In performing our research, we aim to apply a set of principles which have been derived from observing innovation from a systems perspective - that is by examining the linkages and interactions among the different elements.
- The motivation to innovate can be the opportunity to make money, or the need to cope with a new challenge - such as a new agricultural pest, policy change or shifting consumer demand.
- New technology can stimulate innovation as it presents opportunities for doing things differently, often in ways not foreseen by the technology developer: mobile phones being used to transfer money, pioneered in Kenya, are a good example.
- Research is an important source of new knowledge, but its real value only emerges when this is combined with ideas and practices that come from entrepreneurial and social activity.
- links and networks are a key ingredient in the innovation process. They provide the means to bring together new ideas and information and to use them creatively.
- While technologies can have impact, much more powerful is the capacity that enables innovation. This has four elements:
- the expertise of individuals and organisations which accumulates over time, through both training and experience
- the routines and ways of doing things which also develop over time, through training and trial and error
- the links, communication channels and networks that allow individuals and organisations to access a wide array of ideas and expertise for innovation
- the nature of the policy environment and the way it shapes the previous three elements.
- The directions in which innovation proceeds vary and are often highly dependent on the starting conditions and historical and political settings. For example, public-private sector collaboration has tended to be difficult in India, but readily accepted in China; producer-funded research arrangements work well in Latin America, but not in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Unusual and unexpected outcomes often prove to be most significant.
- Innovation proceeds in an unpredictable, non-linear way in response to the unpredictability of markets, climate, pests and disease outbreaks, financial systems and political dynamics, amongst others. Opportunities and threats arise unexpectedly; being able to adapt rapidly is the key to innovation capacity.
- Often for innovation to be successful institutional change is necessary.
The following list of principles
, derived from these observations, represents what RIU aspires to in terms of its approach. RIU aspires to:
- Strengthen innovation capacity
- Explore patterns of partnerships, alliances or networks that span research, social, economic and policy activity
- Tackle local problems in a global context
- Undertake learning-orientated monitoring, with reorientation of RIU in the light of emerging experience
- Recognize that risk is an unavoidable part of innovation
- Champion governance arrangements that facilitate a pro-poor orientation
- Recognize of the vital role that women play in agriculture
- Be flexible to pursue unexpected but promising outcomes
- Engage at different levels and scales; for example local/global or technical/policy
- Promote new ways of working