The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Step change in rural enterprise evidence base

Pictured left to right are: Jason Beedell, Strutt and Parker, Jeremy Phillipson, NICRE Director, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, Ulrike Hotopp, NICRE Policy Advisor, and Lee Davies, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Pictured left to right are: Jason Beedell, Strutt and Parker, Jeremy Phillipson, NICRE Director, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, Ulrike Hotopp, NICRE Policy Advisor, and Lee Davies, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

With national stakeholders at an event in London, the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) highlighted the importance of evidencing how rural enterprises are adapting and innovating through an ever-changing business environment.

NICRE discussed the implications of its major rural business survey with key figures from policy, business and community and voluntary sectors at ‘The State of Rural Enterprise: Adapting and Innovating through Change’, chaired by Lord Curry of Kirkharle.

To complement the data, stakeholders heard directly from rural businesses about the challenges they face and debated the potential opportunities for the rural economy by better connecting with the innovation ecosystem.

NICRE director Jeremy Phillipson, Professor of Rural Development at one of its founding academic partners the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University, said:

“Through our landmark State of Rural Enterprise (SORE) Reports and wider portfolio of work, NICRE and its partners are contributing to a step change in the national rural economy evidence base, and it was a privilege to share our latest findings at The Shard.

“Coupled with insights from rural enterprises and contributions from policy, business and community and voluntary sector figures, our event demonstrated the importance of bringing a rural lens to key policy agendas and strengthening partnerships locally, regionally and nationally.”

NICRE’s second large-scale rural business survey – as previewed at this year’s RSN National Rural Conference – focuses on the impact of rising costs, and the challenges of the climate emergency and skills and labour availability in rural economies, as well as local opportunities for growth and farm business performance. The first report from the survey carried out over the summer – The cost-of-doing-business crisis: rural impacts and adaptation – was published last month with more to follow over the coming weeks.

Rural business insights were given by Neil Harrison, from Reheat in Northumberland, and Duncan Peake, from Raby Estates in Country Durham and Shropshire, as part of a conversation at the event, and Northumberland-based Breamish Valley Cottages and Stroud Brewery in Gloucestershire in the form of videos.


Watch NICRE’s business insights videos

Rachel Laver, from Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, Rebecca Hyrslova, from Federation of Small Businesses, and Georgina Edwards, from Plunkett Foundation, reflected on the implications of NICRE’s SORE results for the policy and business support landscape and its connection to rural enterprises in a panel.

Following an overview of NICRE’s work to catalyse rural innovation by collaborating with partners on a series of testbed projects, including showcasing a project to energise community resilience in Northumberland, Michelle Marshalian, of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development presented an international perspective.


Watch NICRE’s energising community resilience video

The second panel saw Tom MacMillan, from Royal Agricultural University, Ian Brown, from Chestnut Natural Capital, Alexandra Lowe, from Innovate UK, and Janet Dwyer, from the Countryside and Community Research Institute, discuss the links between the rural economy and the innovation ecosystem.

The day concluded with reflections from Lee Davies, from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Jason Beedell, from Strutt and Parker, and NICRE policy advisor Ulrike Hotopp.

Professor Phillipson added:

“The benefit of national collaboration and partnership in building the evidence base around rural enterprise and innovation, not least in pulling together leading research capabilities of our founding research partners at the Centre for Rural Economy and Business School at Newcastle University, Enterprise Research Centre at the University of Warwick, and Countryside and Community Research Institute at Gloucestershire and Royal Agricultural Universities, is at the heart of NICRE.”

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