Office of Innovation

Innovations in agriculture cut across all dimensions of the production cycle along the entire value chain - from crop, forestry, fishery or livestock production to the management of inputs and resources and market access. Innovation is not just about technology. It is also about social, economic, institutional, behavioural, organizational and policy processes, business models and innovative financing. These elements, in combination or in isolation, can have a positive impact on the production, nutrition, environment and livelihoods of people, notably smallholder farmers, fishers, and forest-dependent communities.

The Office of Innovation (OIN) was created in December 2019 in order to consolidate and strengthen FAO's innovative spirit, including innovation of mindset and innovation of cooperation models. Technological, social, policy, institutional, and financial innovations are considered relevant and applicable throughout agrifood systems.

Innovation is the central driving force that will transform agrifood systems, lift millions of people out of poverty and help the world to achieve food security and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Due to their scale and ambition, the SDGs require both innovation in development and innovation for development. Science and innovation are identified as key tools for SDG implementation. Similarly the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 considers science and innovation as a central driving force for achieving a world free from hunger and malnutrition. Innovations in technological, institutional, social, policy and financial dimensions throughout agri-food systems are considered as accelerators to enhance effectiveness and impact of the FAO Programme Priority Areas (PPAs) under the four betters.

The Office of Innovation ensures that FAO mainstreams innovation in its programmes; facilitates cross-collaboration between the various FAO units; and aids in forging and reinforcing transformative partnerships.

In focus
Areas of Work

The office currently has three units that form its structure including: the Secretariat of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR), the Research and Extension Unit, and the Innovation in Digital Agriculture Unit. The office also has a focus on behavioural science, considered a key discipline in agricultural development.

The Research and Extension Unit support FAO Members in transforming and strengthening their National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) for agricultural research for development and agricultural Extension and Advisory Services (EAS) for promoting pluralistic extension services to meet current and future challenges. The technical support provided to Members includes promoting more coherent and integrated Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) for improving the functional capacity of various actors including agricultural education, research, extension, farmers and their organizations and groups.
The activities of the unit include development of tools, methods and guidelines for assessment of national research, extension and advisory systems, policy advice, reform, capacity development, organizing expert consultations on emerging issues, conducting technical studies, sharing of technologies and practices, and providing technical support for preparation and implementation of projects/programmes. The unit also serves as FAO's technical focal point for collaboration with global fora on research and extension, including GFRAS, CGIAR, regional and national research and extension institutions and/or organizations and for biotechnologies. The unit hosts the secretariat for Tropical Agriculture Platform (TAP), a G20 initiative of multi-stakeholder mechanism for strengthening functional capacities of agricultural innovation systems in the tropics and promotes knowledge sharing through global knowledge portals such as Technologies and Practices for Small Agricultural Producers (TECA) and TAPipedia.

GFAR  is a collective movement for a new future in agriculture and food systems. The partners in GFAR make up voices from 13 diverse agri-food sectors bringing one key message: that farmers should be put at the center of farming.

Together, the partners in GFAR commit to Collective Actions—multi-stakeholder programmes of work at local, national, regional or international levels—that have two main aims:
  • to bring together the knowledge, expertise and resources of a spectrum of food system actors to bring about transformation in line with the commitments made at the UN Food Systems Summit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals; and
  • to do this while actively listening to and giving voice to the people who feed and nourish us every day: the world’s smallholder farmers.

GFAR Secretariat, hosted at the FAO Headquarters, is made up of a small team that works to help partners plan, facilitate, implement and distil learnings from the Collective Actions.

The Innovation in Digital Agriculture unit within the Office of Innovation supports FAO in developing policies and implementing projects related to innovation in digital agriculture and collaborates with other FAO units in upscaling digital agriculture within their projects and programmes.

The team’s focus areas are:

  • Supporting digital agriculture innovation for FAO members through the establishment and roll out the Global Network of Digital Agriculture Innovation Hubs sub-programme;
  • Providing digital agriculture policy support for countries through the development of National Digital Agriculture Strategies.
  • Supporting the upscaling of frontier and emerging technologies (such as blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things etc.) to FAO and its members.
  • Contributing to the FAO digitalization agenda by collaborating in digital agriculture activities.
  • Developing partnerships in innovation for digital agriculture with various stakeholders (such as Rome Based Agencies, other UN agencies, academia and the private sector) – through innovation challenges, bootcamps, hackathons, etc.
  • Facilitating the e-Agriculture global community of practice (and related digital agriculture innovation events) that facilitates dialogue, knowledge sharing, innovations on the use of digital technologies for sustainable agriculture and rural development.
  • Supporting innovation approaches through facilitating co-innovations, design thinking sessions, and related innovative approaches.
  • Enhancing knowledge exchange and capacity development in digital agriculture through different activities, including Digital Agriculture Bootcamp, Global AgriInno Challenge, Digital Agriculture Report and Digital Agriculture Forum.

Behavioural science within the Office of Innovation helps FAO and partners understand the limits of knowledge and information to drive behaviour – and reveal how social, psychological, and physical context often are key determinants of what people actually do. Therefore, in order to leverage the power of innovation to deliver more effectively and work more efficiently, the Office of Innovation leverages behavioural science to build evidence around how to successfully encourage the behaviours that underpin innovation and lead to progress on the SDGs. Translating this evidence into concrete interventions that promote innovative mindsets and actions, FAO uses behavioural science to inject behavioural thinking into FAO’s projects and programmes and connect behaviour change needs with behavioural science tools and expertise.