Innovation is an essential ingredient to future success in AR4D. The key challenge for AR4D managers is to learn how to identify and generate commercially relevant innovation along the value chain, and to do this consistently. With greater emphasis on the broader developmental goal, research for development strategies have shifted over the past decades. Currently most research for development activities are influenced by four key concepts: ISP, value chain orientation, research for development, and impact orientation. This change in thinking is based on a recognition that innovation takes place throughout the whole economy, and not all innovations have their origin in a formal R&D system, nor are all exclusively technical. Innovation can occur anywhere along the value chain. The new perspective places more emphasis on the role of farmers, input suppliers, transporters, processors, market actors, and intermediaries in the innovation process. These developments clearly demonstrate that there is no uniquely best system to analyze all situations. The goal is to find the most appropriate system for the situation (Elliot 2004; van der Heijden 1966). It is also possible to integrate the emerging paradigms in a meaningful way in empirical studies. Leadership is critical in this integration process. Research protocols should be modified to accommodate this reorientation.
An ISP does not undermine the value of research, good communication, or effective extension services. These are necessary preconditions. The ISP and value chain orientation underscore the need to invest not only in the research that generates this knowledge, but also in high-quality and effective delivery channels, process mechanisms, and organizations/stakeholders that will use the knowledge once it emerges along the value chain. The role of institutions in this process is emphasized. Innovation intermediaries, innovation platforms and open innovation processes are critical to accelerate as well as mainstream the ISP within the agricultural R&D systems.