The OREN project aims at supporting rural entrepreneurs, giving them tools and building their skills to create and run rural, sustainable businesses in the context of the 21st century.
In order to understand, in depth, the situation of rural businesses and entrepreneurs across Europe, the consortium led a survey in Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Germany, Greece, and at the EU level. Combining desk research, case and program studies, and a survey of rural entrepreneurs, the research analyzed thoroughly the challenges and opportunities that the rural world faces now, as well as successful businesses and supporting programs, in order to determine what the characteristics of success in this context were.
In each country, at least 10 rural entrepreneurs were surveyed, giving them the opportunity to share their views on entrepreneurship in rural areas, and more specifically on challenges, opportunities, and needs. In addition, three successful businesses per country were analyzed, in order to identify key, common elements determining success. Finally, three support programs for rural entrepreneurs were studied in each country, mapping existing help for rural entrepreneurs, and understanding which levers worked and which didn’t.
Some key challenges were identified in all surveyed countries: high unemployment rate, ageing of the population, general rural population decline, and difficulty in accessing funding. The distance to controlling sectors of the economy and policy was also mentioned as negatively impacting opportunities in the rural sector. Finally, some respondents indicated that climate change posed an increasing challenge for their activities.
Different sectors were seen as emerging, depending on the country. However, common themes were the emergence of agrotourism, of circular economy, and of organic agriculture.
In terms of success factors and training needs, the following were identified as key elements:
- Entrepreneurial and innovation skills;
- Networking, and connection with a diverse network of stakeholders;
- Technical skills.
Stay tuned for the next stages of the OREN project, building on these findings!