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.
The process of converting agricultural research into useful applications is complex. The normal stages of driving innovation are shown in the diagram on the right. With each step in this process, the mix of required human resource capabilities changes so that the complete process requires a very wide range of disciplines and practical know-how. These practical challenges of managing this complex process are exacerbated by the natural seasonal variation within the agricultural and natural resources domains associated with the range of interaction between production and locational factors such as climate. These realities compound the levels of uncertainty and risk.
Creating a more sustainable future
through effective research
In practice, there remain significant gaps in the processes of delivery of practical innovation arising from research. Most project cycle management planning methods do not integrate adequately the innovation requirements into the research effort. This can be caused by the lack of communication between researchers and stakeholders to agree on which gaps constitute priority needs and market demand.
The number of suitably qualified researchers in low income countries is usually limited so research teams invariably cannot cover all of the necessary disciplines required to complete the research through to innovation process. There is a significant problem in delivering the overall strategic objectives of donors and institutions through projects when it is normal for the conditions, upon which a project depends, to change during implementation. Small research teams with a limited range of capabilities can become overwhelmed by the need to take rapid decisions to keep projects on course. This lack of an appropriate baseline management system and decision support, results in a major challenge to inexperienced young researchers, who are sometimes working in relative scientific isolation.
There is also a major resource gap in the form of limited funding arising from government budgets that are under strain.
The consequences of these gaps are that much research does not end up in practical and timely applications. The process can be highly protracted, sometimes taking decades. The desired economic development impacts are frequently much lower than desired considering the amount of effort and funds invested.
Because of the time taken to complete research and innovation processes, the likelihood of key individuals moving to other work or moving to another institution is high. This can occur in donor, lender and research institution staff as well as research team members. This normal event can cause significant negative impacts on projects as a result of loss of institutional and project memory. The negative consequences are greater when there is a low critical mass of human resources available.
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) assignments often do not have adequate access to information on why the plan and activities were selected in the first place and what alternatives were considered before a final plan was identified. As a result M&E interventions do not have sufficient information to take informed decisions of how to proceed when conditions change. The default option is often to simply downgrade project objectives.
There is a rising demand for approaches that close the operational gaps, including specific priorities within the SDGs, and achieve more timely innovation. These issues continue to be major challenges for research institutions, private donors and governments in their concerted efforts to reduce wastage of human resources and funds that often lead to ineffective and inefficient research. Strides recognises the urgency to enhance the rates of development and economic growth through wealth-creating applied research and extension activities.
There is a requirement for a project cycle management approach that provides tactical decision support throughout the project cycle. This is required to provide a timely and appropriate response to change, by minimising its impact while operating with limited human resources capacity. Strides strengthens research team and project abilities to resist such adversity through a more effective operational resilience.
Strides provides a training and extension service that seeks to improve the likelihood that cross-disciplinary research teams achieve practical innovative results through the application of improved standards in research and development. Training for cross-disciplinary teams will help identify effective sustainable options through a project design process that balances technical feasibility, economic viability, environmental adaptation, social acceptance and risk assessment. The service content has been designed and is operated by experienced specialists in natural sciences, rural economics and cloud systems.
The service provides an in-service training programme that targets specific research for innovation project proposals and provides an extension service covering the whole project cycle including:
A communication system is provided by means of which teams, made up of no more than six young to mid-career scientists (under the age of 45 years) can improve levels of stakeholder involvement in the design, planning, execution and oversight of their multidisciplinary research projects based at their home institutions. The overall aim is to ensure that the natural resource sectors within their respective countries contribute more effectively to sustainable economic growth, food security and resilience to climate change, based on:
- relevant training of ways to improve essential research for innovation project design and implementation activities (based on the mix of initial concept notes)
- targeted in-service training on specific project proposal design elements and how to use an advanced project design and management system
- ongoing mentoring to assist on specific tasks during design and implementation
- sustained technical support for the information system.
These activities should produce a collection of good projects organised by trained team leaders on practically important topics in preparation for approaching funders. In this way, donors will be in a position to assess the feasibility of the investment returns on each submitted project. The project plans contain the required actions and resources and the management system will provide full oversight and decision support to ensure sound decisions in response to changes during implementation.
- appropriate best practice due diligence procedures to ensure all factors are taken into account
- an effective project design to identify the most feasible options
- integrating the interests of the "next-phase" stakeholder information needs
- an integrated database with all related documents and information as the “project memory”
- a 24/7 real time audit system that provides on-demand analysis and reporting on any aspect of a project performance
- tactical decision support to respond to change with optimised actions
- the existence of an appropriate information management system for design, managing and reporting on research-innovation projects.
Strides has teamed up with Navatec to emphasise best practice based on due diligence procedures and tactical decision support through a purpose-built, advanced, cloud-based information management system.