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Science and Technology in Civil Society – Innovation Trajectory in Spirulina Algal Technology

This paper examines the role that Indian civil society plays in science and innovation through a case study of agro-processing research in a civil society-led initiative. It investigates how a non-governmental organisation and other key players participate at different stages of the innovation process, highlighting the importance of this type of initiative for research that aims to help the poor.

The article questions existing assumptions and conventional ways of organising agricultural research that place research at the beginning of the innovation chain, followed by extension and application. It uses the innovation systems framework to assess the many players, partnerships and feedback loops involved in the development of spirulina algal technology, including foodstuffs and vitamin supplements, in India. The author says "the idea of innovation as a systems concept does not diminish the importance of science, but instead, locates it in different relationships and positions it along the innovation trajectory". According to the author, this has important implications for how research and development should be organised if they are to benefit the poor. The diverse sources in the innovation process need to be acknowledged to make research and technological development most useful for wider society, and strategies must be devised that are responsive to the needs of users.