The science and technology backyard as a local level innovation intermediary in rural China
Li, Jinghan; Leeuwis, Cees; Heerink, Nico; Zhang, Weifeng
Agricultural innovation can be described as a coevolutionary process of technological innovation, symbolic change, and social or institutional innovation, which relies on the interactions and collaboration between multiple stakeholders. This view emphasizes the significance of innovation intermediaries in supporting the coevolution process of innovation. Many studies have provided evidence on how innovation intermediaries play roles in supporting the coevolution innovation process at a broader innovation system level. However, little emphasis has been given to the role of innovation intermediaries in supporting the coevolution process of innovation at the community level in rural China. To address this research gap, this paper offers a case study of a novel type of innovation support intervention designed to promote technical change at the community level, the Science and Technology Backyard (STB). The paper focuses on the efforts of a specific STB in Wangzhuang village to promote innovation in tillage methods in wheat production. The aims was to examine the role of this newly emerging innovation support intervention in supporting the coevolution process of innovation at the community level, and compare the outcome of the coevolution process in the village with an STB to that in villages without an STB. Innovation journey analysis is applied to understand the evolved intermediation roles in the innovation process, and multivariate regression analysis is employed to assess the outcome of the coevolution process in villages with and without an STB. The findings suggest that the roles of STBs have evolved from knowledge brokers to systemic innovation intermediaries that facilitate the coevolution process of innovation inside an STB village. It has led to a higher adoption rate of improved technology, a better enabling environment for learning, and more effective institutional support in STB villages than in non-STB villages. However, the effect of support provided by a single STB on the coevolution process outside the community was limited. This finding points to a need for collaboration mechanisms and for connecting single STBs to support the coevolution process of innovation at a larger scale.