&D on poverty reduction. </li></ul><ul><li>Generally, the agricultural innovation process has been impeded not by lack of research per se, but by weak linkages between research, other sources of knowledge (local and global) and different agents in the economy. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Innovation priorities for developing countries <ul><li>Within the overarching need to reduce poverty and safeguard the environment, the agricultural innovation priorities of developing countries fall into the following categories: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ensuring the sustainability of productive resources — soil, water and biodiversity — for all forms of agricultural production (food, energy, timber, fibre, environmental and other services) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Coping and competing in the regional and global value chains </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exploiting new platform technologies for local problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Coping with challenges of a global scale, such as climate change, animal and human diseases </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Options for development assistance to supporting agricultural innovation <ul><li>An overarching guiding principle is that investments should seek to complement the R&D/ technology-centric investments made by others, focusing on strengthening linkages and institutional settings that can better connect science to society’s needs and which help strengthen innovation capacity </li></ul>
  11. 11. Priority 1: Ensuring the sustainability of productive resources <ul><li>Organising Principle: Learning to innovate </li></ul><ul><li>Compared with the CGIAR, one particular strength European development assistance is the methodological developments that its own development research community has created by learning how to organise pro-poor agricultural innovation. </li></ul><ul><li>Niche options </li></ul><ul><li>Further develop these approaches to innovation in relation to the context-specific innovation requirements involved in natural resource management — pest management, soil fertility and water management. </li></ul><ul><li>This learning to innovate approach is particularly relevant here because conventional technical research approach has failed to address these satisfactorily </li></ul>
  12. 12. Priority 2: Coping and competing in regional and global value chains <ul><li>Organising Principle: Strengthening global links, creating and coordinating local nodes </li></ul><ul><li>In fast-changing market conditions of developing countries a critical success factor is access to international and local knowledge networks — both to get information that signals the need to innovate, as well as accessing sources of knowledge needed to innovate. Since by definition these value chains are global and largely dominated by the private sector, private companies are key sources of market and technical information </li></ul><ul><li>Niche options </li></ul><ul><li>Subsidise links between companies in developing countries and their European counterparts. </li></ul><ul><li>Developing the capacity of local private knowledge services </li></ul><ul><li>Creating or strengthening sector coordinating bodies </li></ul>
  13. 13. Priority 3: Exploiting new platform technologies for local problems <ul><li>Organising Principle: Adding value, promoting pro-poor institutional innovations </li></ul><ul><li>New platform technologies, such as biotechnology, have attracted strong attention from the development assistance community. </li></ul><ul><li>Unless European countries have a specific technical expertise in one or other new platform technology, development assistance should focus on playing a facilitating role. </li></ul><ul><li>Niche options: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Helping share global experiences on applying new platform technologies in ways that address social and economic goals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Helping scientists experiment with pro-poor institutional innovations around the deployment of these technologies. </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Priority 4: Coping with global scale challenges such as climate change <ul><li>Organising Principle: Selecting North-South win-wins </li></ul><ul><li>Global issues such as climate change are affecting both Northern and Southern countries. Northern countries should contribute to international efforts to develop global research networks to help deal with these. Some of these issues affect specific Northern countries also and this is where investments in frontier R&D are most needed and justified. </li></ul><ul><li>Niche options </li></ul><ul><li>Strengthening R&D and R&D networks around such common global issues could be an efficient way of leveraging Northern expertise and investments for developmentally-relevant goals </li></ul><ul><li>For example, sea-level changes associated with climate change are probably of specific importance to The Netherlands. R&D that would help The Netherlands would also help, for example, Bangladesh. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Reskilling for international development <ul><li>Two dilemmas are apparent. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First, if the comparative advantage of Northern countries with a tropical agricultural past concerns institutional innovations in deploying agricultural science, where will the allied biological research capabilities come from in order to develop these institutional innovations? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Second, if we are truly entering an era dominated by global research concerns such as climate change, current trends mean that Northern countries will have dwindling numbers of scientists with an appreciation of the international aspects of the topics they are going to need to deal with for both their own national interests as well for developmental concerns </li></ul></ul><ul><li>the Millennium Development Goals talk of “a global partnership for development”,, if Northern countries truly wish to participate in this process, financial contributions alone are not going to be enough </li></ul><ul><li>It also requires that Northern countries have the expertise to be true partners </li></ul>
  16. 16. 3 counterintuitive conclusions for development assistance to agricultural innovation in an era of a globalized knowledge economy <ul><li>1. Knowledge is going to be increasingly important for development. But its is not the creation of knowledge that is rate limiting, but the capacity to mobilised and use knowledge that needs to receive more attention. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Agricultural R&D investments at a new high, but more attention is need to to consolidating and diffusing knowledge on how to use science to innovate for development. </li></ul><ul><li>3. The focus of traditional support to agricultural R&D should be in areas where Northern countries stand to gain as much as their friends in the South. And this may mean developing new expertise in the North. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Final thoughts <ul><li>Countries like The Netherlands undoubtedly have a critical role in the international development process in the years to come. However, this will only happen if they invest in building their own expertise as well as that of others </li></ul><ul><li>The precise nature of that expertise is obviously a matter of debate, although the guiding principles suggested by the innovation priorities discussed above should steer that debate. </li></ul><ul><li>Perhaps more critical is that this debate is conducted in the framework of a long-term, knowledge-based international development vision </li></ul><ul><li>The other fundamental implication is that national development assistance policy on science, technology and innovation cannot be thought of separately from the general ST&I policy. </li></ul><ul><li>The reason for this is that in an era of the global knowledge economy the ability of a country (developed or developing) to participate in the resolution of issues of international significance will be a key source of comparative advantage. </li></ul>
  18. 18. LINK is a specialist network of regional innovation policy studies hubs established by the United Nations University-MERIT (UNU-MERIT) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to strengthen the interface between rural innovation studies, policy and practice and to promote North-South and South-South learning on rural innovation. Learning INnovation Knowledge Policy-relevant Resources for Rural Innovation