Education and Training

Partnership between universities and business awarded nearly £4m

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 20 May 2020 17:48

Two of Gloucestershire’s universities have been awarded £3.8 million to create a new national centre to support innovation and unlock the potential of rural economies post pandemic. 

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. 

Its aim will be to help build the capabilities of policy makers, support agencies, rural businesses and their advisers to create resilient and sustainable economies fit for the 21st century. 

In England alone, rural businesses comprise over half a million enterprises, employ 3.6 million people, and contribute over £260 billion to GDP. 

Though the decision to fund NICRE was taken before the outbreak of Covid-19, its work will help to understand the ongoing impacts in rural areas and inform recovery. 

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.” 

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. 

Its aim 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 also focus on long term challenges for the rural economy including Brexit and climate change.