Creating an enabling environment for developing and deploying market-ready science-based innovations for sustainable food systems

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Food-system innovations can play a crucial role in meeting increasing food demands, minimising supply-chain disruptions, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. They can also significantly contribute to economic growth and development. However, many of these innovations face scaling challenges, and therefore often remain suspended in their pre-commercialisation phase.

This study explores the challenges and opportunities associated with developing market-ready Research and Innovation (R&I) for food systems, with a particular focus on Africa. The study reviewed relevant literature and conducted a range of stakeholder interviews.

The food-systems innovation ecosystem is characterised by a misalignment between innovative solutions and the dynamic market demands and preferences. Extended development timelines, gaps in capacity-to-adopt and infrastructure, corporate concentration, and regulatory intricacies all contribute to slower and more limited scalability compared to other sectors. The diverse conditions in different agricultural settings and limited co-creation, coordination, cooperation, technology transfer, and financing add complexity to the scaling-up process.

The paper outlines seven conditions to propel market-ready R&I to transform food systems. These include: i) embedding innovation in local contexts and bundling innovations; ii) providing support for incubators and creative agrifood-tech start-ups; iii) deploying more comprehensive, robust, and institutionalised technological transfer mechanisms; iv) offering more and ‘patient’ capital for the ‘last-mile’, including for coordinating across relevant actors and institutions; v) facilitating improved multi-actor dialogues and collaborations; vi) ensuring greater state roles in innovation and enabling national regulations and policies; and vii) fostering enhanced international cooperation on food systems R&I.

Adeniyi, D.; Rampa, F.; Menza, G.

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