On 30 June 2021, the European Commission set out a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas over the next two decades. It identifies a number of areas of action towards stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas and communities by 2040.
Within this framework – and namely as part of the preparation for the flagship action on research and innovation for rural communities, this launch event of the Startup Village Forum is specifically aimed at gathering both high-level political impulse and insights on challenges and potentials for rural startups. Bringing together both science-based and community-based knowledge and experiences, the event seeks to provide knowledge on rural innovative start-ups, the types of innovations they are involved in, the gaps in the services that they expect from innovation ecosystems and how these could be strengthened in the future.
It should also contribute to raising awareness of the entrepreneurs on the existing opportunities they may benefit from. Finally, it should help to provide a common understanding of the concept of Startup Village, how it relates to the concept of smart village and pave the way for further editions over the coming years.
«Successful startup ecosystems are embedded in networks of founders and partners. Partners such as investors, accelerators, universities, companies, and public administrations.
Therefore, we need the support of all the stakeholders present here with us, in this important launch event of the Startup Village Forum.
And I would like to invite public and private organisations: from corporates to startups and foundations, to ‘pledge’ your support to the Startup Village initiative.
We have opened a section in the web site of this Forum where you can indicate the support you can provide. Your pledges can be financial but also in-kind, such as provision of co-working spaces, IT infrastructure or know-how, such as coaching or training.
I see this call for pledges as a main channel to gather commitment from public and especially from private organisations for Startup Villages. They will be important to build a real long-term vision for rural areas, anchored in the territories.»
European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
“Today’s launch of the Start-up Village Forum is a new beginning for rural areas. It is a reflection of the importance that the Commission attaches to supporting rural areas, because it is in rural areas that the demographic transition is most visible. Through the Start-up Village Forum we want the best and brightest of Europe to remain in these and contribute to building prosperity as they grow their start-up companies to real long term drivers of our economy, all while using the natural potential of Europe’s rural areas.”
Vice-President for Demography and Democracy.
“Today, rural areas offer a wealth of opportunities to seize, as laid out in the long-term vision for rural areas. Fostering rural innovation should largely contribute to the green and digital transition, benefiting our rural communities, our farmers and society as a whole. The Start-up Village Forum plays an important role, by connecting start-ups, rural actors and public authorities to share knowledge and experiences. I look forward to this year’s discussions and upcoming editions.”
Commissioner for Agriculture.
The EU’s rural areas are a core component of the European way of life. They are home to around 140 million people, representing around 30% of the EU’s population and over 80% of the EU’s territory.
Yet, over the last decades, social and economic changes such as globalisation and urbanisation have affected rural areas, leading in some areas to population decline and ageing. The COVID-19 pandemic with its asymmetrical impact on European territories has added uncertainty to vulnerability while opening new promising perspectives. Many Europeans are worried about the erosion of rural infrastructure and service provision, including access to healthcare, social services and education as well as to postal and banking services. Others express concerns about shrinking employment opportunities and possible drop in income in rural areas or limited transport and digital connectivity that limits access to markets.
However, in this looming context, rural areas can turn vulnerabilities into opportunities. For instance, numerous talented professionals are moving towards rural areas, attracted to their better quality of life and access to green spaces – and talent attraction and retention can be seen a key building block of flourishing rural innovation ecosystems.
The long—term vision for rural areas recognizes the key enabling role innovation can play to empower citizens and businesses to seize these opportunities. It also recognizes that rural innovation is currently under-valued and that innovation ecosystems need to be improved.
In order to tackle the challenges and reap the opportunities for wellbeing and growth related to innovation in rural areas, the long-term vision has put in place a flagship action on research and innovation for rural communities. The flagship action includes support for the development of innovations by and for rural communities as well as enhancing training opportunities and fostering knowledge exchange and cooperation among rural innovators.
This knowledge exchange and cooperation currently takes place within “Rural networks” (soon to become the CAP networks) including the European innovation partnership on agriculture productivity and sustainability (EIP-AGRI) and the European network for rural development (ENRD), actions conducted in the context of the EU action on smart villages, and the thematic smart specialisation partnerships on agri-food.
The annual Startup Village Forum is part of the implementation of this flagship action. Its first edition will take place in 2022. It will complement the knowledge exchange and cooperation activities by focusing on the needs of startups and entrepreneurs that may not be covered to their full potential, especially in sectors outside of farming, forestry and related value chains. To this end, the forum aims at: (i) supporting the further development of rural innovation ecosystems; (ii) identifying and analysing triggering factors for innovation in rural areas; and (iii) connecting rural innovation actors across the EU with a focus on start-ups. It is intended to work as an open space where institutions and stakeholders can meet, discuss and shape action for start-up-driven innovation in rural areas.
This launch event of the Startup Village Forum is specifically aimed at gathering both high-level political impulse and insights on challenges and potentials for rural startups Bringing together both science-based and community-based knowledge and experiences, the event seeks to provide knowledge on rural innovative start-ups, the types of innovations they are involved in, the gaps in the services that they expect from innovation ecosystems and how these could be strengthened in the future.
A recent European Commission communication adopted on 30 June 2021 sets out a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas up to 2040. It identifies areas of action towards stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas and communities. A Rural Pact will mobilise public authorities, and stakeholders to act on the needs and aspirations of rural residents. The accompanying EU Rural Action Plan will foster territorial cohesion and create new opportunities to attract innovative businesses, provide access to quality jobs, promote new and improved skills, ensure better infrastructure and services, and leverage the role of sustainable agriculture and diversified economic activities.