NICRE and the Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) at Newcastle University are involved in a major 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’ in Scotland, aimed at rural women innovators, which is one of nine being set up in countries across Europe.

In partnership with the Scottish Crofting Federation, the Lab is exploring attitudes to innovation in the Highlands and Islands area, providing women with a set of tools to support their ideas and drive future innovations across a three-year programme of support.

The Lab was launched at the 2023 Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh where it was supported by George Burgess, the Scottish Government's Interim Director of Agriculture and Rural Economy.

The Scotland Living Lab

The Scotland Living Lab is based in the crofting areas of the Highlands and Islands, with the eight women participating in the Lab spread across the region. The participants will meet nine times over the course of the project and have one-to-one sessions with the Living Lab facilitators. Beyond interactions with facilitators from NICRE and SCF, the Lab also brings in expertise from and feeds back to key stakeholders, including the Scottish Government, the Soil Association, Farm Advisory Service, Wester-Ross Biosphere, NatureScot, Crofting Commission and Northern Innovation Hub and the Impact Hub, Inverness.

Information about the Living Labs will be available throughout the project, include profiles of the participants and updates from Lab meetings.

Use the links below to see a summary poster about the Scotland Living Lab and a profile of one of the lab participants, Beth, from Birchwood Croft.

Lab meetings

The first Lab took place in Ullapool in June 2023 - see Kick-starting journey of rural innovation in Scotland - and the second in October - see Progress from the Grass Ceiling Scotland Living Lab. There was an online version in December with the first in-person Lab of 2024 taking place in March. To find out more, contact Melanie Thompson-Glen.

Grass Ceiling research

Grass Ceiling includes a range of academic research and policy work beyond the Living Labs, which will be made available throughout the three-year project. Please use the links below to explore project reports and policy briefs as they become available.