The European Commission has today launched the Startup Village Forum.

The Commission today launched the Startup Village Forum to gather information on the challenges and potential of rural start-ups. As part of the EU’s long-term vision for rural areas in June 2021 and the Commission’s Rural Action Plan. The annual Startup Village Forum helps foster research andinnovation in rural communities and helps create more innovative businesses that attract more young and talented people.

The Forum aims to become an open space where local, regional, national and European institutions and stakeholders can come together to discuss and shape measures for innovation in rural areas supported by start-ups. The Rural Innovation Forum will connect rural innovation actors from across the EU and foster the development of rural innovation ecosystems. The Rural Innovation Forum aims to provide information on rural innovation start-ups, the types of innovation they are involved in, the service gaps they expect from innovation ecosystems and how they could be strengthened in the future.

The launch event should also help to inform entrepreneurs and rural innovation actors about existing opportunities they can take advantage of, e.g. in the framework of the co Startup Village Emerging Village policy programmes, their relation to the smart villages concept and will pave the way for new launches in the coming years.

The general objectives of the Startup Village Forum are as follows

  • Support the development of rural innovation ecosystems;
  • Identify and analyse the drivers of innovation in rural areas;
  • Connecting rural innovation actors across the EU, with a focus on start-ups; and
  • Ensure a common understanding of the concept of and highlight the link with the smart village concept.

School members said:

Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Demography and Democracy, said: “All members of the panel are very pleased: today’s launch of the Emerging Villages Forum is a new start for rural areas. It reflects the importance the Commission attaches to supporting rural areas, as this is where the demographic transition is most visible.

Through the Starting Village Forum, they want Europe’s best and brightest to stay there and help build prosperity. By making their start-ups the real long-term drivers of our economy, all by tapping into the natural potential of Europe’s rural areas.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “We are all looking forward to the success of this: “The nature and sources of innovation are changing. Innovation is increasingly coming from sources other than research, whether from social entrepreneurs, end-users, citizens, young people or through collaborative models. Connecting all actors wherever they are – including in rural areas – is more important than ever.

So seize this opportunity, the Startup Village Forum, and start creating our common future together. Synchronise our efforts at all territorial levels and policy areas to boost our rural start-ups now and in the years to come.

Agriculture Commissioner Januzs Wojciechowski said: “Rural areas today offer many opportunities to be seized, as outlined in the long-term vision for rural areas. Promoting innovation in rural areas should greatly contribute to the green and digital transition and benefit our rural communities, farmers and society as a whole.

The Startup Village Forum plays an important role in bringing together start-ups, rural actors and public authorities to share knowledge and experiences. I look forward to this year’s discussions and future editions.

Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform, said: “Welcome to this meeting: “Cohesion policy has a crucial role to play in building the rural innovation ecosystem, investing in research and academia, investing in broadband and helping rural businesses to innovate. To exploit digitisation and to leverage the strengths of rural and remote areas in their smart specialisation strategies. These investments also reinforce the role of rural areas in the transition towards a green and sustainable Europe”.

Seizing the new opportunities arising from the digital transition: speech at the opening event of the Startup Village Forum

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to address you today at the opening of this important forum.

I believe that this initiative can contribute to the important work that has already been done to develop strong, prosperous and resilient rural areas in the European Union.

It is clear that rural areas play an important role in our economy and society, from adapting our ecosystems to providing our food systems.

However, it is also clear that rural areas in the European Union face major challenges.

As part of our work on a long-term vision for rural areas, the European Commission has identified the digital divide and skills shortages in rural areas as two of the biggest challenges, in addition to persistent exclusion from transport:

These gaps remain significant, with lower levels of connectivity, basic training and education in rural areas.

Closing these gaps will open up new opportunities for rural areas.

One of the first steps in closing these gaps will be to ensure widespread access to the internet, even in the most remote rural areas.

That is why the European Commission is working to ensure that all European households have high-speed Internet access by 2025.

This access is essential for rural communities and businesses and is a prerequisite for making key services such as e-health available to our rural citizens.

Of course, the expansion of internet access must be accompanied by investments in digital skills and entrepreneurship to enable rural people to take advantage of these new opportunities.

And we must ensure that innovation reaches all rural areas, even the most remote, so that they can participate fully in the green and digital transition.

In this respect, the Startup Village initiative can complement the important work already carried out in the framework of the Smart Villages initiative.

“Smart Villages puts rural citizens at the centre of building their own solutions, building on existing skills and helping to develop new ones.

Communities aim to improve their economic, social and environmental conditions. They use a strategic and participatory approach and mobilise the solutions offered by innovation and digital technologies.

These technologies are also key to developing efficient ways to connect local producers with consumers, shortening supply chains and moving towards a farm-to-table strategy. The pandemic has shown how important the internet is in maintaining our food security.

Smart villages are now being implemented. Supported by an envelope of more than €7 million, two preparatory actions on smart rural areas in the 21st century are being implemented.

We plan to take these preparatory actions to the field through Member States’ national CAP strategic plans.

Member States can further support the success of smart villages by investing in rural areas through the EU’s Regeneration and Resilience Instrument and other EU funds, especially the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

The Long Term Vision Action Plan for Rural Areas also includes two flagship actions to address connectivity and employment:

Firstly, a flagship initiative on the digital future of rural areas will contribute to better monitoring of broadband deployment in rural areas and help rural people to upgrade their digital skills.

Secondly, the flagship action “Entrepreneurship and the social economy in rural areas” will include measures to enable industrial entrepreneurs, SMEs and social economy organisations to thrive in rural areas.

These flagship actions will be further developed and linked to other support for rural areas and initiatives.

For example, the Rural Revitalisation Platform, due to be launched in early 2023, will offer rural communities, rural project promoters and local authorities a one-stop shop for cooperation.

This platform will promote the Smart Villages initiative and link it to other important initiatives such as the Smart Rural 21 project.

The implementation of these key actions and the achievement of the vision’s objectives can only be achieved through cooperation: between authorities and actors at national, regional and local levels.

The implementation of these key actions and the achievement of the vision’s objectives can only be achieved through cooperation: between authorities and actors at national, regional and local levels.

I look forward to the launch of the Compact in 2022 and to working together to implement and develop the Vision approach.

Our approach brings together a wide range of actors and actions to address the broad complexity of challenges and opportunities facing rural areas, and frames it all within a single Vision.

The Startup Village initiative can be an important piece of this puzzle.

So I look forward to seeing the results of this forum and what it can add to the work already done.

I hope that this forum will inspire ideas and stimulate further debate as we embark on a journey to promote smart and vibrant towns across the European Union.

I wish you a creative and productive forum.

Thank you.

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