Purpose of review: This review aims to introduce the institutional and policy oriented literature on technological innovation into the context of postharvest engineering. The focus is how rigorous quality and food safety standards in cross-border agricultural and horticultural trade influence technological change up stream in the agri-food chain. The review presents a selection of literature that considers technological innovation as a process, with a specific focus on the enabling and constraining institutional conditions found in developing countries. The literature is grouped into three thematically defined frames: (i) interaction in systems of innovation; (ii) upgrading in value chains; and (iii) converging to pro-poor business models. Findings: This review shows that the efficacy of innovation policies and strategies are not only related to technical choices supporting agricultural producers and small and medium sized food processing firms, but also to the institutional linkages and architectures in which innovation and technological change are embedded. Another important finding of the review is that although technologyoriented literature acknowledges the relevance of institutional and policy dimensions as well as the systemic nature of technological change, there is little connectivity between this literature and the scholarly work on technological innovation found in the social sciences and development studies. Implications: The capacity to design and implement studies that combine an in-depth understanding of specific technological performance problems with novel institutional linkages is needed for enabling innovative capabilities in developing countries. Directions for future research: Integrative research programs may be necessary to unravel the interdependencies between technological change and the social-economic and institutional environment in order to inform policy frameworks and business strategies to enhance innovation.