Innovation Platforms are fast becoming part of the mantra of agricultural research for development projects and programmes. Their basic tenet is that stakeholders depend on one another to achieve agricultural development outcomes, and hence need a space where they can learn, negotiate, and coordinate to overcome challenges and capture opportunities through a facilitated innovation process. This publication provides a critical analysis of Innovation Platforms, their defining features, key functions, and what they can and – as importantly – cannot do. It will be useful reading both for those who fund development projects and programmes and would like to understand when Innovation Platforms are the approach of choice, and for those practitioners who implement and facilitate Innovation Platforms and would like to understand better their design principles and practical implementation issues.

Because Innovation Platforms have been successful in addressing agricultural challenges, there is a risk that they will be promoted as a panacea for all problems in the agricultural sector. As the authors make clear, however, not all constraints will require Innovation Platforms and, if there is a simpler and cheaper alternative, that should be the first choice. It is essential to think more critically about when, how, and in what form Innovation Platforms can contribute meaningfully to agricultural development impacts.

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