Innovation and Modernising the Rural Economy

image of Innovation and Modernising the Rural Economy

This publication is a result of the discussions from the OECD 8th Rural Development Policy Conference: "Innovation and modernising the rural economy" which took place in Krasnoyarsk, Russia on 3-5 October 2012. It provides an overview of the two themes of modernisation and innovation, focusing on identifying the attributes of the modern rural economy and showing how it differs from the traditional rural economy and from metropolitan economies. It also shows how rural innovation is a key driver of rural economic growth using patents as a measure.

The second part of the book consists of four chapters that offer evidence of rural regions’ potential to contribute to national economic growth. In addition, each provides useful context for Part I by outlining four different perspectives on the process of modernisation and innovation, and specifically, how they can take place in the rural territories of OECD countries. In each paper, the authors explore the opportunities and impediments to these twin processes and how government policy can help or hinder them.



A new rationale for rural cohesion policy

Overcoming spatial stereotypes by addressing inter-relations and opportunities

Rural areas are increasingly affected by a wide set of drivers arising from very different fields. Consequently, in most industrialised countries, rural regions can no longer be referred to simply as “underdeveloped” or weakly developed, but should rather be viewed as areas of significant opportunities and emerging perspectives. Such new perspectives particularly demand an evidence-based assessment of contemporary rural regions’ development options.

This chapter focuses on the rationale for a re-oriented rural policy that takes into account these substantial changes. It draws on the findings of the European Development Opportunities in Rural Areas (ESPON EDORA) project, which emphasises the need to overcome entrenched stereotypes that can misinform policy concepts. The complexity of spatial connections can be elucidated by a new view of rural development. A synthesis of “meta-narratives” of rural change (an agricentric narrative, an urban-rural narrative and narratives of globalisation and capitalist penetration) provide more realistic guidance for assessing rural challenges and opportunities. They take into account the increasing inter-relation of rural and urban regions, as well as connectivity of spaces and the need for differentiation of rural areas.

While classifications of rural regions are considered an important tool for supporting a comparative assessment of spatial dynamics, their actual value only becomes plain when addressing their various dimensions. The intensifying relationships between spatial units and actors do not favour clear-cut divisions between rural and urban spaces, but rather demand a flexible spatial assessment. The focus of a new rural Cohesion Policy should reflect this shift in perspective. Rather than hew to a fixed policy programme, interventions should be attempted at two levels: a macro-level, to address broad, systematic spatial patterns of differentiation, and a micro-level, to respond to localised, aspatial variations in territorial capital. In this respect, it is crucial for each rural region to find place-specific approaches to develop its specific local (intangible) assets, making use of the translocal networks that play a key role in innovation and development.


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