Conventional research and extension approaches in Sub-Saharan Africa have proven ineffective in translating research into innovation and impact. This paper describes the main operational elements of a new approach to innovation support being tested in Nigeria for using research for agricultural innovation and development. The approach described in the paper is part of the DFID-funded Research Into Use (RIU) Programme. The lessons from this experiment are discussed in the context of agricultural research and development activities and the wider policy, institutional and political economy setting it is taking place in. The main conclusion of the paper is that while the experience of RIU in Nigeria in facilitating the development of networks and other multi-actor processes can clearly promote agricultural innovation and impact, the process of institutionalising these approaches at the national level is going to require sustained and consistent support from both the national policy domain and international development partners over many years to come. In other words, a medium to long-term agenda of strengthening agricultural innovation capacity needs to be addressed in the policy and institutional domain rather than just in terms of the skills and actions of farmers and market actors.