Exploring rural enterprise hubs


Newcastle University has a long track-record of researching the role and impact of rural enterprise hubs. These are physical infrastructures designed to support rural businesses by providing workspaces, meeting rooms, kitchen facilities, networking groups and learning seminars.

NICRE has extended this research to explore the role these hubs play in integrating rural areas into wider regional systems and considered alternative models for business support provision to these places.

Key findings

Rural enterprise hubs bring a range of benefits to their tenants.

By increasing physical proximity between rural businesses, organisational, cognitive, social, institutional and market proximities are also gained. Separation from the home environment was also highly beneficial for tenants.

Tenants’ well-being improves by entering the hub, including increases in relatedness, autonomy and competence (the three factors of self-determination theory).

Improvements in well-being, alongside increases in productivity, is seen among tenants who chose to move into the hubs as they were previously home-based and unsatisfied with their working environments and patterns.

‘Honey pot’ hubs welcome members of the public onto the premises and often have a focus on the creative industries and retail.

These bring an additional set of benefits to their creative tenants and could be an important mechanism for tourist and heritage sites.

Hubs are one part of a wider entrepreneurial ecosystem which can help raise the productivity of rural economies.

Hubs provide a direct link into the business support system and provide a range of opportunities to tenants (access to networks, collaborations and knowledge exchange).

The role of the manager in providing these opportunities and encouraging tenants to interact is a vital determinant of success.

Conclusions and recommendations

Hubs and coworking spaces may prove even more popular as a result of the drastic effects Covid-19 has had on work patterns and therefore further work is required, especially quantitative research on the economic effects of hubs for their tenants and wider economy.

Two managerial strategies can be pursued – to become a honey pot (business to customer-focused) or hive (business to business focused) hub, each with their own set of advantages.

Key recommendations of the research are:

  • Local authorities, third sector organisations and private companies should look to creating hubs in their areas to provide key services to often isolated rural businesses.
  • The competence and proactivity of the manager is essential to make the hub more than merely a workplace. Training should be provided/acquired to help the individual become a successful manager.