Strides is a service to increase the return on investment in research and innovation in agricultural and natural resources to stimulate economic growth. This service is particularly relevant to low income countries. Strides delivers targeted in-service training and supplies the operational tools to identify and quantify stakeholder needs, optimise project design and manage the implementation of the whole project cycle.

Theme 1: Use and conservation of biodiversity

This covers a broad area of research on natural products, especially those with medicinal and other potential industrial uses e.g. biofuels, or otherwise. Conservation management and biodiversity research issues in forestry, oceans, estuarine, coastal and littoral ecosystems and services associated with their current and predicted management will be encouraged.

Theme 2: Water resources and sanitation

Research into water resource management for clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and pollution prevention; management of water resources through appropriate land-use allocation to commercial and natural and ecosystem components; efficient use of irrigation for agriculture, horticulture and other operations, especially those near urban and heavily populated districts.

Theme 3: Food, fibre and animal feedstock production

This covers all aspects of agricultural productivity and efficiency and communication issues across the value chain of food production, nutritional issues, under-utilized crops, biotechnology, soil fertility and erosion. Aspects to be considered within upgrading of value chains include seed systems, productivity, storage, value addition and marketing. Safety of processes used in food production systems including optimised nutritional value. Appropriate management of aquatic and marine resources for efficient food and animal feedstock production should address also increasing their role for raising the potentials for food production in and around cities.

Theme 4: Alternative/appropriate energy generation

Alternative energy generation and energy saving (i.e. outside of a countryís national grid) will be a key focus and will include production of biofuels on marginal lands which are otherwise unsuitable for crop production and other traditional agricultural activities.

Strides provides training, including mentoring on a one-on-one basis, for young to mid-career scientists who are in full-time employment at a research institution in a low-income country. The trainees will be those who consider themselves suitable as prospective project team leaders of multidisciplinary research and innovation projects in the natural resources sector. The mix of required disciplines include technical, economic, social, environmental and ecosystem considerations. Training is delivered through a workshop (known as a Launchpad Workshop) for applicants who submit an approved concept note. Following assessment, successful applicants will receive training and orientation on ways to manage the design process of their specific projects under any of the four themes described in the box on the right. Emphasis will be given to outputs that represent sustainable solutions.

There are four basic training components which naturally overlap:
  • Managing research and the transition to innovation
  • Advocacy
  • Ongoing targeted project specific mentoring
  • Training in the practical use of methods and tools for managing the research to innovation transition

This component includes a general review of state of the art methods for:
  • Managing gaps and needs analysis to identify objectives
  • How to prioritise research
  • Research methods to address needs
  • Managing:
    • Proof of concept analyses
    • Value chain analyses
    • Assessment of impacts and the returns on investment options
  • Understanding the investment application process

The combination of experience in the management of the project cycle on a more quantitative basis and experience with project outcomes provides useful evidence of cause and effect. The emphasis on stakeholder involvement in the project preparation also provides an acute appreciation of how to communicate with stakeholders as well as an understanding of critical stakeholder needs. This provides a strong foundation for training in the use of case study data to create effective advocacy for increased support for research and innovation activities.

Each project is unique and the nature of gaps and needs addressed and solutions in the form of research and the transition to innovation will differ. Ongoing targeted project-specific mentoring provides focused orientation for researchers to ensure the correct application of the methods and procedures supported by the tools supplied (see next section).

The training sessions make use of an advanced online information management system which follows due diligence design procedures to ensure that all factors spanning several disciplinary domains are accounted for and which include the following:
  • Gaps and needs analysis
  • Constraints analysis
  • Project design involving logical structuring & optimization
  • Specification (qualitative and quantitative) of outputs and inputs
  • Budget estimates and scheduling and
  • Project plan.
Depending on the nature of a project, training can also include survey and experimental design as well a value chain analysis. As a direct result of each of the workshops, Strides will agree, subject to a formal contract with each team leader, setting out the likely respective requirements for mentoring support during project planning and execution. Other essential information includes the likely composition of the research team and the specific, named stakeholders who will be interacting with the research project throughout itís duration.

Participants are introduced to a web-based project design system and to methods for raising the quality of information which justifies the proposal with an emphasis on feasibility. Workshops last six days and applicants having agreed to a contract are expected to submit a full proposal with the aid of continued access to the online project design system so that they can each proceed to complete a full proposal. Proposals are expected to be completed within two months (60 days) from the date of the end of the Launchpad Workshop.

The Navatec information management system provides convenient, proven utilities for project design and optimization. An embedded Real Time Audit operates throughout the project cycle to provide the required high quality professional oversight combining on-demand analysis with reporting on any aspect of a projectís performance. This significantly reduces the administrative load for project team leaders and members associated with project performance analysis and reporting which means that more time is available for team members to dedicate themselves to productive research and stakeholder engagement activities.

Researchers can continue to learn, following training, the most appropriate project cycle management methods by simply using the information system with onboard guidelines and technical support.

The due diligence design procedures help teams of limited size to include consideration of all of the critical factors across the range of multi-disciplinary topics required for the effective design of optimised and evidence-based proposals.

Team leaders' gain useful experience in managing data and guidance on how to build well-prepared advocacy documents and presentations.
The STRIDES Foundation Limited