Rural areas often have common challenges affecting their research and innovation capacity. For example, young workers might move for education or work, and a high reliance on one or a few sectors which can make the regional economy vulnerable.

On the other hand, sparsely populated regions also have characteristics that work in their advantage, including close-knit communities, proximity to natural scenery, and an alternative to urban areas in terms of lifestyle.

The workshop

On the 5th of December, project partners and stakeholders met in Hamburg, Germany to focus on how to build rural innovation capacity and performance.

Since rural innovation capacity is key to rural regions staying competitive and ensuring sustainable growth, the Policy Learning Platform invited projects focusing on framework conditions for rural innovation, SMEs and entrepreneurship in rural regions. At the event, speakers presented policy updates, good practices and action plans.

The goals of the workshop were to:

  • Focus on how to enhance rural innovation capacity and performance for project stakeholders.
  • Learn about EU level policy initiatives to support rural innovation and development.
  • Share experiences and success stories of rural innovation.
  • Find seeds for future project cooperation and inspiration to tackle common challenges.


The workshop provided an opportunity to enhance collaborations between projects addressing innovation challenges in rural and sparsely populated areas from different perspectives. Furthermore, the interventions from OECD, DG AGRI and the S3 Platform highlighted the opportunities for Interreg Europe projects to engage via additional platforms and networks. 

It was reminded that rural areas are challenged by depopulation, causing a shrinking talent pool and lack of critical mass in the rural innovation eco-system. However, innovation is not just an urban phenomenon and in rural areas entrepreneurs are the important sources of innovation.

To promote innovation and attract people, the participants highlighted, among others, the importance of physical and digital infrastructure to establish links with urban areas, to grant SMEs access to markets and to provide services to the community.

By sharing experiences and knowledge the projects identified policies, tools and practices to draw inspiration from in their continued work to drive rural innovation and development. Discussions also highlighted which innovation performance measures or indicators are best suited to help policy makers assess the impacts of their policy interventions and the differences with urban areas.

Projects presenting good practices and action plans

Thank you

Thank you again to all the event participants! To view the presentations and more information about the workshop, please visit the conclusions page.