Publications

Scaling practices within agricultural innovation platforms : Between pushing and pulling

Totin, Edmond; Mierlo, Barbara van; Klerkx, Laurens

Summary

Growing empirical evidence suggests that innovation platforms can be effective in enhancing agricultural research impact by creating an enabling environment for scaling of innovations such as novel technologies, practices and busines models . However, efforts to understand how these innovation platforms operate to scale innovations are insufficient. Such knowledge is critical for improving the design of agricultural innovation systems, specifically within the context of a rising interest in the innovation platform approach to support the transformation of agriculture across Africa. This paper investigates the scaling approaches employed by innovation platforms established in Rwanda. The study focused on four innovation platforms created as part of the Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program and analysed their activities and the resulting scaling outcomes. The findings show that two approaches can be effectively combined during the intervention; (1) the innovation process that resembles a traditional, linear approach of finding short-term solutions to specific problems (push approach) and (2) the network building process where platforms employed multi-level, transdisciplinary processes (pull approach). In two areas, the platform activities appeared to have contributed to increased revenues of farmers. The alignment of the innovation platform activities with political agendas or broadly, the extent to which the scaling strategy considers the existing conducive context is shown to play a critical role in the scaling process. The study shows that a balanced combination of both push and pull approaches and a strategic linkage between the platform activities and external development – government policies and interventions – are critical for a productive agricultural transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa. The findings also indicate that the scaling processes require a “protected space” to materialise, and the scaling approach needs flexibility to accommodate the complexity of each innovation.