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Newsletter #6

January 2021

Lessons learned from PoliRural: High-quality planning documents for rural regions can only be developed in collaboration with local communities

The Vidzeme Region in Latvia has had an active period so far, as within the project, Vidzeme is implementing pilot activities and elaborating The Regional Development Programme for the period of 2021-2027. The process is carried out with strong participation of industry professionals, various level policy stakeholders, rural newcomers, representatives of research sector and local communities. A group of these stakeholders also forms a Regional panel that is set up for oversight and advisory purposes.

Four thematic focus groups with external stakeholders have already taken place between October and December 2020. The broad involvement of stakeholders has shown that the comments and indications they provide in the discussions are invaluable and important information that is not otherwise known. Focus groups were organized remotely and various online collaboration platforms were used to make stakeholder involvement as successful as possible, as shown in the Figure below:

Focus groups organized remotely.

“It is quite possible that some of participants in the discussions, especially representatives of the local community will realize for the first time that there is a real opportunity to influence decision-making processes and participate in the development of their territory they belong to. We are also very interested in the opinion of newcomers, who often have an objective view, and their observations are especially important and can encourage new ideas and initiatives,” says Ieva Kalniņa, Head of the Spatial Planning Department of Vidzeme Planning Region.

The main topics of discussions were the following:

  • Spatial development of the territory, incl. accessibility;
  • Sustainable business and innovation environment;
  • Sustainable economy;
  • Social security and health.

When discussing the selected topics that are important for the Vidzeme region, global tendencies and challenges are also taken into account, which both directly and indirectly affect the development of the region on the ground, as well as strengthen its competitiveness potential. For this purpose, PoliRural report with drivers of change for rural areas were discussed and summarized with stakeholders.

Drawing on the knowledge and experience of the PoliRural project, new, promising and yet untested methods for quality planning and development of rural policy will also be used within the next months.

The Development Programme for the next seven years is developed with the aim to promote the sustainable and balanced development of the Vidzeme Region and it focuses as much as possible on the needs of the region's inhabitants and the development of the territory. It is planned that the development of the Programme will be completed in June 2021.

Anita Āboliņa,
Vidzeme Planning Region

Building a sense of belonging for the Monaghan PoliRural Pilot

In Ireland, emigration has long been an historical fact of life. However, immigration particularly in the 1800’s and 1900’s, was practically invisible and had little impact on population statistics.

In 1994 this situation changed. The number of immigrants exceeded the number of emigrants in a trend that has continued unabated ever since. The arrival of these new immigrants has had a dramatic effect on Ireland’s population diversity and it is most noticeable in its rural towns and villages, particularly in counties with small populations like County Monaghan (61,386 people, census 2016).

In County Monaghan, where the Irish PoliRural pilot is taking place, the migrant population almost doubled between 2005 and 2011, growing from 6% to 11% in the time.

The migrants who live here are an eclectic mixture of migrant workers (mainly from Eastern Europe and South America), UNHCR refugees (from the Congo and from Syria), asylum seekers (from all across the world) and others who have chosen Ireland as their home for a variety reasons (e.g. some have married into the country, others have returned to the land of their ancestors, etc). The reality for many rural counties is that without migration, many of our areas may see population decreases over time, often resulting in a prolonged spiral of decline for the area.

The migrant population have brought new skills and talents that they have used to create employment and generate wealth. They have lowered the average age of the population and their children have ensured that many of our rural schools have been able to retain teachers. They have enriched the cultural life of our communities.

Not everyone appreciates this fact and the rapid change in our society has the potential to stoke fear and resentment. That is why good integration policies are needed to give people a sense of belonging in their community. With this in mind, Monaghan Integrated Development led a collaboration with local government, local agencies and migrant representative groups to access LEADER funding for a migrant integration strategy, that now complements and feeds into the region’s PoliRural Foresight plans.

The strategy was launched online in November 2020 and charts a course for belonging and integration actions in Co Monaghan for the next 5 years. It contains 6 Objectives and 38 actions. Each action has a lead agency who will oversee its implementation in the years ahead.

Speaking at the launch, Lalini Veerassamy, Chief of the International Organization of Migration mission in Ireland, emphasised ‘the importance of integration as a two-way process as mutual adaptation between migrants and host societies from all levels, the social, cultural, political but also economic point of view.’ These sentiments were echoed throughout by various speakers including Sunday Abel Adoyeji, representing New Communities on the Monaghan Integrated Development CLG Board, Chairperson of LINC, a social enterprise and Cultural Champion. He mentioned his own positive experience of being a migrant in County Monaghan and said ‘successful integration of migrants is, in fact, about successful interactions. It’s about communities that offer a generous welcome. It’s about the willingness and, sometimes, bravery, to accept that welcome’.

The strategy can be downloaded here.

John O’Flaherty,
The National Microelectronics Applications Centre

Initiative “Long-term vision for rural areas”: call for inputs from H2020 RUR Projects

Challenges in rural areas include aspects such as demographic change, low-income levels, limited access to services, low connectivity, feeling of being overlooked and resilience. However, rural areas also offer many opportunities, namely for bio and circular economy, for ecological and digital transitions and for the provision of important ecosystem services.

Having these challenges and opportunities in consideration, the EU aims to create a debate on the future of rural areas and the role they have to play in our society and has launched the initiative “Long-term vision for rural areas”. This initiative will also have a great focus on the research and exploitation of innovative, inclusive and sustainable solutions, namely in the light of climate change, digital transformation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this context, the Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG Agri) is looking for data from the ongoing H2020 RUR projects that could be particularly interesting to feed into the “Long-term vision for rural areas”. These inputs can be in a form of relevant project deliverables or parts of them even in the draft form, outcomes from foresight exercises such as models. The latest term for H2020 project coordinators to deliver these inputs is February 2021.

More info about the “Long-term vision for rural areas” is available here.

Sofia Cunha (Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação),
Ulman Miloš (Česká zemědělská univerzita v Praze) &
Motyčková Věra (Česká zemědělská univerzita v Praze)

The COVID-19 INSPIRE Hackathon 2020

The COVID-19 INSPIRE Hackathon was already the 17th hackathon organised by the Plan4All association in cooperation with the Czech Centre for Science and Society (CCSS) and other H2020 projects including SmartAgriHubs. It was based on the traditional model of the INSPIRE Hackathon, which is not a single event, it’s a process that is designed to efficiently exploit the achieved results of previous hackathons on developing new innovations. Due to the limitations caused by the COVID-19 situation, this event was triggered as a virtual hackathon.

The COVID-19 INSPIRE Hackathon 2020 logo

The main goal of the COVID19 INSPIRE Hackathon was to support innovation in agriculture through information technology, help agriculture recover from the problems that were caused by the coronavirus crisis as well as search for new business models. Overall, thirteen innovation experiments were identified for the COVID19 INSPIRE Hackathon 2020.

The COVID-19 INSPIRE Hackathon was divided into 5 main stages:

The COVID-19 INSPIRE Hackathon 2020 Schedule

In the period October 15 - November 30 2020 two main stages of the COVID-19 INSPIRE Hackathon took place - the hacking stage and final stage. During the hacking stage, teams work together to bring new solutions regarding 13 Innovation Experiments defined in the preparation stage of the hackathon. More specifically, the team work is to collect technology and data, explore & ideate & co-create the IEs and develop & test the IE solutions. Another important part of the hacking stage is the capacity building actions and dissemination & communication. The capacity building was developed virtually through the webinars & online training (September 25 - October 26) and communication channels that were established for each IE - e.g. Skype, WhatsApp, Google docs. Another important part of the capacity building was mentoring, counselling, coaching and technical assistance executed by 20 IE mentors. Leveraging local knowledge or experience was, besides webinars and mentoring, done via ongoing H2020 projects, initiatives, DIHs: Plan4all hub, PoliRural hub, SIEUSOIL hub, Agrihub and SmartAfriHub.

The COVID-19 INSPIRE Hackathon was terminated by a final presentation of results & awards ceremony held on 19th November 2020. The final virtual event together with the collection of the final reports fall into the final hackathon stage that aims at presentation and promotion of the results of IEs and selection of top 3 solutions by the jury members based on evaluation criteria that were defined in the preparation stage. The jury members: Jovana Vlaskalin (BioSense Institute), Beata Vörösová (CzechInvest), Maris Albers (University of Latvia) and Josef Hnojil (Geobusiness) announced the following winners for the COVID-19 INSPIRE hackathon:

The COVID-19 INSPIRE Webinar - Challenge #6 PoliRural Cases

Hana Kubíčková (Plan4all),
Petr Uhlíř (Czech Centre for Science and Society) &
Šárka Horáková (Club of Ossiach)

Open Bioeconomy Week 2021 – Call for Abstracts

The Open Bioeconomy Week aims to highlight the current research innovations, trends and future of bioeconomy through the lens of digitalization and data utilization. The key focus is to highlight the paradigm shift digitalization can bring in the field of bioeconomy. To accomplish this, the event aims to bring different academics, researchers, stakeholders, policymakers, business representatives and the society to discuss and understand the role and the impact digitalization can make in development of bioeconomy and hence towards a sustainable future.

The event is supported by the Regional Council of Häme with the regional enterprises and other organizations working within the bioeconomy sector. Together with HAMK the organizing committee of the event consist of the leading national research and innovation organizations such as Aalto University, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and University of Helsinki.

In the year 2021, the themes of the Open Bioeconomy Week will cover Data Collection and Utilization in Bioeconomy. The organizing committee is following the current COVID-19 situation closely. The event will be organized as a hybrid, combining online and face-to-face participation if the pandemic situation allows. Online participation will be possible throughout the scientific programme of the event.

Regarding the call for abstracts, the scientific committee, composed of recognized experts from the global bioeconomy and digitalization community is committed to select the best papers and maintain a high scientific level conference. The call for abstracts is now open and proposals of 500 words maximum should be submitted to bioeconomyweek@hamk.fi by 10th April 2021 at the latest. The approval will be announced before 30th April 2021. The final oral presentations should arrive at bioeconomyweek@hamk.fi on 10th May 2021 at the latest.

The conference accepts posters as well. The proposals (an abstract of max. 300 words) should arrive to bioeconomyweek@hamk.fi on the 10th April 2021 the latest.

You can find more information about Open Bioeconomy Week 2021 and call for abstracts here.

Milla Anttila,
Häme University of Applied Sciences


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


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