Society and regional strategies 4 min

The mechanisms that generate impacts

The ASIRPA team carried out a typological analysis of thirty case studies to identify and classify similar cases with a view to determining the mechanisms that generate economic, policy, or environmental impacts for society. Five major types of impact pathways were distinguished.

Published on 20 July 2015

illustration  The mechanisms that generate impacts

79% of cases have multi-dimensional impacts

The analysis of impact mechanisms demonstrates INRA’s considerable involvement at all stages, from research to producing marketable knowledge. In 93% of the cases studied, the Institute mobilised research infrastructures while it developed technological tools for 80% of them. Most importantly, the ASIRPA showed that in nearly 75% of the cases studied, the knowledge was incorporated into tools that are directly exploitable by socio-economic stakeholders. This result is perfectly in line with the Institute’s status as a “targeted” research institution. INRA scientists are very involved in generating impacts through their research, but they still work very closely with outside stakeholders who participate throughout the process. As discussed in Chapter 2, INRA generates multidimensional impacts. The analysis showed that 79% of the cases have an effect on more than one area of impact. The typological analysis carried out by the ASIRPA team distinguished four types of impact pathways, which corresponded to the level of INRA’s and its partners’ involvement as well as all parties’ respective contributions in generating impacts. A fifth type (Type 5) groups together the cases that had an impact on policies.

Type 1: A solid partnership structure from the research stage through the impact stage.

The cases grouped into this category are characterised by their high level of complexity, which requires close collaboration between INRA and various outside stakeholders from the input stage (i.e., when research started). In this case, INRA plays a fundamental role in structuring the partnership and is highly involved at a scientific level. The outside stakeholders, partners and intermediaries provide considerable research means and work closely with INRA to overcome obstacles that could hinder Outputs (e.g., technical objects, methods, expertise). These cases generate strong economic impacts as well as public health, environmental or regional impacts. The “Decision support tools for nitrogen fertilisers” or “Using genetic selection to prevent scrapie” cases both fall into this category.

Type 2: Close collaborations over long research periods

INRA plays a major role in disseminating outputs

Type 2 cases are defined by the lengthy research periods required before generating outputs. In the case of the improved varieties of maritime pine trees, research took more than 15 years. Here, INRA’s involvement is vital. It is characterised by the long-term infrastructure management and the mobilisation of multidisciplinary scientific resources accumulated over many years. The Institute also plays a major role in disseminating outputs and Level 1 impacts. Academic and socio-economic partners contribute and occasionally offer their own infrastructures, but their participation generally occurs once research is well underway. The Type 2 cases generate impacts of varying intensity, particularly in the environmental, health and economic areas. The “Process of tartaric stabilisation through electrodialysis”, discussed on page 2, is in this category.

Type 3: Technology market

In these cases, which include “Platanor®: a plane tree variety resistant to canker stain”; “The scab-resistant Ariane apple” (scab is caused by a fungus); or “A sensor to detect agrifood industry fouling phenomena”, INRA conducts the research alone from the input to the output stages. The research results are protected by intellectual property rights and a licencing agreement (often exclusive) is negotiated with an outside stakeholder who exploits the technology.
This is the case in the Provéo methanisation process, which today is being successfully exploited by Naskéo environnement (see page 2).Type 3 cases generate chiefly economic and environmental impacts, but their intensity is greatly dependent on the behaviours and financial health of the outside stakeholder. The exclusive licence agreement may prove counterproductive if a poor economic situation forces the partner to stop their activities. The contextual analysis highlighted this non-negligible risk, leading INRA to exercise greater caution in its contract negotiations.

Type 4: Anticipating societal demand in a context that does not favour dissemination

These research innovations have been used very little by beneficiaries

Type 4 cases are those where the dissemination of innovations derived from INRA research requires significant changes in the behaviours of targeted users. There was only a single case in this group: “Technical systems for wheat using low input quantities”. The low number of Type 4 cases in the analysis is most likely because the ASIRPA team and other scientists involved in the project wanted to select successful case studies. Consequently, these research innovations have been used very little by beneficiaries, despite being ready for deployment and therefore having considerable potential for impact. The reason is essentially due to circumstances: rising wheat prices, combined with slightly lower yields produced by low-input varieties, in turn leading to reduced profits for farmers. Although Type 4 cases show few impacts, they are representative of INRA’s public research objective: “To increase the diversity of available options, even if this means conducting research with limited applications without the participation of users (and occasionally against their views)”.

Type 5: Cases that result in policy impacts

In this category we find research by INRA that was carried out to meet a specific public demand. It also includes research that was initially intended for other uses that ends up being used by policymakers. Given that these cases follow a different impact pathway to the others, particularly because of the use of specific mechanisms and stakeholders’ involvement, the 11 Type 5 cases were subject to a separate typological analysis.
The first observation was that research carried out to meet public users’ needs, such as the health risks related to Bisphenol A, is characterised by the short duration between Outputs and Level 1 Impacts. This time period is just 2.4 years on average, with a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 6 years, versus 5.9 years on average for the other case types. INRA’s role is apparent at different levels. It monopolises the scientific resources and infrastructures to provide a faster, adapted response to public stakeholders. The Institute also strives to encourage debate by framing its research results within the context of important societal issues. Lastly, INRA takes care to ensure the integrity of the scientific message it publishes is maintained as soon as research results enter public debate.


Philippe FontaineRédacteur

Teri Jones-VilleneuveTranslator

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