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Topic: Understanding interactive innovation

Keywords: Interactive innovation, multi-actor approach, thematic networks, EIP-AGRI, evaluation, impact pathways


‘Interactive innovation’ has become an increasingly popular approach to the delivery of projects and has driven a paradigm shift towards more sustainable and productive agricultural systems. Networking and collaboration with multiple actors, with a view to solving the most pressing agricultural challenges, has gained momentum in the EU policy frameworks. In our study we draw upon recent policy developments highlighted in the key EU agendas, such as the EIP-AGRI and Horizon 2020.


The study is based on the thorough review of relevant literature, which was supplemented by interviews with actors involved into the delivery and evaluation of interactive innovation projects. We interviewed representatives of nearly all EU countries, and specifically sought a variety of stakeholders concerned with related policies. For additional insights, we examined interactive innovation approaches practiced in the developing and transition countries around the globe.


A range of understandings of ‘interactive innovation’ emerged from the interviews and respondents especially emphasized their need to be actively involved as partners in projects rather than merely being consulted about them. Several consistencies of opinion became apparent, including an emphasis on multi-actor involvement, with farmers and researchers specifically referred to as the main actors. Although various terms have been used to describe it, the understanding of ‘interactive innovation’ is rather was found to be similar in developing and transition countries, which suggests consistency across diverse geopolitical contexts. The few inconsistent accounts that were found were mostly specific and linked to location at a macro-regional scale


‘Interactive innovation’ is widely acknowledged as an effective mechanism to boost innovation and improve the uptake of research results. Nevertheless, its effects and impacts are still insufficiently demonstrated and are not yet fully convincing. On the basis of the literature review and interviews, we have identified what we believe are the main impact pathways of interactive innovation projects. Moreover, we have looked at the current and most promising evaluation approaches, along with related methodological challenges and the expectations of evaluation stakeholders. The findings of this study could enable better evaluation of interactive innovation projects and thereby inform policy to improve the general performance of research and innovation for a more sustainable and productive agriculture.


This study was realized in the framework of the EU H2020 LIAISON project (currently in progress).




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