RAU partners on new centre to boost UK’s rural economies

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is part of a new National Centre which aims to support enterprise, resilience and innovation among rural firms and unlock the untapped potential of rural economies across the UK.

The National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE), announced today (Monday 18 May), is a project consortium led by Newcastle University and including the RAU, the University of Gloucestershire, and the University of Warwick, working closely with business, policy makers and enterprise agencies.

In England alone, rural businesses comprise over half a million enterprises, 3.6 million employees and contribute over £260 billion to GDP. Yet despite this, they are still largely underexplored and underutilised.

The NICRE has been awarded £3.8 million of funding by Research England and aims to help build the capabilities of policy makers, support agencies, rural businesses and their advisers to create resilient and sustainable economies fit for the 21st century.

Though the decision to fund NICRE was taken before the outbreak of Covid-19, its work will help to understand the ongoing impacts in rural areas and inform recovery. The Centre will begin its work formally this September, but the current crisis means its partners are already working to support the national response to the pandemic.

Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the RAU said: “With the impact of Covid-19, now more than ever, we’re seeing the challenges facing rural businesses and communities; but we are also seeing their distinct strengths and their incredible capacity to adapt. This new Centre is about playing to these needs and strengths.

“Sharing research innovation, learning and best practice is the backbone to building resilience for the future. Through our involvement with the development of NICRE, we are looking forward to working with our research colleagues at the University of Gloucestershire and other partner universities, as well as businesses, policy makers, enterprise agencies and communities, to strengthen rural enterprise locally and across the UK.”

The RAU will be providing expertise to the project though the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) which is based at the University of Gloucestershire’s Cheltenham campus. Operated in partnership with the RAU, the CCRI is recognised as one of the leading social science research institutes in the country specialising in understanding rural communities and economies, and how they can be supported to develop.

A key focus for NICRE will be to identify and release rural contributions to our country’s long term challenges and opportunities – an ageing society, need for clean growth, future mobility and the data revolution - identified as Grand Challenges in the UK’s Industrial Strategy.  

More information about NICRE is available on the website.