Gloucestershire universities handed £3.8m for new rural innovation partnership
By Matt Hall | 19th May 2020
The University of Gloucestershire and Royal Agricultural University are celebrating a major national funding award to support innovation and enterprise in rural economies.
Within a partnership with other educational establishments across the UK, the two county-based universities have secured £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 Joanna Price, vice-chancellor of the RAU, said: "With the impact of COVID-19, now more than ever, we're seeing the challenges facing rural businesses and communities; but we are also seeing their distinct strengths and their incredible capacity to adapt. This new Centre is about playing to these needs and strengths.
"Sharing research innovation, learning and best practice is the backbone to building resilience for the future. Through our involvement with the development of NICRE, we are looking forward to working with our research colleagues at the University of Gloucestershire and other partner universities, as well as businesses, policy makers, enterprise agencies and communities, to strengthen rural enterprise locally and across the UK."
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