08 March 2023

Empowering rural women-led innovation

Empowering rural women-led innovation

This International Women’s Day, the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) and its founding research partner the Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) at Newcastle University are promoting their involvement in a major new European project that aims to empower rural women.

GRASS Ceiling, a €2.8m project funded by the European Union under the Horizon Europe programme, plans to increase the number of socio-ecological innovations led by women in agriculture, the rural economy and rural communities.

NICRE and CRE are leading the UK ‘living lab’, aimed at rural women innovators, which is one of nine being set up in countries across Europe. Each will train six to eight women and establish a network-learning and innovation system that will support women innovators, strengthen and measure their innovative identity, and transform gender norms and stereotypes by sharing and capturing insights on rural women-innovator policy and practical experience.

NICRE and CRE’s ‘living lab’ is in Scotland and led by NICRE’s business development manager Melanie Thompson-Glen based at Newcastle University, in partnership with the Scottish Crofting Federation. It will explore how effectively a Scottish Government programme to advance the position of women in agriculture has reached the remote region of the Highlands and Islands.

Melanie said: “Women play a major role at NICRE, making up almost 60 per cent of our team across our three centres, and I’m proud to be leading this project and helping to empower women’s innovation in rural communities.

“International Women’s Day is about equal opportunities and the role of digital inclusion, availability of training, and skills will be core to our activities – challenges not only being faced in remote and island communities, but in rural areas across the UK.”

The other ‘living labs’ will be created in Ireland, Croatia, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

GRASS Ceiling is led by South East Technological University (SETU) and brings together 25 partners. The project commenced in January 2023 and will run until December 2025. Find out more.