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Newsletter #12

May 2022

The development of Europe’s regions is based on thorough planning for the future

In the context of the PoliRural project, Regional Action Plans are the main output of the Foresight process carried out by the twelve pilot regions. The main purpose of regional action plans is to define actionable solutions for tackling the identified challenges within the foresight process. At the same time, plans are considered an integral part of other processes and tasks already undertaken by pilot regions and are well integrated within these. Plans are co-designed and developed by pilot teams together with regional stakeholders and citizens in a mission-transformation process.

The report completed by PoliRural partnership (available here) summarises the results of the mission-oriented approach implementation in the pilot regions. It provides an insight on context and needs of pilot regions by outlining the issues of concern and context that create the basis for the regional visions and the purpose of the regional foresight process. The document provides information of policy challenges, intervention measures and KPIs that form the core of the Regional Action Plans. Policy challenges and measures are analysed and clustered by the four main strands of the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas - STRONGER rural areas, CONNECTED rural areas, RESILIENT rural areas that foster well-being, and PROSPEROUS rural areas.

Some of the conclusions are the following:

  • The majority of challenges identified by pilot regions are primarily related to the PROSPERITY of rural areas, particularly to the various reasons currently hindering the diversification of economic activities;
  • The absence or low quality of digital infrastructure, limited skills and abilities to use advantages of good broadband, and poorly digitalised traditional sectors of the economy are central issues hindering pilot regions from becoming better CONNECTED rural areas;
  • Pilot regions have identified just a few RESILIENCE-oriented challenges related to the ability to adapt to climate change, reducing the carbon footprint and nature protection;
  • The pilot regions see improved governance of their regions as one of the most important results of the foresight process; 
  • The main precondition for digitalisation and modernisation of agriculture, industry and services is the availability and coverage of high-quality broadband and digital infrastructure in rural areas;
  • The role of digital connectivity and the transition of the traditional economy is seen as an essential element that may contribute to the diversification of traditional sectors of the rural economy concerning the digitisation of the agricultural industry and digital capacity building in the rural areas.

Anita Āboliņa (Vidzeme Planning Region)

Co-creation in multi-actor approach in PoliRural Häme pilot

How to improve stakeholders’ cooperation in the regional food sector to enhance the success of entrepreneurs? This was the main target when PoliRural with two other regional projects worked together on 10th of May 2022 in the “Meet together” event. Organizations of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners of Häme, HAMK University of Applied Sciences and Smart&Lean Hub Oy invited 20 people from 14 different organizations to meet face-to-face.

The meeting place, Villa Elina, is a rural tourism company that offers restaurant and catering services in an old farmyard in Kärkölä municipality of Päijät-Häme province. Villa Elina appeared to be a new to everyone because the company is new and was founded the year as corona pandemic started. It proved to be an excellent place to re-start stakeholder meetings and meet new and old people for a long time.

The co-creation action started with brief presentations of regional strategies and work done earlier in the food sector. PoliRural brought into the discussion the international point of view and tools for the collaborative and future oriented process. Event participants worked in three groups. Each group embraced people from funding authorities/decision-makers, RDI actors, and rural/agriculture advisors. PoliRural Häme team facilitated the discussions and workflow in groups. Each group had a different task to consider and ideate enhancement of regional cooperation; how to improve entrepreneurs' awareness and knowledge of different funding instruments, how to improve co-operation of advisors and RDI-actors, and how to achieve effective and scalable RDI results?

Based on discussions, each group named the main target group for activities. Typically, small food companies are SMEs and need help and support the most. Because there are already many good activities carried out at the regional and national level, discussions were very active. Both in Kanta-Häme and Päijät-Häme regions the food sector is recognized as one of the Smart Specialization themes, in their regional strategic plans 2022-2025. The regional food strategy and its theme Growth in Häme work has been implemented since 2007. Coordinator of the project has been the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners of Häme.

The three co-creation workshops came up with three new solutions to help food sector entrepreneurs and regional stakeholders: 1) service e.g., a digital game or platform that helps entrepreneurs to identify and get the best funding instruments for their needs, 2) companies' service pathway to get tailored help and easily support from different actors in public/private sectors, 3) and thirdly the dynamic continuing project model.

The most important outcomes of the event were participants' acquaintance with each other and knowledge exchange. The feedback was positive, and the next meeting was decided to continue for co-operation in the same format. A communication platform at Microsoft Teams for the stakeholders and regional companies has been established. The event generated new contacts and bilateral meetings to initiate and strengthen regional actors' cooperation.

Sanna Lento (HAMK University of Applied Sciences)

A second set of experiments for exploring the application of System Dynamic Modelling to Regional Foresight

PoliRural Newsletter Number 10 featured an article entitled “Progress so far in the application of SDM to Regional Foresight”. It provides a quick overview of System Dynamic Modelling (SDM), and a summary of the contribution of the PoliRural project to the November 2021 conference on “Modelling for Policy Support,” organised by the European Commission Competence Centre on Modelling. Much has happened since then, and the twelve regional Foresight teams are currently evaluating the online tools provided via the Innovation Hub for exploring the impact of different policy options on a range of regional performance metrics. These SDM tools were developed by Antoni Oliva of 22Sistema and Runar Bergheim of Avinet. This experiment will soon end, and we are looking forward to the feedback that the regional Foresight teams will provide, as users of this system. We intend to provide a synthesis of the results of this work in a future edition of the Newsletter.

In collaboration with Jan Macura, Sarah Velten and Otakar Čerba of Plan4all, we are now working on a second set of experiments, which will be presented to the regional Foresight teams, from which we hope to obtain feedback to help orient future work in this domain. This time the focus is on the user experience and challenge of working with complex issues such as Rural Attractiveness (RA). For this reason, we are developing another set of tools intended to help users understand the impact of different policy choices on the Rural Attractiveness of their region, and how this might evolve over time, with a view to making optimal policy choices.

Plan4all had already developed a composite rural attractiveness index (RAI) with six sub-indices, and thirty-six sub-sub-indices representing different aspects of rural attractiveness. This RAI was designed based on the principle that regions can only be attractive in comparison with other regions. Another design consideration was that the intended meaning of rural attractiveness may depend on where, when, and by whom attractiveness is determined. All of this is consistent with key findings of the PoliRural project concerning rural attractiveness. The project observed that concepts of rural attractiveness often feature in regional development strategies, that they differ significantly from region to region, conditioned by developmental priorities such as the desire to attract investors, entrepreneurs, or tourists. In this sense, the development of a concept of attractiveness naturally aligns with the creation of a ‘vision’ for the region, as anticipated in the Foresight process. Plan4all demonstrated the use of their index by providing a map-based visualisation of rural attractiveness covering all regions of Europe.

The following diagram describes an adaptation of the RAI. It uses four instead of six sub-indices, and nine sub-sub-indices instead of thirty-six. Most of these sub-sub-indices are new and correspond to outputs of the regional SD models developed by 22SISTEMA.

The team is putting the finishing touches to an online system that allows users to explore the impact of different policy options on this new RAI. We call this system, the Rural Attractiveness Explorer. It takes the outputs of the regionally adapted SDM models and converts them into the SD-adapted RAI, which it presents using four different visualisation strategies. Users can then compare;

  • The evolution of RAI over time across regions,
  • The evolution of RAI sub-indices over time across regions,
  • The impact on RAI of different policy choices for a single region, 
  • The impact on RAI sub-indices of different policy choices for a single region.

We hope to have it up and running in June 2022, available for the regional Foresight teams, and for anyone else who wants to experiment with it. We are looking forward to seeing how the Foresight teams evaluate these new tools.

Patrick Crehan (CKA),
Sarah Velten and Otakar Čerba (Plan4All),
Antoni Oliva Quesada (22SISTEMA),
Runan Bergheim (Avinet)

New press coverage of PoliRural at Ypaithros Newspaper

The Region of Central Greece is trying to find how rural areas will become more attractive, through the implementation of the PoliRural project. For this reason, its Greek partners (Region of Central Greece, Agricultural University of Athens, NEUROPUBLIC, GAIA EPICHEIREIN) continue to hold online meetings with local business and academia, local government as well as representatives of social, economic, technological, environmental, political and other factors affecting rural development.

On 12th of April, 2022, the thematic newspaper with national circulation, Ypaithros Chora, published an article concerning Polirural project activities organised by the Greek pilot. The article describes the proposed rural development measures on critical regional issues related to the digitization and modernization of agriculture both in terms of improving productive activity and issues related to their environmental impact included in the PoliRural action plan. Particular emphasis was placed on alternative forms of tourism which should be in line with the requirements of the Green Deal on the adoption of climate-neutral practices and the reduction of greenhouse gases, as well as on the need for continuing education of farmers through university/training programs.

The article (in Greek) can be viewed here.

Eva Bozou (GAIA EPICHEIREIN)

PoliRural pilot Galilee: Meeting with the Minister of Communications

Following the Eastern-Galilee Action Plan of PoliRural, on Wednesday, 11/5/2022, PoliRural pilot Galilee representatives met with PM Yoaz Hendel, the Minister of Communications, at the Minister's Office in Jerusalem (and with the Minister's Adviser - Yoram Halperin) to discuss the upgrading of the Galilee's digitalization infrastructure. The delegation included Prof Uri Marchaim (MIGAL), Mr Aharon Valensi (consultant for the PoliRural European project and former head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council), Mr Shai Kronenblum (Upper Galilee Regional Council) and Mr Moshe Karko (Eastern-Galilee Cluster of the municipalities).

The meeting revolved around the activities as part of the PoliRural project which deals with the issue of peripheral development. We came with the aim of asking the Minister of Communications to lead a move at the government to turn the Eastern Galilee into a pilot project to upgrade the digitalization infrastructure in order to upgrade the economy in the Galilee, establish start-up companies and bring young families to the Galilee.

We gave a presentation, and presented to the Minister the main points (we sent in advance a list of topics for discussion and the ppt presentation) and the Minister clarified that things are known and clear to him and the purpose is important. Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel: “We are entering a new digital age. In the last year and a half, we have cleared up the regulatory traffic jams in the deployment of advanced infrastructure, and established in the Knesset Parliament regulatory moves. We are moving the Israeli economy forward, and in a short time Israel will lead the Western countries in terms of communications infrastructure”.

The Israeli government approved the outline plan for deployment of fibre-optic cable networks in Israel, which is critical for the communications market, particularly at a time of crisis. The outline plan deals with setting up of an investment fund financed by the telecommunications carriers to finance deployment in the periphery. The network will substantially improve Internet speeds in Israel and enable many new applications to be introduced, chiefly to accelerate the provision of digital services to both the domestic and enterprise markets.

We submitted to the Minister the work done by the Deloitte company to analyse the needs and solutions that exist today and are required in the future to upgrade the infrastructure. The Minister clarified that there is currently a rapid development of laying of fibre infrastructure in Israel, and we are currently leading the world in the pace of installing digital infrastructure. There are currently about 40 small companies, in addition to the communication’s main companies, competing for tenders for the installation of fibre infrastructure and there is almost no area where the appropriate infrastructure cannot be obtained. Both the Minister and the Adviser (with whom we continued the discussion) stressed that there is currently no limit in installing fibre with "infinite" bandwidth that can allow all activities of companies, or research institutions, and if there are delays with companies, we can contact the Minister and Advisor directly to speed up processes. On the issue of the use of "precision agriculture," the minister said that it is possible to install a fibre that will reach every plant in the field.

On the issue of 5G, the Minister emphasized that it is an issue that the uses around the world are still unclear, and the ministry gives incentives to all companies that are interested in developing the issue of 5G uses. Development can be important in the field of "remote medicine". This may be an issue that needs to be promoted with Margalit's centre in Kiryat Shmona.

The discussion that took place builds an infrastructure for thinking about the next steps required in the Upper Galilee for the implementation of infrastructure development to lead the economic development of the Eastern Galilee. We invited the Minister to visit MIGAL to show him our activities.

Mr. Yoaz Hendel said that Israel is now entering a new digital age. The time has come for us to close the gap and deploy advanced communications infrastructures throughout the country - in the centre, in the periphery, and along the borders. Communications infrastructures are a mighty growth engine for the labour market and for GDP. They facilitate remote work and study and improved living conditions in the periphery of the country.

Uri Marchaim (MIGAL – Galilee Research Institute)

Progress in the first year and half of MOVING Project

On 2 and 3 March 2022, MOVING hosted its Steering Committee online to take stock of the first year and a half of the project. During the first day, partners discussed the current status and progress of the project where Work Packages (WPs) leaders provided updates on the work done to date and the next steps. Furthermore, at the end of the first day, there was a special session to present the work done so far by the 23 project reference regions (RRs) through their Multi-Actor Platforms (MAPs).

Good progress has been made on the development of land use systems and land cover maps in the 23 mountain RRs, the participatory vulnerability analysis of land use systems also in the 23 RRs, and the first set of 23 policy briefs. In particular, the results and conclusions of the participatory vulnerability analysis of land use systems were presented.

The individual pages of all the Reference Regions were launched, as well as several communication materials were developed, in particular, linked to different deliverables: the Conceptual Analytical Framework, the Inventory of Mountain Value Chains, and the 23 selected value chains.

Once the 23 regional MAPs and the European Multi-Actor Platform (EU MAP) were created, MOVING organised its first European Multi-Actor Platform (EU MAP) webinar for which 64 participants from 18 countries gathered to: (a) find out more about MOVING project results and the EU MAP, and (b) ) learn about some of the specific traditional or emerging value chains working on innovation and climate resilience in the MOVING project. The Highlights Report compiles the presentations and key conclusions from the discussions.

The MOVING Community of Practice will continue to carry out various stakeholder engagement activities, and thematic actions such as preparing the second EU MAP webinar on the European Quality scheme - the added value for mountain value chains that will take place in Autumn 2022.

The second day of the meeting was dedicated to planning and discussion of the project report, publication guidelines, the future MOVING App, and regional partner exchanges. All policy briefs and other reports are published under the website’s library.

Blanca Casares Guillén (MOVING Project)

 

This project has received funding from European Union’s Horizon H2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 818496.

 

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