A new National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) by Newcastle University and partners is hoped to foster innovation, resilience and enterprise among rural firms through research and knowledge exchange.
Led by experts from Newcastle, Warwick, Gloucestershire and the Royal Agricultural Universities, the centre will launch in September 2020 and has been awarded £3.8 million by Research England.
Centre director, Jeremy Phillipson, professor of rural development at Newcastle University, said ‘a thriving rural economy is crucial to the future prosperity, well-being and resilience of communities across the UK’.
Mr Phillipson said: “The need to encourage and release the dynamism and untapped potential of rural areas is even greater now with the combined uncertainty of Brexit and impacts of Covid-19 and what the implications will be, not just for rural areas, but for the UK economy as a whole.
“Our aim is to strengthen the evidence base relating to rural innovation and enterprise to encourage more effective policy making and support for rural firms and communities at local and national levels.
“We will work actively with businesses, rural communities and economic development agencies at the local level to share learning and test new approaches to innovation and enterprise."
In England, rural businesses comprise more than half a million enterprises, with 3.6 million employees and contributing £260 billion to GDP.
A key focus for NICRE will be identifying and releasing rural contributors to the ‘country’s long term challenges and opportunities’, such as an ageing society, need for clean growth, future mobility and the data revolution.
Richard Baker, head of strategy and policy at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “NICRE’s multi-disciplinary approach, which will combine research programmes and evaluation of practice in delivery, offers a unique opportunity to tackle both opportunities and deep-seated economic challenges in our rural communities.
“It could not be timelier as we work together to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and plan the North East’s recovery programme, and consider changes ahead in rural policy now we have left the European Union.
"It is also good that through NICRE we will be able to work with other rural regions across England to learn from the experience of different places."
More information about NIRCE can be found here