Innovation platforms can enhance the relevance and impact of research; they also have many pitfalls. This new project report from Wageningen UR (as a contribution to the CGIAR Humid Tropics research program) examines ‘critical issues for reflection when designing and implementing research for development in innovation platforms.’
As Cees Leeuwis mentions in the preface: “innovation platforms are a worthwhile idea because we know that meaningful change happens in networks of interdependent actors, who cannot change if others do not simultaneously change.” Innovation depends on different stakeholders adopting different practices in a more or less concerted manner – based on some kind coordination, agreement and mutual expectation.”Research in and with platforms can inspire and provide eye-openers, and when carried out in collaboration with other platform members, it can help to reduce critical uncertainties, result in common understandings and more agreement about problems and solutions, as well as structurally improve relationships among interdependent stakeholders.”
There are also many pitfalls, including:
- messiness, tension and competition
- it is generally not easy to achieve constructive interaction
- platform members are likely to disagree on the direction that development should take
- ownership of innovation platforms can easily be hijacked by outsiders
- platforms may become a space from which people only want to extract resources
- obsolete research and extension cultures may lead to the establishment of platforms for technology diffusion purposes only.
This report aims to support researchers in anticipating and avoiding such pitfalls. It is not a recipe book or a set of detailed guidelines on how to set-up or interact in and with innovation platforms. It raises a number of issues and questions that need to be reflected upon when researchers want to engage with innovation platforms, and provide some relevant insights and further references.