Over the last
years, the global economic crunch and the challenges about climate, food and
natural resources, led innovation to the centre of the agricultural policy
agenda. Innovation is considered the keystone to improve farms' competitiveness
in an increasingly complex context, while ensuring the sustainable use of resources,
food security and balanced development of territories.
challenges pertaining to agricultural systems, including, the more recent
sustainable development goals, require a different approach to innovation,
that gives far greater recognition and power to grassroots actors and
processes, shifting from 'transfer' to 'intermediation' and 'co-innovation'.
respect, new tools have been introduced to stimulate innovation through
multi-actor processes and pave the way for bottom-up innovations, the
capitalization of different types of knowledge, the development of interactive
knowledge exchanges focused on territorial features and specificities.
The emerging paradigm asks for a change of the traditional role of Extension and Education that have to work more closely with all the actors of the innovation systems, in the development, dissemination and uptake of innovations. In particular, Extension needs to be reoriented to new technical competences as well as to a knowledge exchange attitude, thus to become able to support farmers' ability to change and close the gap between science and practice.
Besides, greater involvement in the definition of policies and programmes is needed to create an enabling environment to favour co-innovation.
The future role of Extension in the development of sustainable agriculture must also take in account the diversity and organisational pluralism of services providers and the specific challenge of digitalisation.