This study on \"innovation systems\" is one of a group of cross sectoral
synthesis studies that examine a set of common issues within the ten
research programmes of the RNRRS with a view to distil the experiences
and lessons learned. The RNRRS programme has been operating from 1995 to
2005, with ten individually contracted research programmes, and over
1600 research projects. The RNRRS framework has been characterised by
significant changes and evolution over its life. This was largely driven
by DFID, as the donor, which initially stressed \"research\" and
\"scientific publications\" but increasingly laid greater emphasis on
the poverty impact of research on poverty. DFID did not use the language
of innovations earlier (although they were implicit) but have been made
more explicit recently.
This synthesis report shows that many of the elements that make up the
'innovation systems (IS) approach' have been increasingly incorporated
within the different RNRRS programmes as they evolved. A number of key
elements, such as capacity development, communications, participatory
and action research became standard practice (and are being analysed in
the other synthesis studies that have been undertaken in parallel with
this one). But this report suggests that the developments of these
elements have been largely unsystematic across the programmes while
individual programmes developed and incorporated many elements on their
own with some taking a more deliberate and formal approach.
The document discusses the principal elements of the innovation systems
(IS) approach and the methods used for this study. It cautions that
without indicators of impact it is particularly difficult to demonstrate
that one approach to research fund management has more impact than
another. It points to impacts that they are often diffuse, cumulative
over long periods of time, and difficult to attribute to particular
research inputs. This quick synthesis of a vast range of materials and
activities meant that much has to be inferred and the conclusions are
The report discusses the evolution of different programmes, at differing
speeds, to differing degrees and with differing effectiveness along a
number of common dimensions suggested by the IS approach. Then the
report discusses special features that were exhibited by some of the
programmes and states that these differences arose from their different
history, their internal capacities (e.g. social and other science
perspectives), and the nature of the problems they were addressing.
There appears to have been little systematic 'institutional learning'
between the various RNRR programmes. Much of that appears to have been
due to the inability of DFID to manage several functions.
Finally, the report draws some lessons for the future. The main lessons
are (a) the IS framework provides a useful framework to guide research
managers wishing to achieve innovation.(b) an initial \"system
diagnosis\" in particular are crucial and can be simple or complex
(depending on the resources available). (c) innovation projects can have
impacts in reducing poverty but if they are also to provide it is
necessary to invest explicitly in this learning process to extract the
higher level generalisation both about the process (programme management
and innovation) and the content of the innovation process.
The Policy Practice Limited, 30 pp.
Innovations systems: concepts, approaches and lessons from RNRRS. RNRRS synthesis study No. 10