Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS)

The Agriculture Innovation System (AIS) is “a network of organisations, enterprises, and individuals focused on bringing new products, new processes, and new forms of organisation into economic use, together with the institutions and policies that affect their behaviour and performance,” (World Bank, 2006:16) that is, the way different agents interact, share, access, exchange and use knowledge.  The AIS approach emphasises the need to consider and create interactions throughout the entire value chain including beyond the farm gate (Klerkx, 2015).  The AIS therefore includes people, linkages, infrastructure and institutions (defined as ‘rules by which participants interact).

AIS systems are dynamic and subject to change, similar to Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS).  The AIS concept has been developed to better understand how a country’s agricultural sector can make better use of new knowledge and design alternative interventions that go beyond research investments.

A simplified conceptual framework of AIS is:

Agricultural Innovation System: Spielman and Birner (2008); adapted from Arnold and Bell (2001).

The framework illustrates the main actors (e.g. typical agriculture knowledge and technology providers and users, as well as bridging/intermediary institutions and actors that facilitate interaction among them), and their potential interactions with each other. They are all influenced by the agricultural policy context and the overall informal institutions, attitudes and practices that either support or hinder innovative processes.

Therefore, promoting innovations in agriculture requires coordinated support to agricultural research, extension and education, fostering innovation partnerships and linkages along and beyond agricultural value chains, and creating an enabling environment for agricultural development’ (Rajalahti, 2009).

For AIS to succeed the right partners must be brought together to establish:

  • A common language
  • A shared vision
  • Clarity about costs and benefits
  • Support for collaboration
  • Processes for managing conflict and allow the network to develop with a balance of open interaction, and
  • Opportunities to develop trust

The Multiple Level Perspectives: Schot and Geels (2008) p. 546.

Associate Professor Laurens Klerks (Source Wageningen University)

To see Associate Professor Laurens Klerkx speak on using an innovation system, click on the video link below published by John James, Sept 19th, 2013.


Content sources and further information
Geels, F. (2002) Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case study. Research Policy, 31(8-90: 1257-1274

Hall, A., Sulaiman, V., Clarke, N and B. Yoganand. (2003) From measuring impact to learning institutional lessons: an innovation systems perspective on improving the management of international agricultural research. Agricultural Systems 78: 213-241. Using an innovation systems approach to achieve remarkable change.  Associate Professor, Laurens Klerkx. Published by John James on Sept 19th, 2013.

Hekkert, M., Suurs, R., Negro, S., Kulmann, S., and R. Smits (2007). Functions of innovation systems: A new approach for analysing technological change. Technological Forecasting and Social Change. 74, 413-432.

Hermans, F., Apeldorn, D., Stuiver, M., and K. Kok. (2012) Niches and networks: explaining network evolution through niche formation processes. Research Policy,

Klerkx L., and Aarts N. (2013) The interaction of multiple champion in orchestrating innovation networks: conflicts and complementarities. Technovation 33, 193-210.

Klerkx L., Aarts N., and Leeuwis, C. (2010) Adaptive management in agricultural innovation systems: The interactions between innovation networks and their environment. Agricultural Systems 103, 390-400.

Klerkx, L. (2015). Agriculture Innovation Systems for successful innovation – examples from around the Globe. Presentation at the University of Auckland, 20 Feb 2015.

Labarthe, P., Caggiano, M., Laurent, C., Faure, G., and M Cerf. (2012) PRO AKIS – Prospect for farmers’ support: Advisory services in European AKIS. WPS2 – Advisory services within AKIS: International Debates. Deliverable WP2.1: Concepts and theories available to describe the functioning and dynamics of agricultural advisory services.

Labarthe, P., Caggiano, M., Laurent, C., Faure, G., Cerf, M. (2013). Concepts and theories available to describe the functioning and dynamics of agricultural advisory services. PROAKIS Publications. Deliverable WP.2

OECD (2013). Agricultural Innovation System: A framework for Analysing the Role of the Government. OECD Publishing.

Rajalahti Sr, R., (2009). Promoting Agricultural Innovation Systems Approach: The Way Forward the World Bank.

Schot, J., and F. Geels, (2008) Strategic niche management and sustainable innovation journeys: theory, findings, research agenda and policy. Technological Analaysis and Strategic Management. 20 (5) 537-557.

Turner, J., Klerkx, L., Rijswijk, K., and T. Barnard. (2015) Systemic problems affecting co-innovation in the New Zealand Agricultural Innovation System: Identification of blocking mechanisms and underlying institutional logics. NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences.

Wieczorek, A and Hekkert, M., (2012) Systemic instruments for systemic innovation problems: A framework for policy makers and innovation scholars. Science and Public Policy. 39, 74-87.
World Bank (2012) Agricultural Innovation Systems: An Investment Source Book. The World Bank, Washington DC.

World Bank, (2006).  Enhancing Agricultural Innovation:  How to Go Beyond the Strengthening of Research Systems.  Washington, DC.  p.16.

Agricultural innovation systems explained. Published on Oct 23, 2012 – find out in 5 minutes what “agricultural innovation system” and “agricultural innovation platform” mean. In this short video, KIT advisors Rhiannon Pyburn, Peter Gildemacher and Femke van der Lee explain the concepts in a way everyone can understand.