Better rural innovation: connecting actors, instruments and policy via networks

Project Details


Main research question/goal

This thesis pays particular attention to ‘Knowledge and Innovation (KI) co-production partnerships’ in the European agri-food systems. Many European Research and Innovation funding programmes, such as the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe programme, now require prospective partnerships to have a transdisciplinary character, i.e., they are expected to bring together a variety of societal actors ranging from researchers, agricultural advisors and farmers to policy-makers or small businesses. In this way, they aim to integrate and produce knowledge and innovation and to create a shared ownership to tackle complex problems. The emphasis lies on the processes underpinning the outcomes or specific results these KI co-production partnerships can attain. How can such KI co-production partnerships obtain specific results, and what is their added value? The aim is to unravel these underlying mechanisms and better understand the functioning of such ‘KI co-production partnerships’ in the agriculture and rural development sector in Europe and further optimize such partnerships. 

Research approach

A rich empirical foundation is used: 200 key informant interviews with as many ‘KI co-production partnerships’ throughout Europe, 30 in-depth case studies comprising 283 in-depth interviews and 7 focus groups with actors directly or indirectly involved in these 30 partnerships. First, a wide and diverse range of ‘KI co-production partnerships’ is explored integrating different theoretical and analytical approaches. This allows the study, comparison and analysis of partnerships active at different governance levels, i.e. local, regional, national or multinational, and having different kinds of formats, e.g., projects, networks or platforms. The final part of the thesis focuses on EU-funded multinational project partnerships.


By studying a wide range of ‘KI co-production partnerships’, insight is gained into the links and interactions between the processes within the partnerships and external factors. A structured analytical approach is developed to account for differences in institutional, cultural and social contexts that influence the KI co-production process: the Multi-level Innovation Systems (MINOS) framework. Despite a public discourse seeking greater inclusivity in these partnerships, the findings show that, in practice, some societal actors find their way to participation and involvement much easier than others. Based on this analysis, some theoretically and empirically grounded intervention strategies for both people involved in the practice of KI co-production and policy and programme makers are put forward. 

Effective start/end date1/05/1830/04/22

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