11 October 2022

Collaboration pledge to tackle rural challenges and unlock potential

Commitment to work closer together

Efforts to tackle the challenges facing rural areas in the North East have been bolstered by a commitment from key players to further collaborate.

Organisations and individuals involved in last week’s Rural Catalyst Conference in Northumberland pledged to work closer together to unlock the potential in rural businesses and communities.

This includes possible transport solutions to help rural employers attract employees where travel options are limited and car-dependent, innovative ways to deliver more personalised mental health and social care, and ideas for promoting responsible tourism.  

Organised by the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project (RDCIP) and the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE), the conference championed the rich diversity of the rural economy and rural businesses’ ability to be resilient and adapt in response to crisis. Through showcasing six Northumberland firms, it also celebrated national-leading innovation in rural enterprise.

The conference was part of the Rural Catalyst initiative, a collaboration between Rural Design Centre (RDC), which delivers RDCIP, and NICRE to tackle the challenges facing rural areas through research, innovation, design and community engagement.

New ways and ideas

Simon Green, CEO at the RDC, said: “While these are turbulent times for all parts of the UK, rural areas face many different challenges from urban centres, and it is only by collaborating that we can tackle those that are particularly affecting our rural communities and businesses.

“I am delighted that there has been an agreement from all parties at the conference to continue to work in partnership to co-develop new innovative ways to help address these, and new ideas to unlock rural potential.”

NICRE director Jeremy Phillipson, Professor of Rural Development at the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University, said: “Building from the pandemic, it is evident how much our rural businesses and their associated households and communities showed their capacity to innovate, be resilient and adapt in response to the crisis.

“It is these qualities, coupled with an enterprising outlook, which offer grounds for hope in the challenging times we face as rural areas are particularly exposed to the cost of living and business crisis.

“However, if we are to innovate to solve challenges and realise opportunities, we must also innovate in the way in which we work together and share expertise and ideas, from within communities and businesses, and beyond. This is fundamentally at the heart of the Rural Catalyst mission, and I am pleased that it was supported at the conference.”

Workshops, speeches and innovative businesses

Alongside the workshops on challenges faced by rural businesses and communities, an overview of rural enterprise nationally and regionally was given at the conference by Margaret Clark, chair of Rural Coalition, Prof Stephen Roper, director of the Enterprise Research Centre, and Dinah Jackson, head of projects at RDC and NICRE.

The event, held at Charlton Hall, near Alnwick, and screened online, also hosted a debate on the future of the rural North East, chaired by Lord Curry of Kirkharle.

The innovative businesses featured were Bedmax (near Belford); Calibrate Energy Engineering (near Belford); Culture Creative (Belford); The First & Last Brewery (Bellingham); Tights, Tights, Tights (Morpeth) and Pilgrims Coffee (Holy Island).

The videos will be hosted on NICRE’s website www.nicre.co.uk and shared on social media @NICRErural. In the meantime, watch the trailer to get a flavour.

To find out more about RDCIP, visit www.rural-innovation.co.uk, and NICRE, visit www.nicre.co.uk


Caption: Lord Curry of Kirkharle (centre), who chaired the debate on the future of the rural North East at the Rural Catalyst Conference, with NICRE’s Prof Jeremy Phillipson (left) and RDC’s Simon Green (right).