Partnerships, flexibility, and bundling – three essentials for successful innovation admin_apaari October 27, 2021

Partnerships, flexibility, and bundling – three essentials for successful innovation

On Thursday 21st November, the second APAARI CoSAI Partnership Dialogue on Decision support tools to enhance the impact of innovation investment highlighted the ‘how-to’ of successful innovation scaling in the Asia Pacific region.  The importance of partnerships, the need for flexibility, a good choice of instruments, and the necessity of bundling innovations were highlighted as critical for success and longevity.

The second dialogue kicked off with three ignite talks from emerging CoSAI evidence. The first, by Mr Apoorve Khandelwal from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water India (CEEW), presented main findings from the Innovation Pathways Study’s Indian case. Mr Khandelwal highlighted the need for strong leadership in innovation, including championing the innovation cause through networking, including with government. He further noted the need to build trust and align the innovation’s vision and cocreation with key stakeholders by utilising. Through both formal and informal activities.  Finally, Mr Khandelwal drew attention to the need to strategically bundle solutions in a flexible manner. Innovators and investors can support informal networking and help to identify and develop leaders. 

Dr Brigid Letty, of the Institute of Natural Resources, South Africa, followed with the initial results from the Approaches and Instruments Study that is looking at instruments such as innovation hubs and platforms, grants and prizes, and incubators and accelerators. Dr Letty reiterated some of the findings from Mr Khandelwal, noting that different combinations of instruments are crucial in following innovation successes throughout to impact.  It is important not to provide hidden subsidies for innovations (e.g. through development projects) as this will not be sustainable. Instruments that engage the private sector, venture capital, and industry lead to greater sustainable impacts. Successful instruments must be designed and adapted to the context, for example, considering rural or urban settings, capacities of end-users, and the socioeconomic status of target groups.

Dr Vara Prasad, CoSAI Commissioner and Director of Feed the Future Innovation Lab at Kansas State University spoke about the Principles and Metrics for Innovation in Sustainable Agrifood Systems being designed by an international taskforce initiated by CoSAI. Dr Prasad noted that the P&M are the first international attempt to provide harmonized principles to guide investors towards including environmental and social objectives in their investment in innovation planning and management.

The panel of experts, including Dr Daniel Walker, from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Mr Paul Voutier, from Grow Asia, and Dr Birte Nass-Komolong, from the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in Papua New Guinea shared their experience from investments in innovation. Speaking from an international donor perspective, Dr Walker highlighted the need for foresight and beginning with the end in mind – really understanding what is trying to be achieved through the innovation. He further reemphasised the importance of partnerships in generating new knowledge. Dr Nass-Komolong, speaking from a practitioner and NARS viewpoint looked at the how. She stressed the challenge of shifting theories about scaling and turning them into practice on the ground. She further noted the human element of innovation and reminded us that donors need to embrace flexibility in innovation. Mr Voutier from Grow Asia highlighted needs from the private sector. He noted the essentiality of a clear business model from the outset. He stressed that if the private sector does not have an idea of what success looks like, in terms of a business model, the investment will be “planting a dead seed”. 

The event garnered lively discussion from participants. The final dialogue in this three-part series will be held at the TAP Annual Assembly side event. Look out for the upcoming registration.