The CCRI at the University of Gloucestershire is celebrating a major national funding award to support innovation and enterprise in rural economies

The University of Gloucestershire is pleased to announce its role in securing £3.8 million from the national research funding agency, Research England, for the creation of a new national centre to support innovation and unlock the potential of rural economies.

The National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) is a project consortium led by Newcastle University and including the University of Gloucestershire, the Royal Agricultural University, and the University of Warwick, working closely with business, policy makers and enterprise agencies.

In England alone, rural businesses comprise over half a million enterprises, employ 3.6 million people, and contribute over £260 billion to GDP. The aim of the NICRE is to release the untapped potential in rural economies which will be crucial to the future prosperity of communities across the UK. The Centre will focus on long term challenges for the rural economy including Brexit and climate change.

NICRE’s work will also help to understand and address the ongoing impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic in rural areas, and support their recovery. The Centre will begin its work formally this September, but the current crisis means its partners are already working to support the national response to the pandemic.

Stephen Marston, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, said:

“This is a major research coup for the University of Gloucestershire, to be a member of a consortium with two leading research universities, winning national research funding. It is a reflection of the excellence of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), which is based at the University of Gloucestershire’s Cheltenham campus and operated in partnership with the Royal Agricultural University. The CCRI, which led the bid for the University, is recognised as one of the leading social science research institutes in the country specialising in understanding rural communities and economies, and how they can be supported to develop. This funding award will enable the University, working closely with colleagues at the Royal Agricultural University, to extend the support that we can provide in sustaining and developing this crucial sector of Gloucestershire’s economy at a time when it is facing huge challenges”.

Professor Janet Dwyer, Director of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucestershire said:

“The award of significant funding from Research England represents an important milestone for the CCRI, in partnership with Warwick and Newcastle Universities. NICRE will enable us to significantly expand our transformative work with rural networks and enterprise, using research to benefit innovation and strengthening the evidence base for policies that really help to address the needs of all rural businesses.

“We have an exciting and growing portfolio of initiatives across Gloucestershire and neighbouring counties. The NICRE team in CCRI, based at the University of Gloucestershire and the Royal Agricultural University, linked to the Growth Hubs operated by both Universities and working with partners in commerce and social enterprise, will be dedicated to finding new and successful ways for rural firms to negotiate the challenges of post-Coronavirus recovery, managing Brexit and responding to the climate emergency.”

Professor Janet Dwyer & Stephen Martson

NICRE is funded by Research England and its founding University partners. It is led by and builds on the internationally recognised expertise of three leading University research centres – Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle, the Enterprise Research Centre at Warwick and the Countryside and Community Research Institute at Gloucestershire and Royal Agricultural Universities. NICRE also draws in expertise from Newcastle University Business School.

It will harness a partnership between HEIs, Government departments, professional business service companies, local authorities and enterprise partnerships, businesses organisations, and rural stakeholders and enterprises.

The centre aims to positively impact on business practices (improved research and innovation capabilities, new business models and stronger networks), people (capacity building of rural business owners, senior managers and advisors and a wide network of enterprise and rural development practitioners and researchers), policies (stronger evidence based policy design, delivery and support for rural enterprises, linked to the UK Industrial Strategy, post-Brexit rural programmes, and the work of Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities), and places (rural communities equipped to tackle current and future challenges and successfully contribute to national or local economic growth and prosperity). Together these impacts will boost levels of rural innovation, productivity, high quality jobs and community benefits of rural enterprise.  

Further information about NICRE is available at the CCRI website and from Newcastle University.