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2016 Autumn - Switching on farm innovation

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FPJ1301B - Robertson et al. (2016), Five Ways to Improve the Agricultural Innovation System in Australia

FPJ1301B - Robertson, M, Keating, B, Walker, D, Bonnett, G & Hall, A (2016), Five Ways to Improve the Agricultural Innovation System in Australia, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Autumn 2016, pp. 1-13, Surry Hills, Australia.

Australian agriculture faces the dual challenges of meeting a massive market opportunity for food exports in the face of declining rates of productivity growth. While research outputs are healthy, other indicators of innovation and impact with industry suggest that the innovation system in Australian agriculture is not evolving fast enough, and hence not driving productivity improvements. The aim of this paper is to critically examine the state and function of the agricultural innovation system in Australia and whether it is fit-for-purpose given the opportunities and challenges that confront agriculture. We propose that the vision for a ‘healthy’ innovation system should be framed in terms of entrepreneurial activity and public policy intervention, rather than the traditional narrative of infrastructure, funding modalities, and expenditure. We describe five issues that we believe need attention in order for the innovation system to both overcome slowed productivity growth and take advantage in growth in food and fibre markets. (1) Increase the emphasis on innovation rather than research, away from the current science-centric environment. (2) Develop market road maps for higher value capture from major commodity sectors that connect the opportunity with the associated innovation challenge and send more effective signals to industries and knowledge institutes. (3) Develop a set of national targets and a learning platform for agrifood sector growth and innovation to inform the national policy and practice across industries, governments and knowledge institutes. This will allow independent and collective monitoring and understanding the performance of the agricultural innovation system. (4) Recognise and embrace the evolving role for government, to include ‘mission-mode public investment’ that can open up new innovation trajectories and associated markets, such as with the current emerging digital revolution. (5) Recognise and embrace changing modalities for agricultural extension in the 21st century digital world – with networks of digitally connected research, research tools and databases, consultants and farmers.




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