Missing the target: Lessons from enabling innovation in South Asia
This paper reflects on the experience of the Research Into Use (RIU) projects in Asia. It reconfirms much of what has been known for many years about the way innovation takes place and finds that many of the shortcomings of RIU in Asia were precisely because lessons from previous research on agricultural innovation were "not put into use" in the programme's implementation. However, the experience provides three important lessons for donors and governments to make use of agricultural research: (i) Promoting research into use requires enabling innovation. This goes beyond fostering collaboration, and includes a range of other innovation management tasks (ii) The starting point for making use of research need not necessarily be the promising research products and quite often identifying the promising innovation trajectories is more rewarding (iii) Strengthening the innovation enabling environment of policies and institutions is critical if research use is to lead to long-term and large-scale impacts. It is in respect of this third point that RIU Asia missed its target, as it failed to make explicit efforts to address policy and institutional change, despite its innovation systems rhetoric. This severely restricted its ability to achieve wide-scale social and economic impact that was the original rationale for the programme.
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