SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Sharing inclusive innovation research findings

During September, Dr Matias Ramirez, together with SPRU graduates Cecilia Ibarra and Veronica Roa presented the findings of their research project on inclusive innovation in Colombia and Chile.

In their final report they argue that building strong local systems of innovation (universities, state-funded R&D laboratories, NGOs, and other specialist suppliers) are essential for developing the capabilities of small producers, particularly when implementing radical new technologies, such as hybrid plants coming from outside the region.

In order to build local capabilities, it is recommended that:

  • Small producers build their own “commons” such as shared spaces for discussion, in order to enhance inclusion.
  • The role that state-employed extension agents, agronomists and technical assistants play as "knowledge brokers" within small producer networks must be made more explicit and should be supported through specialised training. This would enable these actors to gain the tools necessary to facilitate learning, by enhancing the process of knowledge transfer more effectively, in particular tacit knowledge.

These results stem from a diagnostic study of small producer agricultural networks in two southern provinces in Chile commissioned by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture.

The research team was also invited to present their research findings at the INNOVAGRO network meeting in Santiago, Chile, which was attended by 300 people from across Latin America. INNOVAGRO is a major network of agricutural policy makers comprised of 86 organisations from 16 mainly Latin American countries. 

INIA, the leading public sector agricultural research institution in Chile reported Dr Ramirez’s presentation, quoting “Networks are fundamental in providing small producers with a voice, as well as enabling links with buyers and other actors in the value chain. However, whilst networks provide multiple benefits, they also carry costs, and if these are not understood and managed properly, their function will be seriously threatened”. 

Building on this and previous research, Dr Ramirez also spoke on inclusive innovation to over 1,000 delegates at the 18th International Palm Oil congress, held in Cartagena, Colombia. Palm oil is a significant industry in Colombia, which is the fifth largest producer of palm oil in the world, with around 9,000 producers, including 6,000 small producers. Growing palm oil has become an important activity, providing sustainable incomes for small producers (an alternative to illicit drugs). Therefore, it is critical that the industry incorporates small producers into processes of sustainable innovation.