Enhancing research impact for food security: strengthening knowledge co-creation and research uptake

The Food & Business Applied Research Fund (ARF, NWO-WOTRO) First Call projects and Competitive Research Fund (CRF, PAEPARD1) Projects Workshop held at Entebbe, Uganda was jointly organized by the Office of the Food & Business Knowledge Platform and NWO-WOTRO in collaboration with PAEPARD, RUFORUM2 and AgriProFocus Uganda. The main theme of the workshop was to enhance research impact for food security by strengthening knowledge co-creation and research uptake. The three-day workshop held from October 1-3, 2015 in Entebbe, Uganda was divided into two parts. One part of the workshop (1 and 3 October) aimed at sharing experiences (successes and challenges) and lessons learned from the different ARF and CRF project teams by exploring ways of: improving co-creation; integrating stakeholder interests and ambitions in research from inception to completion and; identifying possibilities for collaboration among the projects. This part of the workshop attracted 40 representatives from the 15 ARF and four CRF projects invited. The programme was organized to stimulate discussions through pitch presentations, speed dating, working groups, plenary discussions and visits to incubators and field experimentation and learning. Best-bet mechanisms for stakeholder engagement mapping, knowledge sharing and research uptake were deliberately discussed in interactive sessions at an Agribusiness Incubation Centre (CURAD) hosted at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyoro (MUARIK). In the afternoon of 3 October, participants visited exhibitions that showcased innovative products by both AfriBanana (folders, badges, bags and clocks made from banana fibres) and CURAD incubates (juices and liquor from coffee). During the field visits, CURAD incubatees shared their experiences of how they were supported in setting up a business and starting careers as entrepreneurs. One day of the workshop (2 October) was dedicated to a public seminar that focused on the role of SMEs in enhancing food security. In addition to the ARF and CRF projects participants, 25 external stakeholders participated in the public seminar through presentations, discussions and panel discussions. The key issues that emerged from the ARF-CRF Learning Workshop included: i) There is no simple blueprint for dealing with knowledge co-creation. Rather project teams need to share their experiences of what worked and what didn’t work and the reasons why; ii) It is important for all project teams to conduct a stakeholder analysis to improve stakeholder engagement in the research process and knowledge sharing and research uptake; iii) The workshop was an eye opener for many participants. It was suggested as part of orientation to organize such a workshop for newly awarded and future projects earlier, before implementation commences; iv) The workshop served as a mechanism to explore and share experiences, to learn and improve knowledge co-creation and give feedback to project teams which enabled all consortia to contribute and discover together what the most appropriate collaboration looks like; v) The workshop created added value by linking ARF and CRF projects for more collaboration on related topics, or as network to share experiences. Key issues from the seminar on the role of SMEs in enhancing food security were: a) SMEs have a huge role to play in the food security and commercialization of knowledge; b) The slow transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture remains a large challenge to commercializing research outputs in Africa; c) Policy support and protection are crucial to SMEs’ growth and development and to enhance economic growth and food security; d) Governance issues that affect the SMEs eventually trickle down to the primary level of any given value chain; e) SMEs are part of a very complex and dynamic system and this complexity needs to be taken into account in research and innovation activities and policy recommendations; f) Engaging policy makers in research and development actions is imperative for stimulating an enabling environment for SMEs’ growth as well as economic development.
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