How co-innovation anticipates scaling: the modulating function of a co-innovation space
Beechener, Edward Sam
Characterised as a mindset rather than method, co-innovation is a systems-inspired approach to agricultural innovation activity. The application of co-innovation is underpinned by guiding principles of collaboration, co-ordination and complementarity that together give rise to a so-called ‘co-innovation space’. Building on this interpretation to address an identified knowledge gap, I explore the question of how co-innovation anticipates scaling. This consists of increased uptake over time of a novel product or process (outscaling) and creation of an enabling institutional environment (upscaling). Consistent with an agro-industrial emphasis on productivity, early interpretations of agricultural innovation activity tended to describe a linear process of technology transfer, from researcher to farmer. In recent decades, however, increased emphasis on accommodating agricultural, environmental and social aspects has contributed to innovation activity resulting from complex interactions between diverse participants. Taking into account interactions between a novel technology or practice, supporting network of actors and prevailing institutions, Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) is among these more holistic interpretations. Through a case study approach of the Primary Innovation Programme in the context of New Zealand’s agri-food sector, I follow the in-field application of co-innovation. Despite this sector’s history of fast-paced change, the combined challenge of improving environmental and social outcomes while increasing export-earnings from agriculture is unprecedented in its complexity and is prompting a search for alternatives to business-as-usual. Guided by AIS thinking and using the concept of anchoring as a proxy to understand dynamic scaling processes – the making and breaking of fragile technological, network and institutional connections – I argue that co-innovation anticipates scaling by holding space to allow for modulation of diverse temporal (from short-term to long-term), spatial (local to global) and institutional (conforming or reforming) perspectives. By facilitating their join-up in this way, coinnovation alleviates potential disconnects or mismatches associated with movement along and between scales that may otherwise hinder or block scaling processes.