Summer School on Rural Enterprise, Heritage and Tourism Development – Registration is open!

Five European Union funded Horizon 2020 projects – Rubizmo, Ruritage, Ruralization, Liverur and Polirural focusing on Rural Enterprise, Tourism and Heritage Development have come together to offer a free short online Summer School over the mornings on July 13th, July 20th, July 27th and August 3rd.

The aim of the programme is to showcase some of the more significant rural development tools that have been developed by these projects in recent years can be used in a wide range of influential roles across rural leadership especially in coaching, teaching, policy making and advisory contexts.

This programme is targeted at teachers, lecturers, rural enterprises and agriculture & business advisors as well as activists, policy makers and leaders in rural community development. If you have an influential role in rural development, participation in this summer school will equip you to use the most innovative rural development tools in your practice that have been developed by these four Horizon 2020 projects.

Workshops take place online (via zoom) on July 13th, July 20th, July 27th and August 3rd from 10:30 to 1:15pm CET. This programme is free to attend but registration in advance is necessary and is possible for individual or all sessions. After registration you will receive some short introductory material in advance of each session which will help you make the most of these short interactive workshops.

Register here to participate. You can find here more information about the online Summer School.

Presentation of PoliRural project at the TV show YPAITHROS

On the 2nd of June, 2021, the TV show YPAITHROS that is broadcasted by the local channel of the Region of Central Greece, STAR, hosted four members of the Greek pilot, Ms. Ioanna Kalyva, Head of Project Management Department at GAIA ΕPΙCHEΙRΕΙΝ, Ms. Nikoleta Darra, Research Associate of the Agricultural University of Athens, Ms. Panagiota Louka, Scientific Advisor on Program Management at NEUROPUBLIC and Ms Athanasia Dampasi, Scientific Associate Region of CentraL Greece, on a discussion concerning PoliRural project.

During the virtual meeting, the prevailing rural conditions across Europe and the factors that led to the creation of the project as well as its objectives were initially described. The implementation and the methods followed were analyzed, as well as the current outcomes and the main factors that affect the rural development of the area were described. In addition, proposals that can provide solutions to the problems faced by the inhabitants of the prefecture were presented.

Particular emphasis was placed on the incentives that can be given to young people to choose to stay permanently in the rural area as well as the factors that can be developed to improve the livelihoods of the existing residents of the province. More specifically, the described incentives concern the existence of the possibility of scientific and professional training of the inhabitants, the existence of technological infrastructures but also lower taxes.

Last but not least, an attempt is made to assess the future situation that will prevail in the Region of Central Greece through the use of models that take into account both qualitative and quantitative parameters but also possible changes related to demographic change, the effects of climate change, technological development and possible policies that can to be implemented.

You can watch the video in Greek here.

PoliRural Semex (Semantic Explorer) Video

PoliRural has developed a Semantic Explorer (Semex.io) tool based on Text Mining, capable of extracting information from unstructured data and display the results on clear graphical and textual outputs. It can provide useful insights to researchers involved in Foresight and other research activities that contribute to empower policymakers, in particular those involved in rural development. Specific functionalities have been developed to assist researchers and facilitators involved in these specific activities.

The portal is the gateway to a large library of more than 4000 documents related to European rural areas. Sources have been gathered by PoliRural pilots ensuring a high level of expertise in rural related topics.

A video that contains an overview on this tool and how to used has been developed, and you can view it here.

You can also try the Semantic Explorer tool in the following link: https://semex.io/

Press Coverage of the PoliRural at Ypaithros Newspaper

On the 11th of May, 2021, the thematic newspaper with national circulation, Ypaithros Chora, published an article concerning PoliRural project activities organised by Greek pilot. The article outlines the outcomes and the main factors that affect the rural development of the area as recorded during online meeting held with participation of local business and academia, local government, and representatives of the Region of Central Greece.

More specifically, the described factors concerned the high aging rates, deficient of scientific and vocational training and of technological infrastructure, lack of actual motivation and high taxes. Furthermore, it was underlined the need of the existence of a supporting mechanism in order to advice potential and established farmers and entrepreneurs on financial aspects, circular economy, the implementation of environmental protection measures as well as co-financial measures.

The full article can be read here.

COVID-19 and the Digitalisation of the Galilee

Israel has a world record in the vaccination against the corona virus, but the COVID-19 pandemic has other consequences as well – it pushed many people to work from home, and many companies allow now their employees to work, at least partly, from distance. This created special conditions for people to resident and work at the Galilee remote periphery and as a result, we see requests from young families to examine possibilities to resident in the Galilee.

This emphasised the work done at the Galilee region, in the SWOT and Foresight exercises, to concentrated on the upgrading of the digitalisation infrastructure of the region to a much higher level that exists today.

We are aware that the failure rates of digital transformations in the world and companies remain high. These failures are mostly due to the unique challenges associated with digital change, including the transition from a current to digital culture and a more entrepreneurial culture needed. The world now is also emphasising the need to work in cross-disciplinary teams while the norm is to focus on specific areas and dealing with keeping up with accelerated time schedules, due to the need to quickly meet customer expectations and to adapt responses to the evolving target situations.

In the Galilee, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the innovative Israeli character, most business leaders and regional authorities understand that the digital transformation is not just about technology: above all, it is about people. This makes the plan for change complicated – so a new approach is required for managing the change.

The “Core Team” of the Galilee PoliRural project therefore has defined the upgrading of the digitalisation infrastructure of this peripheral region to emphasis three key “imperatives” in successful digital conversions and regional economic development. These commands shaped the proposed methodology for management change in the current plan:

  1. Establishing an integrated approach, based on tangible elements, such as technology and processes, on the one hand, and intangible elements, such as social interactions, on the other; in other words, the integration of teams, in a lengthwise manner, “a transformation journey” in the whole region;
  2. Quick action by proactively updating required changes to meet both current and emerging needs, effectively suiting the targets;
  3. Adapting “classic change management levers”, such as communication, leadership, team definition, training, etc., to the needs of digitalization, in an integrated manner.

In order to achieve the PoliRural goals, the MIGAL – Galilee Research Institute join the Eastern-Galilee Cluster of the municipalities and are seeking now for a company that will examine the current situation, but mainly the needs for 2040 and develop a business plan. The plan aims to be submitted to the Israeli government in a PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) approach to implement the PoliRural programme in the Galilee. We already approached some Israeli and European entities and are waiting to find out if we will get proposal that could be submitted in this PPP approach and convince them to invest. We are open for discussions.

New entrants and new activities in the Flanders PoliRural Pilot

The rural economies in the twelve pilots of the PoliRural project are characterized by their own challenges and dynamics. To illustrate the diversity and complexity of the rural economies in the twelve PoliRural pilots, case studies on new entrants and new activities in the twelve PoliRural pilots are gathered. Eventually the case studies on new entrants and new activities in the twelve PoliRural pilots will be available on the PoliRural project website and on the Best Practices Atlas.

In the last weeks the Flanders pilot has started to collect case studies on new entrants and new activities in the rural economy of Flanders. In Flanders, many farmers diversify their activities in order to get additional income. These activities are often not directly related to food production. For example, in 2018, 361 farms received an additional income from tourism, accommodation or leisure activities and 252 farms produced energy for sale. New or diversification activities on farms have often a strong social and environmental focus. For example, in 2018 there were 424 active care farms in Flanders. In 2020, there were nearly 8000 management agreements with farmers for nature, environment and landscape management. These agreements comprise erosion control measures, field edge management, small landscape element and botanical management and species protection. This illustrates the positive impact farmers have on the rural economy in terms of employment, activities, processing and tourism.

A nice example of how economic diversification is central on most farms in Flanders is given by the testimony from the Van het Lindeveld farm: “We have a cattle farm with Belgian Blue and Black Angus cattle. Since November 2019 we have started selling our own farm meat. Since March 2020 (COVID-19), this has grown into a concept of a drive-in Open Air Shop and together with fellow farmers we offer more products. In addition, we are also working on a project on more natural calving at our Belgian White Blue breed and we have also built a knowledge network around this with people from the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland. We will soon also be offering short-term accommodation from summer 2021 onwards in our converted cattle wagon.”

Lessons learned from PoliRural: PoliRural Greek Pilot recent developments

In Central Greece, the pilot activities revolved around the evaluation of the Measure 41 of the local Leader Program 2007-2013, entitled “Initiative for sustainable and sustainable development of the Fthiotian countryside”. The measure was assessed in terms of effectiveness, relevance, and coherence, by using questionnaires and conducting interviews with the people involved. The results indicated that the implementation of the measure is considered to be generally successful to a moderate and great extent. However, the responses revealed a lack of information regarding the bio-economy activities and EU policies, stressing the fact that significant learning and capacity-building activities are required to ensure the potential of measures utilised by LEADER. According to the respondents, some of the obstacles that were identified and caused delays in the measures’ implementation were the complexity of bureaucratic procedures, multiplicity of laws, political instability, and the adverse effects of the long economic crisis during the 2010-2013 period. Furthermore, the need for additional measures was highlighted (measures that will target the support of vulnerable groups and the attraction of new entrants to the countryside). A combination of linked policy approaches is necessary to entice newcomers to rural areas, considering that it is a long-term objective.

As part of the Foresight process, the STEEPV inventory that was developed within the project was circulated among the participants of the stakeholder panel. The changes that take place now or in the near future in the Region of Central Greece were pointed out, as well as the importance of the effect of the forces driving those changes. During February, two strategic on-line conversations were held on the “drivers of change” to analyse the social, technological, economic, environmental, political, and other factors that affect local development. For this purpose, online meetings were held with local bodies from the academic field, the business world, the local government, as well as representatives of the society from all the prefectures of the Region of Central Greece.

During the discussions, emphasis was placed upon the need to support employment opportunities, public services, transport, as well as more systematic informative actions on the region’s programs to attract people to the area. In addition, shortcomings in connectivity and the level of digital skills were reported, highlighting the need to improve network infrastructure and provide well-organized training opportunities in modern technologies. At the same time, participants acknowledged the issue of piecemeal approaches and the need for structured and linked policies that are clearly perceived by those directly involved in order for them to thrive. As mentioned during discussions, collaborative actions between agri-food production and processing units with business and tourism, will contribute to the effective promotion and diversification of local products, as well as the stimulation of business activity. Other issues raised including renewable energy sources, circular economy activities, and the financial capacity to support technology investments in smart farming, especially for small and medium-sized agri-food units.

The next step of the pilot activities will include discussions and Deep Dives on issues of significant importance such as the impact of COVID-19 in order to understand the negative effects of the pandemic, evaluate how well the region responded to the event, and the measures needed to assure recovery from the pandemic.

SEGÓBRIGA 21st century: developing an interactive app for tourism innovation

The PoliRural Spanish pilot aims to explore the possibilities of a better tourist performance of the Segóbriga Archaeological site (Roman city from the 6th-7th centuries), as a catalyst for a greater economic revitalization of the territory and employment. Within this pilot strategy, an interpretive app is being developed, with innovative technologies such as augmented reality, image recognition, insertion of 3D objects, etc., which allows tourists to visit the site in a personal and unique way.

An initial version of the app was presented on April 16, 2021, in a demonstration meeting attended by representatives of the territory’s policy makers, who were able to understand the multiple possibilities offered by the application. Moreover, this app allows to include a considerable amount of information and resources without the need to install disruptive elements of the landscape, putting the value of its versatility and suitability to the interpretation of different types of heritage.

The application allows to enjoy recreations of some elements of the museum as well as discover the archaeological remains outside, by following a geolocated map with information, automated voice warnings and 3D recreations. From now on, the work to be done would be to improve some technical issues of the app, taking into account the feedback of the visitors. In May, a test version will be available for the public visiting the park. The final version is expected at the end of 2021. Another very important aim is to connect the app with the economic development of the territory, and analyze what effects are to be expected in the area, within the foresight activities.

The territory is suffering a serious depopulation crisis (an average loss of 12% of the population since 2010), that triggers a shortage of young people willing to start businesses in the area. In 2019, more than 80% of the visitors to the archaeological park stayed in the territory for just one day. In 2020, the number of visitors related to rural tourism has fallen by 70% due to the pandemic, therefore it is a very weakened sector at this moment.

During the presentation day, ideas were exchanged in this regard. New discussions with other stakeholders were agreed to further define the strategy. At the demonstration meeting, an informative video of the project was also presented, which can be visualized here.

PoliRural Greek pilot organized a series of webinars to discuss the factors influencing local development in rural areas

One of the key objectives of the PoliRural project is the identification of social, technological, economic, environmental, political, and other factors that affect local development in rural areas.

For this reason, the Greek pilot organized a series of online webinars with local bodies of the region of Central Greece on the 2nd and 4th of February and on the 14th of April of 2021. At all three webinars, representatives from academia and business sector, from local government, as well as representatives of society (cooperatives, associations, etc.) participated. During the webinars, the effects of the covid-19 pandemic on all aspects of everyday life along with the need to support employment opportunities, local transport and more systematic public information on national and European population attraction programs in the region, were highlighted. In addition, the need to improve network infrastructure and to provide well-organized training in modern digital technologies has emerged during the webinars.

Invitation to Open Spring INSPIRE Hackathon 2021

PoliRural invites you to participate in the “Open Spring INSPIRE Hackathon 2021”, a series of challenges that will be focused on developments and innovations in agriculture, the environment, transport, tourism, geospatial applications or remote sensing and GNSS.

During the months of April and May, a unique opportunity to try out new technologies and infrastructures will be offered, which will be open to all developers. “Open Spring INSPIRE Hackathon 2021” opens up opportunities for cooperation in the development of various solutions with participants from all over the world, and at the same time offers everyone the enrichment of their own experience.

You can participate in the following challenges:

  1. How to use and improve OLU 2.0.0
  2. Regional Atractiveness
  3. Analysis of Drought Conditions for Selected Use-Cases
  4. Analytical map of traffic accidents in Czechia
  5. SmartAfriHub III – African Agricultural Water Security
  6. Analysis of Sentinel 2 and Sentinel 1 time series for the purpose of Agriculture
  7. Interactive collaborative data capturing at scale – technology and business models
  8. AgroInfo Application
  9. Agrihub Slovakia
  10. Evaluation of OSM 4 purposes of Traffic Modelling
  11. From Smart Points of Interest towards sustainable Points of Interest

More information about the Hackathon can be viewed here. You can also register to the Hackathon here.

You can view the replay of the Kick-off webinar dedicated to the challenge introduction of the Open Spring INSPIRE Hackathon here.