HRH Prince of Wales welcomes ‘Rural Catalyst’ initiative

HRH the Prince of Wales has highlighted the importance of work underway to tackle rural issues and foster rural innovation by welcoming the ‘Rural Catalyst’ collaboration between the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) and the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project (RDCIP).

He gave a pre-recorded message at the first Rural Catalyst Conference earlier this month where more than 175 businesses, community groups and academic representatives met physically and online at the Alnwick Garden in Northumberland to problem solve issues facing rural areas.

The event shone a spotlight on the real-life issues that residents and businesses face in rural North East England and beyond and the partnership work taking place to tackle these.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle, conference chair, said:

“I am delighted that the first Rural Catalyst Conference was a huge success. It was brilliant to see so many people at the Alnwick Garden, in-person and virtually, and witness first-hand the enthusiasm and drive that exists to foster rural innovation.

“The issues facing our rural communities are of deep concern and it is only by working in partnership that we can tackle these. The conference was a celebration of that, and it was fantastic to showcase the many initiatives already taking place which are making a difference to the lives of people living and working in rural areas.”

Speakers included Sarah Dunning, the driving force behind the Westmorland family business which runs Tebay and Gloucester services, BBC News rural affairs correspondent and Countryfile presenter Tom Heap and Anna Price, co-founder of the Rural Business Awards and Group.

Prof Jeremy Phillipson, director of NICRE, said:

“We know that rural businesses and communities face a lot of different challenges. Whether it’s around mobility, transition to net zero or clean growth, the only way we’re going to address these is through partnership and bringing together different types of expertise.”

Simon Green, CEO of the Rural Design Centre, said:

“People in the North East are so open to working together and it’s crucial that, if we are going to come up with solutions to some of these problems, we are willing to work outside our own organisations and bring in new ideas from different places. That’s what the conference was all about.”

The conference culminated in physical attendees working together on landscape change, net zero, rural mobility and high streets to delve deeper into the topics of the day and generate ideas to take forward for future projects.

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