The Second Science with Africa
Evolution of Agricultural Biotechnology Innovation:
Lessons from governance of Kenya’s biotechnology
Ann Kingiri PhD
Research Fellow- DFID Research into use (RIU) program
Agriculture mainstay of Africa/Kenya economy
Meeting MDGs revolve around agriculture & improved
Many options e.g. New/emerging innovations like new life
sciences e.g. agricultural biotechnology innovations
But deployment of biotech innovations is not smooth…..has
governance issues (different for different countries but there
are certain evolutions trends in Africa that are similar).
The governance aspects bring about the social & policy
processes rarely given attention in entrepreneurship
Kenya’s Biotech sector & governance issues
Technological & policy milestones
6 trials approved since early 1990’s
Biotech policy in 2006
Biosafety Act in 2009 & upcoming regulations
Evident co-evolution process (which is good and where a no. of
lessons can be drawn for productive innovation and
Increased capacities (human, institutional, policy etc to harness
Technology & policy shaping each other (The Biotech innovation
system has shaped the governance trajectory and vice versa)
Features of Kenya’s agric biotech innov. Sys
Is young and evolving (most activities are in the R &D stage); is
dynamic; multi-actor; political; diverse knowledge nodes linked to
the many linkages (technological, policy, regulatory, market,
individual actors etc) .
Evolution process (from S&T to meaningful innovation) has been
slow. No product so far has been commercialized.
Policy innovations bounded up within the overall biotech
There is a clear gap between technological, policy and
institutional development which collectively should connect
innovation to entrepreneurship.
Clearly, the innovation component of the STI unit is weak.
Lessons & sustainability issues
top-down; less user-oriented approach
modern biotechnology initiatives in Kenya heavily donor influenced.
They often lack the demand driven approach implying that the
immediate needs of the farmers may not have been considered.
Inadequate and unbalanced institutional and technical
Biotech initiatives are mainly in public research institutes and
academic institutes have been slow to take up this science (citing the
high investments needed in GE science).
Many researchers agree that it is an uphill task translating the basic
academic initiatives/R & D) to innovations or economic gains (where
other users can benefit).
Lessons & sustainability issues con’td
Unsustainable funding for research and regulatory
Reduced government funding leading to increased PPPs and
donor driven policy processes.
Contestations and lack of consensus on policy and
Politics; some actors marginalized (mainly public/farmers);
process largely driven by scientific actors.
No product has been commercialized to benefit users – a
factor blamed on lack of regulatory policies but is this the case
or there is more to this stalemate?
What can we learn from the inevitable technological &
policy interface in order to translate research into
The link between science, technology, innovation
and entrepreneurship is not simplistic and linear,
and the dynamics involved need to be looked into
technological aspects that form the broader S & T capacity are
important, but also important are the dynamics embedded in
the social & policy processes.
The innovation systems approach provides
insights on how this interface can be enhanced
Defining Agricultural Innovation Systems
a “network of organizations, enterprises and individuals
focused on bringing new products, new processes, and new
forms of organization into economic use, together with the
institutions and policies that affect their behavior and
performance (Hall, 2006; World Bank, 2007).
The IS concept embraces not only the science suppliers but
the totality of and interactions of actors involved in
innovation as well.
It extends beyond the creation of knowledge to encompass
the factors affecting demand for and use of knowledge in
novel and useful ways.” (World Bank, 2007:vi).
Project ideas: Moving beyond R & D: how to
translate biotech research into products in
The traditional linear approach to innovation has been challenged.
It is now time to move from building S & T capacity towards
building innovation capacity.
Building innovation capacity targets the way a system operates
rather than science and technology capacity (cf Hall, 2005).
This approach has been recommended for operationalisation in
developing countries (World Bank, 2007; OECD, 1997), and
particularly in biotechnology innovation systems (Hall, 2005).
RIU: research into putting research into use
(An example of a program that has adopted innovation systems
& innovation capacity building approach)
Researchers have always gradually improved they way
they do research as a way of making it more useful.
But while technical learning has been structured and
legitimate, institutional and policy learning has been an ad
hoc process or an after thought.
The RIU is an explicit attempt to systematically learn how to
put research into use and to communicate that to policy
Research design and execution and
synthesis and communication of
•Value chain cluster
capital fund for
National and regional
research and innovation
policies and practices
International agricultural research for development policies
and practices. Principally DFID
Conclusion: Key messages
There are social, institutional and policy
dimensions of technical change that are equally
important as the technical dimensions and these
need to be understood rigorously.
Understanding innovation as emerging from
complex systems puts learning at the centre stage
from operational to policy levels.
Suggests that technical research and policy
research should be combined.
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