Approaches and instruments study

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Selecting the most effective approaches and instruments to invest in innovation in sustainable agricultural intensification

A range of approaches and financial instruments have been used to stimulate and support innovation in agriculture and resolve interlocking constraints for uptake at scale. These include innovation platforms, results-based payments, value chain approaches, grants and prizes, incubators, participatory work with farmer networks, and many more. A CoSAI-commissioned study critically compares and evaluates the effectiveness of different approaches at realizing economic, environmental and social objectives.

The study provides a goal-oriented process to help investors and funders select the most appropriate instrument, or combination of them, to support entrepreneurship, financing and innovation in real-life contexts. Investment decisions are guided through a framework of questions that enable effective design and implementation.

Find out more in this CoSAI policy brief.


  • Researchers and innovators should carefully select the innovation approaches and instruments appropriate for their objectives, making use of the decision questions and tips in the CoSAI study. Often, a combination of instruments will be needed.

  • Innovation instruments need to be carefully designed, particularly for social inclusion. Otherwise, it is easy for factors such as labor costs, travel, the timing of meetings or complex formfilling to exclude key participants, such as women or the poorest farmers.

  • Funders and innovators should plan for sustainability of innovation instruments. Early consideration needs to be given to anchoring instruments within permanent organizations and planning for financial sustainability. Instruments will only work at scale when embedded in national innovation systems.

  • Research and innovation organizations should institute systematic monitoring, evaluation and learning on innovation instruments and approaches. Data such as costs, numbers and types of participants, transaction costs for all parties, and measures of outputs and outcomes must be systematically recorded to build evidence on the effectiveness of different instruments.


Read our policy brief to learn more.


This work was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Resilience and Food Security/Center for Agriculture-led Growth under the Cooperative Agreement # AID-OAA-L-14-00006 as part of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors alone.