Whether farming strategies built on continuing input intensification or relying on integrated natural resource management are more sustainable and competitive is at the core of the agricultural development debate. The five‐year (2011–16) Sustainable Organic and Low Input Dairying (SOLID) project, funded by the European Commission, involved 25 partners across 10 European countries and was designed to support innovation in European organic and low‐input dairy farming. Results show that such systems are very diverse, and need tailor‐made farm‐specific strategies and related policy measures. This article shows that low‐input dairying has country‐specific farm characteristics, and is potentially competitive when compared to more intensive dairying systems. Certified organic dairy farms commonly receive a price premium. Such market differentiation to attract a premium is not currently an eligible strategy for low‐input systems, but cost savings on input use are possible. Both low‐input and organic dairy farming systems can adopt innovative farming strategies to improve competitiveness. SOLID adopted a participatory approach for research and dissemination, by undertaking innovative science to answer practical problems. In working with farmers and other stakeholders, methodologies were developed to identify opportunities and novel strategies to enhance profitability, such as changes in breeding and feeding strategies, and provide support systems for on‐farm use.