What is the future of rural areas? LIVERUR: Innovative solutions based on a circular economy

23 July 2018 | Higher Education and Research, News

Europe faces the challenge of creating smart, inclusive and sustainable growth at a time when an ageing population will leave 47 million fewer working-age people by 2060. It is visioned, that over the same period, over 100 million of Europeans will leave rural areas for cities, such migration has very negative impact on the agri-food sector, which has already declined from supporting more than 54 million jobs a decade ago to 45 million todays.

There is an urgent need to extend the growth agenda beyond smarter cities to include Europe’s rural regions which account for 77% of the continent.

As so, the challenge is to develop models of growth and empower rural regions to capitalize on their distinctive territorial know how and turn diversity and demographic change into strengths.

Europe must act both to secure the future of the agri-food sector and to support rural regions in finding new forms of sustainable growth. Solutions to the challenge faced by rural regions are being developed at the local level in the form of Living Labs schemes that take advantage of unique local resources to create new business models and tools that generate sustainable local growth and prosperity.

However, such initiatives remain scarce and many rural regions do not have specific skills to foster such social innovation.

To truly take advantage of social innovation as an engine of rural growth, Europe needs a mechanism for understanding the unique characteristics of each region and the tools to deliver tailored social innovation programmes on the ground.

23 partners from 13 countries join their experience and started the Living Lab research concept in Rural Areas project – LIVERUR with the Kick off meeting on 26th June in Murcia (Spain).

Challenges and key concepts of the projects were discussed, Murcia region rural areas were visited to collect existing rural experiences – Foundation of Pedro Cano, company of organic fertilizers in Abarán, agricultural cooperative in Cieza – and the work plan for the next six months is confirmed.

LIVERUR in action

LIVERUR project faces the new challenges in the rural economy as a part of the global businesses. From one side, providing business models for the citizens, from other side, it manages the socio-economic networks among the increasingly demanding customers and markets when it comes to sustainability.

This poses a framework for LIVERUR:

  • to decouple growth from resource use,
  • to support the pathway from linear to circular economy,
  • to identify the collaborative consumption,
  • to increase the social networks rethinking finance in the overall value chain, creating for the SMAEs (Small – Medium Agricultural Enterprises) entrepreneurs a new open mind to innovation.

LIVERUR aims at modernising the small – medium rural businesses present in the European territory. LIVERUR goal is introducing the Rural Living Lab research methodology in SMAEs framework, in order to identify and analyse various business model approaches, to that create added value, social cohesion, jobs, stakeholders’ integration, actors’ inclusiveness.

Describing the Living Lab concept

 Living labs are user-centred, open-innovation ICT enabled ecosystems often operating in a territorial context integrating concurrent research and innovation process within a quadruple (Government, Industry/Agriculture, Citizens, Academia) public-private-people partnership.[1]


Starting with the first results

The upcoming months the Consortium will dedicate to collection and analysis of the existing business models that are operating at the European and regional, local levels; systemization of benchmarking criteria in order to compare traditional value – chain approaches; report on weakness and challenges of existing rural business models, aiming to conceptualize the existing rural business models in EU and regional areas.

More than twenty different outcomes will be developed and disseminated by the partners in the frame of the project lifespan.

[1] This definition has been developed by the consortium during the elaboration of LIVERUR, since no unique and encompassing definition was available.

About the project

LIVERUR – Living Lab research concept in Rural Areas has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement No 773757.

The project aims at expanding an extremely innovative business model called Living Labs (LL) among the rural regions.

For further information

Read more about LIVERUR.

Follow us on Twitter@LIVERUR and Facebook.

Contact Jelena Mazaj, jelena.mazaj@cesie.org.

The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.