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Fairs and other events

ENRD at the Smart Specialisation strategies for rural innovation
21-22-23 October 2013, Fundão, Portugal


The ENRD Contact Point was invited to participate in the thematic workshop “Smart Specialisation Strategies for Rural Innovation” organized by the S3 platform (Smart Specialisation Platform) in order to bring the experience of the ENRD about examples and practices of innovation in rural areas.

The workshop was organized in partnership between the S3 platform (EC JRC) and the Regional Coordination and Development Commission – Centre (CCDRC) of Portugal’s Centre Region. Around 50 participants between representatives from the EC (DG REGIO and DG AGRI), national and regional authorities (mainly from Portugal and particularly form the Centre Region), academics, researchers, members of development agencies, as well as rural development practitioners (including  LAGs) from across Europe were brought together to discuss about opportunities, challenges and possible solutions for innovation strategies in rural areas.

Please see the link to learn more about the event


The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the opportunities for rural areas in developing and implementing RIS3 (Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation). RIS3 is a strategic approach to economic development through targeted support to Research and Innovation, which implies concentrating resources on key priorities in a region based on the region’s economic potential (rather than spending efforts and investments too thinly). Smart Specialisation involves a process of developing a “vision”, identifying competitive advantages through an “entrepreneurial process of discovery”, setting strategic priorities and, making use of the right policies to maximise the development potential of any region. The introductory presentations highlighted how rural areas are often associated with scarce resources, low levels of innovation and small scale development, even if some of them have successfully built on their strengths and transformed challenges into opportunities. The recognition of the bottom-up growth potential of rural areas opens up new development horizons and the long-term competitiveness and innovation potential of such areas can be boosted by good planning of RIS3 strategy (as demonstrated by the example of the CCDRC which is developing such strategy for the Centre Region of Portugal).

Given this scene-setting, the afternoon discussion focused on identifying opportunities, challenges/problems and possible solutions about implementing RIS3 in rural areas. The session was kicked-off by a collective mind mapping exercise: participants were invited to present their experience and examples of innovation in rural areas and put key issues forward for further consideration. Most popular issues were picked-up to feed the following group discussions (world café) where participants were called to identify opportunities, challenges and possible solutions. Six main themes were tabled for discussion, namely:

  • Digital divide and access to information
  • Education and labour market
  • Governance
  • Social capital and mobilisation
  • Networks and clusters
  • Integrated policy for rural areas

One recurring and interesting point raised was about the role of networks (bottom-up and top-down) to mobilise endogenous resources, identifying real needs and strengths of rural areas and, kick-off innovative processes by linking different actors together. This is very in line with the role of future policy rural development networks and the “interactive innovation model” promoted by the agriculture EIP. The connection was made clear and stressed by DG AGRI’s afternoon intervention about the innovation priority in future RDPs. The workshop stressed the major role the ENRD (at the EU level) and NRNs can have in promoting the adoption of RIS3 in rural areas. On the other hand, the S3 platform –a network in itself – could promote exchange of experiences and innovation models for rural areas which can be then transferred through rural networks.