Innovation platforms (IPs) have been a subject of fascination, sometimes nearly religious devotion or repulsion at its sheer mention. In a series of practice briefs, researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humidtropics investigated what they were, how they functioned and how to assess their impact. And more case studies are being written on this topic still.
But despite these publications and past research efforts, the question for many always remained: Is there really any value in innovation platforms?
The journal article ‘Impact of innovation platforms on marketing relationships: The case of Volta Basin integrated crop-livestock value chains in Ghana’ (published in the African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics) led by Zewdie Adane Mariami and co-authored by Jo Cadilhon (both of ILRI) and Christine Wehrmann of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany seems to suggest there is indeed value – though not necessarily where it was expected.
The research team tested a new conceptual framework for evaluating innovation platforms for agrifood value chains. The framework revolves around the structure-conduct-performance hypothesis of industrial organisation but also covers institutional economics and marketing relationships.
Both the qualitative and quantitative data collected validate a possible link between the structure of the platforms, the conduct of their members and the resulting market performance through reducing the transaction costs of search and information.
The article notes: “A careful investigation of both the quantitative and qualitative data collected from the project sites in Ghana revealed that the IPs set up by the Volta2 project intervention had enhanced the overall interaction and marketing relationships among IP members. Furthermore, the IPs had led to improved communication and information sharing through meetings and training workshops. These, in turn, resulted in better market access to inputs and outputs by the IP members.”
The conclusion is not as obvious as one would have thought. And the authors are cautioning against the validity of the conceptual framework used in this small scale context for broader impact evaluation of innovation platforms. Nonetheless the conclusions add grist to the mill of innovation platforms and as the authors recommend:
Thus, sponsors and facilitators of IPs with a marketing objective may want to focus their limited resources on fostering communication and information sharing among IP members.
Knowledge sharing as a proxy indicator of better functioning value chains? ‘More research is needed’ seems to be the appropriate answer here.
Discover the innovation platform practice briefs here