The RIU programme began in July 2006 and was designed as a five year programme: the inception period ran until June 2007 and it was envisaged that the implementation phase would run until 2011.
At the outset, RIU firmly aligned itself to the 'innovation systems approach' building on work done under the RNRRS Crop Post-Harvest Programme. RIU's central research hypothesis was that:
'an innovation systems approach will prove more effective than linear approaches at getting research outputs into use for the benefit of the poor'
By 2008, the main achievements of the RIU programme were:
- compilation of the RIU Natural Resources Knowledge Database made up of 280 selected RNRRS research products covering livestock, aquaculture, fisheries, post-harvest operations, crop protection, crop post-harvest operations, forestry, food microbiology, soil fertility, land use management and water resource management
- the establishment of six African Country Programmes in Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone
- the Asia Innovation Challenge Fund: 13 projects up and running in South Asia, four based in Bangladesh, five in India and four in Nepal, resulting from a competitive call
- a feasibility study of enterprise development activities involving public-private partnerships.
In November 2008, an independent DFID-commissioned mid-term review of the RIU programme was undertaken. This found that RIU lacked a unified vision, primarily as a result of different stakeholders attaching differing levels of importance to the development and research goals of the RIU programme. While RIU had delivered analysis of RNRRS success stories and set up strong country programmes, these programmes were of variable quality and the lack of a robust framework meant overarching lessons were not learned. As a result it was recommended that RIU should become more focused and adopt a more decentralised, country-led management approach.
In April 2009, Ian Maudlin was appointed by DFID as the new RIU Programme Director and he commissioned a technical review of the programme. The technical review concluded that as well as over-reaching (for example, by aiming to create national innovation platforms in a short space of time) the RIU programme was not set up to learn systematically about how to get research into use.
In addition to recommending a new lean, decentralised and focused organisational structure, the review advocated that RIU unambiguously reposition itself as a research project.
Building on the recommendations made in the two reviews, a new RIU business plan was developed which was formally approved by DFID in August 2009.
Following an open call, in September 2009 RIU recruited a new team to implement the new business plan.
An important change from RIU's early alignment with an 'innovation systems approach' is that while RIU still makes use of innovation systems thinking, it now does so as tool to aid learning and capacity building to put research into use for innovation. This differs markedly from RIU's previous approach, when the so-called 'innovation systems approach' was used as a prescriptive framework to establish a fixed menu of organisational and institutional arrangements for innovation - which became the African Country Programmes innovation platforms.
As part of the refocusing of the RIU programme, this website is in the process of being completely redesigned and much of the content rewritten. The new website is being built around the needs of its users, and designed to make the website, and therefore the RIU programme, more interactive, dynamic and responsive.