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Newsletter #4

August 2020

Exploring current situation of rural attractiveness in 12 PoliRural pilot regions

During the first project year, 12 PoliRural regional pilots have focused on exploring the current situation of rural attractiveness in each pilot region as the first step of the foresight process. Pilots have defined their mission statement and created pilot fiches to describe the regions and expected results (available here). Regional stakeholder panels comprising policy actors, rural populations, newcomers and experts have been set to all 12 pilot regions to support PoliRural experts in regional foresight projects. So far about 350 stakeholders have taken part to the work of the panels.

In needs gathering assignment the goal was to recognize regional needs related to rural attractiveness. An online survey was conducted in all pilot regions (n=1296). Needs gathering in pilot regions included four phases: literature study about rural attractiveness, mass survey to stakeholder groups and general population, SWOT analyses to summaries the findings of literature study and survey. The SWOT results were discussed with regional stakeholder panels to define the list of needs and factors of rural attractiveness and finally clustering of pilot regions based on common needs rather than geography.

More than 80 needs where identified in this exercise. However, it was possible to reach to a common understanding of the most important needs with a total number of 32 needs. Important themes to develop were good internet connectivity (broadband) to enable digitization, employment possibilities in rural areas, the rural-urban mobility and the provision of public services and finally sustainability and environmental aspects. Based on the results, PoliRural researchers have clustered the 12 pilot regions into 4 different categories: Quality of life; Social capital; Cultural appeal; and Natural capital.

Once the needs were recognized, each pilot selected 5-10 most relevant needs for policy mapping exercise. The purpose of Needs-Policy Mapping task was to match the rural needs against current policies and public or private strategies. Because political and legal framework conditions vary in the pilot regions, the policy mix was based on a brief consideration of the respective governance structures related to rural policy and rural development. During the process 115 regional needs were matched against about 180 policy measures.

Needs gathering and policy mapping tasks were done in close collaboration with regional stakeholder panels. Due to COVID19 pandemic face-to-face meetings and workshops with stakeholders were replaced with online solutions. The reports of Needs gathering and Needs-Policy Mapping is published in PoliRural web page.

Petra Korkiaskoski,
Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK)

The use of Semantic Explorer in PoliRural

Design by KAJO S.R.O.

Semantic Explorer (Semex.io) is a text mining tool (TM) based on cutting edge technology capable of extracting information from unstructured data and display the results on clear graphical and textual outputs. It has been designed with the objective of providing support to researchers involved in Foresight, System Dynamics Modelling and Policy Evaluation by reducing the cognitive load related to tasks that are essential to policy processes. Thus, specific solutions have been developed for this purpose.

Design by KAJO S.R.O.

The portal is the gateway to a large library of more than 2700 documents related to European rural areas. Sources have been gathered by PoliRural Pilots organizations ensuring a high level of expertise in rural related topics and wide geographical representation (12 Pilots in different parts of Europe). The scientific articles, technical reports and policy related documents collected relate to the needs of PoliRural areas as well as to the local, regional, national and European policies.

In semex.io users can access and process information following different approaches that are summarized on the top menu of the frontend application. It is possible to consult the Library´s contents by browsing Sources and selecting those that one is interested in. Users can work on a single source or on a selection of articles that can be gathered in the Curated Reading List. The tool analyses the text and provides various results such as text summary, topic extraction, most relevant Named Entities, sentiment analysis, geographical parsing etc…. Very soon there will be the possibility of visualizing, out of a large corpus of text such one or more articles, the most recurrent topics or key words through custom scattered plots based on word2vec technique.

It is also possible to access sources through a fuzzy search which includes the possibility of Boolean logic search as for instance ´depopulation´ AND ´rural areas´. Through the Topic option users can explore the GEMET thesaurus and discover relations between topics associated with the rural issues. Topics are automatically connected to Library’s sources and are displayed on the dedicated panel along the text. For data analysts who wish to dig deeper into the data a specific dashboard has been set in Kibana and is accessible for registered users.

All these functionalities have been developed following intense communication with researchers involved in the PoliRural project. The aim is to provide support to researchers and policy-makers in tasks related to policy processes by providing automatized analysis of large corpus of text. The next few months will be dedicated to test the tool and collect feedback with the objective of further tailoring solutions, replicable also for users outside of the PoliRural consortium.

Tommaso Sabbatini,
KAJO

Digitalisation Driven Economy in the Galilee Periphery

Innovation activity in Israel is concentrated predominantly in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and does not exhaust the resources of innovation in the periphery. The PoliRural team in the north is leading a strategy to promote implementing a most advance digitalisation system in the Galilee. It will create an innovation-driven economy in the periphery, which will benefit both the regional economy and the entire national innovation system.

The focus on digitalisation was the output of several meetings of the PoliRural team, where SWOT analysis and reviewing the difficulties in the economic development of the Galilee region performed. This initiative seeks to examine the possibility that this implementation idea will bring back young people and their families to the periphery – not only about establish startup companies but also regarding the upgrading of the regional innovation system. The infrastructure needed proposes a practical agenda with a dual goal: optimal use of the innovation resources that will be reallocated to the Galilee generating innovative local SMEs, and innovation-inclined economic growth throughout the region in industries, precision agriculture, tourism, health system, education and more. We believe in a plan of action that will benefit both the Israeli innovation system and areas in the geographical periphery. However, this requires implementable solutions that consider the market forces acting on national innovation systems, which adapted for the Galilee peripheral region.

When examining the geographical distribution of the various economic sectors in Israel, we must distinguish between results that are the consequence of economic forces at work in Israel and wishful thinking. The premise we must accept is that high-tech companies tend to concentrate in certain geographical areas, frequently in urban metropolises. It assumes that the companies inspire each other with technological knowledge, exchange skilled human capital, and attract investors. The trend has grown over the past decade, for reasons that include increasing technical complexity necessitating greater collaboration, and because of the increasing attraction of workers to vibrant urban areas.

The other side of the coin is that the area in which they concentrated became a place where most young families are not enjoying, and they would prefer the rural area, green and quite. Since the COVID-19 crises emphasised more than ever the ability to work from a distance, those young people could benefit from the Galilee developed infrastructure, which will accelerate growth and high-quality employment. As the Galilee region will develop, it will become a powerful magnet, attracting most of the “talent”, investors and entrepreneurs. It will also invite researchers (to MIGAL and other incubators and accelerators in the region) who will support this SMES and accelerate the regional development, serving as economic growth engines. The main discussions at the Galilee team are how to recruit the funds to begin the process, and it is clear that we have to implement the PPP scheme – involving private investors as well as the Israeli government.

The challenges described above also was recognised in the strategy formulated lately by the Israeli Innovation Authority. This strategy aimed at promoting an innovation-inclined economy in the periphery areas and plan to serve as a bright guiding light for the Authority: a successful policy is beneficial, both for the local economy in the periphery, and the innovation system as a whole. Therefore, we hope to find the ear at the governmental level to join the PoliRural team’s efforts to develop the region.

Prof. Uri Marchaim, MIGAL,
Galilee Research Institute

Building Synergies: Digital Game Changers in Rural Areas – the DESIRA Conceptual Approach

Digital transformation is a process responsible of profound changes in the economy and in the society as a result of the uptake and integration of digital technologies. These play a central role, disrupting existing mechanisms and thus triggering responses from actors impacted both positively and negatively by such a process.

The Horizon 2020 project, DESIRA, aims at assessing and anticipating the impact of digital transformation in rural areas. A large and multi-disciplinary consortium deals with the creation of a conceptual and analytical framework, with the assessment of past and present game changing effects of digital technologies, and with the set-up of a methodology to anticipate future effects. The framework and assessment will be evaluated through 20 Living Labs in different European geographical areas.

The massive presence and the growing set of ICT technologies, and combinations of them, creates the need for a systematisation and categorisation, in order for them to be effectively deployed. Following this, the work conceptually describes the approach proposed by DESIRA to build an impact model to analyse digital tools supporting the ongoing process of digitisation in rural areas. The idea is based on a semi-automatic identification of relevant application scenarios by analysing responses to an online questionnaire, and performing both experts’ interviews and a literature review.

A Digital Inventory Tool is being developed to explore the resulting knowledge base, also opening to annotation of the content and collaborative handling of the items in the knowledge base.

Read more on the DESIRA project on the website: http://desira2020.eu

Manlio Bacco,
National Research Council (CNR), Italy

 

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

 

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