Rural Europe ‘ripe for revival’ under dynamic project

Irish Rural Link is one of 16 partners, across 11 countries, involved in a new European initiative working to identify the vital ingredients for developing rural entrepreneurship and successful business models in high potential sectors.

Such sectors include: food; agriculture; bio-based value chains; and eco-system services.

Replicable Business Models for Modern Rural Economies – RUBIZMO – is an EU Horizon 2020-funded project.

Louise Lennon, policy and communications officer at Irish Rural Link, which is based in Moate, Co. Westmeath said the objective of the project is to generate jobs and growth in highly diverse rural areas.

“RUBIZMO will identify 50 successful business cases and 20 new business models. It will also explore conditions for replication to develop four practical user-oriented tools,” said Lennon.

“Every partner in the project will then identify other EU-funded and cross-border projects, with good business models.

“Irish Rural Link will then integrate projects, as well as local business models, at this stage,” she said.

We will lead the task in testing and validating business tools that will be developed following the analysis of business models.

“We will be involved in various stages – including work packaging, design and master class modules for rural entrepreneurs.

“Within this work package we will lead on the task of designing and developing a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ scheme that can be used for training sessions for multipliers and supporting actors,” said Lennon.

Global challenge to rural areas

Rural areas, a spokesperson for RUBIZMO said, cover over 50% of Europe’s surface; and are also home to over 20% of its population.

“They host the continent’s natural resources, nurture its biodiversity and feature spectacular landscapes. They also play an important role in Europe’s economy, with the agricultural sector in particular supporting millions of jobs.”

However, rural areas face numerous challenges, the RUBIZMO spokesperson said.

Global competition, automation, changing markets and environmental challenges are all having an impact on rural activities.

“To help address these issues, an international team of business innovators, investor gateways, researchers and NGOs created RUBIZMO business models for modern rural economies. It is a collaborative project to identify the best initiatives and conditions for supporting rural jobs and growth,” the spokesperson said.

Dynamic

RUBIZMO contends that a new set of dynamics means rural economies are ripe for change.

New communication technologies to support collaboration, shifting value chains and a growing acknowledgement of biodiversity and climate change mitigation, all present significant opportunities,” the spokesperson said.

Experts from across Europe will be examining how ‘hot spots’ for business success in this environment can be nurtured and eventually recreated elsewhere.

“The rural economy holds great potential for pioneering deeply embedded sustainability and social return on investment in business models.

“RUBIZMO will highlight the best business models and initiatives that create value for the economy, environment and society in equal measure,” the spokesperson said.

The European initiative will focus on three key elements:
  • Identifying and analysing promising business models and collaborative networks;
  • Providing easy access overviews of ‘hot spots’ for business innovation and practical support tools for entrepreneurs, local networks and policy makers to adopt them;
  • Active coaching of entrepreneurs and peer-to-peer training.

These actions will be carefully crafted with local networks to build on local strengths and enhance existing initiatives, the spoksperson said.

“This will give a new lease of life to promising steps taken by different regional, national and European programmes.”

Over the next three years, the project aims to help rural communities become more economically and socially resilient. Follow the project’s steps and insights on Twitter @RUBIZMO.