Business support project launched in the North of Tyne region aimed at developing solutions to support local rural communities

It can be wrongly assumed that the rural economy is all about agriculture or land-based activities. However, we know that in practice, the rural economy is much more diverse. The Rural Design Centre Innovation Project has been developed to bring rural communities, business, public sector and research together to identify issues being faced and providing bespoke support and grants to local SMEs, supporting them to develop new products and services in response.

Support provided in the short time since project activity commenced at the end of 2020, has seen funding secured for feasibility studies to go ahead on local community buildings in a step towards greener energy generation thanks to the Rural Community Energy Fund, administered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Fourteen community buildings across rural Northumberland have been given the green light to find out what they can do to lower their heating and maintenance costs and become more sustainable by having on-site renewable energy. Studies for the generation, management and storage of renewable energy will provide much needed options for these communities in their bid to make their buildings warmer, more sustainable and more usable for the whole community.

Facilitated by the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project, communities from across Northumberland were brought together for a virtual workshop, where they had a chance to vocalise the issues they’re facing, and, led by Community Action Northumberland, the successful bid was developed. Local companies have been brought on board to undertake these feasibility studies and in turn these buildings will be retro-fitted to enable year-round sustainable usage.

The project has also delivered a successful virtual event, ‘Delivering the Goods’ in partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) and Food and Drink North East (FADNE) aimed at supporting businesses in the food and drink sector to move towards a more eco-friendly offering. The event provided support around the development of sustainable packaging and cutlery for take-out food and home deliveries, how to make changes to production processes to realise full net-zero potential and investigated specific barriers to low-carbon and low-emission delivery.

Work is continuing to develop both these projects, and many more, over the coming years and we look forward to sharing more good news through this forum.

The Rural Design Centre Innovation Project is a collaboration between Advance Northumberland, Innovation SuperNetwork and Northumbria University and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and part-funded by The North of Tyne Combined Authority. Find out more about the project by visiting the website -


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