Strengthening Agricultural Innovation Capacity: Are Innovation Brokers the Answer?

Lawrence Klerkx, Andy Hall & Cees Leeuwis


This paper examines the role of innovation brokers in stimulating innovation system interaction and innovation capacity building, and illustrates this by taking the case of Dutch agriculture as an example. Subsequently, it reflects upon the potential role of innovation brokers in developing countries’ agriculture. It concludes that innovation brokerage roles are likely to become relevant in emerging economies and that public or donor investment in innovation brokerage may be needed to overcome inherent tensions regarding the neutrality and funding of such players in the innovation system. The Dutch experience suggests that innovation brokers need to be contextually embedded, and are unlikely to become effective through a centrally-imposed design. Hence, we conclude that stimulating their emergence requires a policy that supports institutional learning and experimentation. In the evaluation of such experiments, it is important to note that innovation brokers tend to play intangible roles that are not easily captured through conventional indicators.

Key Words: Agriculture, Developing Countries, the Netherlands, Innovation Broker, Neutrality, Institutional Learning, Context-Specific, Innovation Systems, Capacity Strengthening, Agricultural Extension

Journal Codes: N54, 013, 031, Q13, Q16, Q18

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872