During the virtual meeting of the Prolinnova Oversight Group (POG) on 8 April 2020, a new Country Platform (CP) was welcomed into our Community of Practice. The CP in the UK is the first one in the Global North. It consists of the Farmer-Led Innovation Network (FLIN), currently active in England, Scotland and Wales. The coordinator Lisa Williams van Dijk of the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) already presented FLIN by Skype during the International Partners Workshop (IPW) in Senegal in May 2019, so some Prolinnova partners are already familiar with it.
FLIN brings together over 20 organisations that are promoting farmer-led participatory research and innovation in the UK. They joined forces to share best practices with this approach; to build capacity of existing and new organisations to support farmer-led innovation and research initiatives; to motivate scientists, agricultural advisors and farmers to interact in such initiatives; and to develop collaborative projects/programmes in the UK and internationally.
The increasing interest in Europe in working with farmers in research and innovation is evident in the European Innovation Partnerships supported by the European Union as well as in the “Innovation UK” programme that is supporting multi-actor “interactive innovation” with farmers in key roles. The big challenge in the North, as in the South, is to build the capacity of formal scientists to interact with farmers in genuine partnership in innovation.
Various initiatives have emerged in the UK and across Europe using different approaches to facilitate farmer-centred innovation development. This provides a great opportunity for learning between countries and contexts within the UK, more widely in Europe and with the other Prolinnova CPs globally. The formation of a CP in the UK could be the start of a regional Prolinnova network in Europe. This could enhance mutual learning between South and North about participatory innovation methodologies and approaches. It would also allow joint engagement in policy dialogue at country, regional and global level to include farmer-led joint research and innovation as part of mainstream investment in agricultural research and development.