ACIAR is proud to engage in the United Nations Food Systems Summit, convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2021 as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The Summit will awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food.

ACIAR aims to achieve more productive and sustainable agricultural systems for the benefit of developing countries and Australia by enabling international agricultural research partnerships.

This purpose aligns with that of the UN Food Systems Summit. This has been a people’s summit – bringing together key actors from diverse sectors – and a solutions summit – creating tangible, actionable changes to the world’s food systems.

ACIAR looks to a world where poverty has been reduced through more productive and sustainable agriculture. An ongoing commitment to innovation means that ACIAR is always seeking novel ways of growing more nutritious food with fewer resources while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Collaborative international research is needed to achieve this vision, so that each stage of innovation is well-resourced and supported. Partnership is core to the ACIAR innovation model. Enabling others to create value through the application of ACIAR-supported knowledge or technology in new ways leads to greater, sustained impact.

As part of Australia’s formal contributions to the Summit, ACIAR convened several Dialogues to share Australian food systems innovations and create pathways to scale.

ACIAR Dialogues

Throughout 2021 ACIAR convened several Dialogues as part of the official UN Food Systems Summit process. These events brought together diverse partners to reflect on how Australian agricultural innovations can help transform global food systems and achieve the 2030 Agenda.

The discussions and the outcomes of all Dialogues convened by ACIAR were synthesized and submitted to the UN Food Systems Summit. We thank all those who participated in these Dialogues for their contributions, which will inform global commitments and actions to transform food systems.

Explore the Dialogues that ACIAR convened as part of the UN Food Systems Summit. You can watch the plenary portions of these events, read the reports, or explore the graphic recording.


Partnerships Dialogue

On 25 May, ACIAR convened an Australian Member-state Dialogue together with the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This Dialogue about Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Scaling Innovation invited diverse stakeholders to come together for discussion about best-practice partnership pathways in research and innovation.

Watch the recording here, explore the graphic recording below or download the report.

Partnerships Dialogue Graphic Recording
Partnerships Dialogue Graphic Recording - click on the graphic to zoom in
Food Loss Dialogue

On 3 June, ACIAR and Canada's IDRC co-convened a Dialogue about Food Loss Research. We invited key stakeholders and research leaders from around the world to discuss the global problem of food loss and advance our global understanding of the relevant issues.

Watch the recording here or download the report.


Australian Agricultural Innovation Dialogue

On 23 March, ACIAR and the Crawford Fund co-convened a Dialogue about Australian agricultural innovation. This workshop highlighted exactly what farmers can do, and are doing, to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. These innovative practices are making a difference and provide strategies that could be implemented across Australia and around the world.

Watch the recording here or download the report.


ACIAR is committed to continuously innovating how we produce our food to ensure the highest level of food security into the future. 

The Innovation Pathway

Innovation is about more than research or invention. It is about creating impact, often in an unexpected way. ACIAR sees innovation as a process of creating value by applying knowledge or technology to a complex challenge in a novel way.

Innovation doesn’t just happen by accident and it is not a linear process. There are usually four main stages along the innovation pathway that allow ideas to be successfully transformed into impact. ACIAR structures its research activities so that projects can focus on one or move through several stages of innovation.

Explore these below.

Problem Definition

Options Analysis



Problem Definition

There are many problems that the world is keen to solve, preferably all at once. There are no ‘silver bullet’ solutions, but the temptation to apply known fixes to unknown problems always remains. Identifying specific issues allows for more strategic problem-solving, and so this stage is key to successful innovation. Problem definition does not have to be prescriptive or unnecessarily limiting; it simply helps to focus activities to achieve greatest maximum impact.

ACIAR often funds long-term, large-scale projects, some of which start at problem definition and others that draw on prior scoping work. Sometimes, a smaller scoping research project can gather relevant information to further define an issue or bring preliminary ideas to the table. This is a stage during which partners can share information and develop a common understanding of the problem they are looking to address. Throughout the innovation process this stage may also be revisited as problems and priorities shift.

Options Analysis

There are usually many ways to complete a puzzle, and innovation can help solve complex issues in a similarly infinite number of ways. The stage of options analysis includes generation of ideas and technologies, and early application of them to a real-world problem. This stage might be referred to as research, discovery, testing, and it is truly about exploration.

Discovery science creates new knowledge or insight. Invention creates new technologies based on that knowledge. Solutions are developed, and then tested theoretically and in practice, compared and contrasted. During this stage information is gathered and analysed to inform decision-making about which options should be further explored.


Validation is when value is generated from the application of new knowledge or technology. During this stage, solutions continue to be tested in order to demonstrate impacts. These impacts are recorded so they can be assessed, with unexpected positive and negative consequences sometimes emerging. Validation is about questioning and reflection as much as it is about data collection. What does this innovation allow us to know or be able to do that we previously did not know or could not do?

Collaboration and codesign with users are key elements of the validation process, which is often locally contextualised. Testing ideas and tools in a real-world context unearths complexities of social and environmental systems that may not have been evident previously. Understanding and responding to these complexities is an integral part of improving innovation.


Scaling innovation is about delivering greater impact. For ACIAR, this means supporting crucial development objectives such as improving livelihoods and food security, managing natural resources sustainably, and enhancing nutrition. It also includes improving gender equity, fostering more inclusive market chains, and building capacity within our partner countries.

This stage of scaling is complex; it is not enough to produce more widgets and call it a day. Scaling is about integration of solutions into complex systems and may therefore necessitate technology transfer or influencing decision-making. Even once an innovation is seemingly validated in one context, scaling beyond known constraints can change the nature of the problem and solution.

Yet scaling is, at its heart, about creating sustained value. Continuing to generate and strengthen impacts makes innovation a worthwhile endeavour.

In order to achieve transformation of food systems we must partner with the right people in the right ways, at each stage of the innovation process. 

The SDGs will only be achieved through global partnership that supports collaborative action among diverse organisations. ACIAR convened a Dialogue as part of the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 about the role of partnership in stimulating sustainable food systems transformation. Participants of this Dialogue discussed five foundations of partnership that will enable scaling innovation and support global transformation of food systems.

The five foundations of partnership are illustrated below. You can learn more about these foundations in the Partnerships Dialogue Report

Foundations of Partnership

ACIAR brokers and invests in research partnerships in developing countries to support more sustainable agricultural and food systems. Partnership is core to the ACIAR research and innovation model.

Following dialogue with partners as part of the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021, ACIAR suggests five foundations of partnership that underpin successful innovation and support collaborative action needed to achieve the SDGs.

Click on each of the options below to explore the graphic.

Foundations of Partnerships