The project will adopt a participatory action research strategy facilitating an open innovation environment where project-promoted site-based irrigation innovation hubs (Site-iHub) face the challenge of bridging the irrigation performance gap. The Site-iHubs will be interconnected through a common platform, the Mediterranean Irrigation Innovation Hub (Med-iHub).
Prominent components of the Site-iHubs will be their Irrigation Fab-Labs, adapted from the the Fab-Lab (fabrication laboratory) concept, born at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Irrigation Fab-Labs will tackle key innovation targets specific to each Site-iHub. The project Fab-Labs will cover a range of challenges relevant in the respective study sites, from on-field irrigation management under complex soil conditions to the operation of open channel and pipe networks to conserve water and energy, passing by water accounting and return flow monitoring for environmental protection.
The Site-iHubs will build upon the Fab-Labs and other local capacities to create an open basket containing innovations at different technology readiness levels (TRL). The aim is to complete multiple innovation chains during the project duration.
The Site-iHubs and their innovation baskets will be inter-connected and shared within the Med-iHub, thus the innovations are exchangeable and the serendipitous environment is widened in space and time, during the project duration and beyond. Med-iHub will be a collaborative platform that will be developed as a web platform within the project to pool all ideas, reflections, methods and tools, innovation process and performance assessment generated by the project. Moreover, the Med-iHub will include a dynamic system to follow up the progress of every innovation chain, monitoring their TRL at each project stage.
The organization of the project around both site-iHubs in representative study sites with their corresponding Fab-Labs, and its structure in 6 Work Packages, is conceived specifically for multi-actor and multidisciplinary participatory action research. Researchers in the consortium include agronomists, sociologists, innovation experts, socio-economists, hydrologists and irrigation engineers. Not all partners have all expertise; however, the organization of WPs (including coordination, leadership and inter-partner links) has been thought to foster interaction and complementarity of expertise among partners.