Launch of the Start-up Village Forum: delivering the vision for EU’s rural areas

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the Commission launched the Start-up Village Forum to gather insights on challenges for and potential of rural start-up companies. As part of the EU’s June 2021 long-term vision for rural areas and the Commission Action Plan for Rural areas, the annual Start-up Village Forum contributes to boosting research and innovation in rural communities and help build up a more innovative entrepreneurship that will attract more young and talented people.

The Forum aims at becoming an open space where local, regional, national and European institutions and stakeholders can meet, discuss and shape action for start-up-driven innovation in rural areas. The Forum for rural innovation will connect rural innovation actors across the EU and enhance the development of rural innovation ecosystems. The Start-up Village Forum seeks to provide knowledge on rural innovative start-ups, the types of innovations they are involved in, the gaps in the services that they expect from innovation ecosystems and how these could be strengthened in the future.

The launch event should also contribute to inform entrepreneurs and rural innovation actors on existing opportunities they may benefit from, under EU rural development and Cohesion Policy programmes for instance. It will also provide a common understanding of the concept of Start-up Village, how it relates to the concept of Smart Villages, and pave the way for further editions over the coming years.

The broader objectives of the Start-up Village Forum are to:

  • Support the further development of rural innovation ecosystems;
  • Identify and analyse triggers for innovation in rural areas;
  • Connect rural innovation actors across the EU, with a focus on start-ups; and
  • Provide a common understanding of the concept of Start-up village and highlight the link with the concept of smart village.

Members of the College said:

Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Demography and Democracy, said: “Today’s launch of the Start-up Village Forum is a new beginning for rural areas. It is a reflection of the importance that the Commission attaches to supporting rural areas, because it is in rural areas that the demographic transition is most visible. Through the Start-up Village Forum we want the best and brightest of Europe to remain in these and contribute to building prosperity as they grow their start-up companies to real long term drivers of our economy, all while using the natural potential of Europe’s rural areas.”

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:  “The nature and sources of innovation are changing. Innovation is increasingly coming from sources other than research, be it from social entrepreneurs, end users, citizens, youth or through collaborative patterns. Connecting all actors wherever they are – including rural areas – matters more now than ever before. So let’s take this opportunity, the Start-up Village Forum, to start creating our common future together. Let us synchronise our efforts across territorial levels and policy domains to empower our rural start-ups now and in the coming years.”

Januzs Wojciechowski, Commissioner for Agriculture said: “Today, rural areas offer a wealth of opportunities to seize, as laid out in the long-term vision for rural areas. Fostering rural innovation should largely contribute to the green and digital transition, benefiting our rural communities, our farmers and society as a whole. The Start-up Village Forum plays an important role, by connecting start-ups, rural actors and public authorities to share knowledge and experiences. I look forward to this year’s discussions and upcoming editions.”

Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms said: “Cohesion Policy plays a crucial role in building the rural innovation ecosystem by investments in research and academic institutions, investments on broadband and to help rural businesses to innovate, harness digitalisation, and build on the strengths of the rural and remote areas as part of their smart specialisation strategies. These investments also enhance the role of rural areas in the transition to a green and sustainable Europe.”

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