Rural and farming businesses in the South West are being asked how they are dealing with COVID-19 to explore the lesser-known area of rural resilience. The survey being conducted by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) is their first and will ask businesses about the strategies they have put in place during the pandemic to increase their resilience and their plans and expectations for the future.
The CCRI at the University of Gloucestershire and Royal Agricultural University are NICRE’s founding academic partners in the South West alongside the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) at Warwick University and Newcastle University’s Centre for Rural Economy and Business School.
There is little research about how small firms in rural areas manage crises and how they recover so NICRE is speaking to more than 4,000 businesses over the next two months to shed light on this area.
NICRE co-director Prof Stephen Roper from ERC, who is leading the survey, said: “Every business in the UK has been challenged in some way over the last year due to COVID-19 however those in rural areas have been some of the hardest hit.
“As we take steps along the road to recovery, it’s surprising, perhaps, but we have very little robust information on rural resilience – how small firms in the countryside deal with crises and how they recover.
“Our large-scale survey fills an important gap in our current knowledge of rural enterprise and aims to improve how local and national government support rural businesses in the future.”
Alongside resilience, the survey explores how firms’ local networks have contributed to survival and growth, the impact of financial pressures on businesses, families and communities as well as issues around workforce, the availability of broadband, and aspects of local supply chains.
In addition to rural and farming businesses in the South West, the survey seeks the views of those in the Midlands and North East with a comparator sample of urban firms, with owners contacted at random by independent market research agency OMB Research.
NICRE, which was established to foster rural enterprise and unlock the potential in rural economies, is also keen to speak businesses in more detail.
Prof Roper said: “We would be very interested to talk in-depth to the owners of rural and farming firms about how you and your business have coped during the pandemic, the challenges you have faced, and what you think about the support you have received from Government and local agencies.
“We’d really like to hear your thoughts to help us shed light on rural resilience and contribute, through NICRE, to developing future policy support for businesses in rural areas.”
Any business interested in giving their views should contact Prof Roper at Stephen.Roper@wbs.ac.uk
Results from the survey will be available in the autumn.