The 11th Rural Development Conference, run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), discussed how innovation can help rural areas and people respond to the challenges of globalisation, shifting trading patterns, and growing inequality.
It brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss better policies for rural regions and exchange on how to make the most of rural innovation opportunities for job creation, economic growth, and service delivery. It built on the Cork 2.0 Declaration and the OECD’s New Rural Policy.
The event was co-hosted by the Scottish Government, with the support of the European Commission and the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Both the ENRD Contact Point and the Scottish Rural Network support unit were actively involved in the organisation of the event.
The ENRD Contact Point facilitated the six workshops of the event’s pre-conference on topics including: global value chains; smart rural communities; technologies to face climate change; skills of the future; business support; and future governance – find the presentations below.
This is my speech at the 11th OECD Rural Development Conference – 9-12 April 2018 ｜ Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Small businesses in rural areas are a critical element of a country’s economy. According to the Small business Administration, 60% of new jobs in US for example, can be attributed to small businesses in rural areas. However half of them will fail within the first five years, due to poor management, poorly developed strategies and lack of expertise and planning.
There are certain disadvantages of doing business in rural areas such as administration burden, infrastructure, shortage of skilled labor, thin networks etc. but on the other hand SMEs can often benefit from communities support, existence of natural resources, usually less competition than in cities, lower fix costs and we should not forget their irreplaceable role in job creation where clearly outperform their urban counterparts in terms of employment growth.
I come from countries where around 90% of companies are SMEs with less than 10 employees and with the continuing decline of employment in agriculture and other traditional rural industries, the identification and encouragement of new sources of jobs for those living in rural communities must become a key priority in development.
Debating for enterprises in rural areas, I often wonder what will look like in the near future and how we should approach technologies that will influence –for instance- the development of food production globally (because this is my segment) , how to create, to capture and maintain value.
But better to leave aside my crystal ball, life always knows better, technology is advancing rapidly and all we need to do is go with the flow
In my opinion Agriculture and food chain in general is the key-segment that SMEs need to invest –again- in rural areas and the powerful global food chain industry will inspire new ideas and nurture new methods to support sustainability in this regard.
Technologies to increase productivity, technologies for the rational use of water and nutrients, contractual agriculture with processors and banks, friendly environmental processes, to apply the ‘more with less’ principle for achieving food sufficiency, are the passwords to trigger the formation of new SMEs within next 20 years…
We know that EU for instance will focus on growth and employment based on sustainability and there are many funding opportunities related to innovation in agriculture and food chain. The main priority of US policy on the other hand, detailed in Millennium Project 2002, is to increase agricultural production in order to cover the nutritional needs of the continuously growing world
Agricultural yields and value for land remain mostly unaffected by inflation in developed rural economies and usually higher than inflation rates
Higher demand for food, water scarcity, nitrogen contents, less energy costs, less contamination, lower environmental impact in general, all these challenges are great opportunities for smart SMEs in rural areas to generate resources and succeed added values!
Promoting innovation by supporting agricultural research and the diffusion of new ideas through knowledge transfer networks and operating groups, is the direction which will improve the overall productivity of the rural areas rather than simply redistributing jobs from other sectors of the economy.
So, I believe that there are two pillars that should be promoted by the central administration if we want to embrace this direction