Purpose – Building on recent advances in innovation research on developing country agriculture, this paper explores the concept of co-innovation, i.e. innovations that combine technological, organisational and institutional changes and that encompass different actors in and around the value chain. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to a further conceptualisation of co-innovation and show its usefulness for analysing innovation initiatives in agrifood chains. Design/methodology/approach – The paper combines two streams of literature (innovation systems and value chains) and is based on a review of the experiences with innovation in three different value chains in three African countries: potato in Ethiopia, pineapple in Benin and citrus in South Africa. Findings – Co-innovation is the combination of collaborative, complementary and coordinated innovation. “Collaborative” refers to the multi-actor character of the innovation process, where each actor brings in specific knowledge and resources. “Complementary” indicates the smart combination of technological, organisational and institutional innovation. “Coordinated” draws attention to the importance of chain-wide adjustments and changes to make innovation in one stage of the chain a success. Practical implications – The identified dimensions of co-innovation (the triple “co-”) provide a practical guide for the design of effective interventions aimed at promoting innovation in African agrifood chains. Originality/value – The paper is the first to provide a comprehensive conceptualisation of co-innovation. On the basis of both theoretical arguments and evidence from three illustrative case studies it is argued that successful innovation in agrifood chains requires the innovation process to be collaborative, coordinated and complementary.
- global value chains