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Expertise and training centre on rural innovation

Proposals should provide capacity building on rural innovation towards rural communities and actors in the EU and beyond, seeking to valorise the outcomes of projects funded under various programmes. The latter may include Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, the common agricultural policy (LEADER, EIP-AGRI operational groups), regional policy (community-led local development, INTERREG, smart specialisation strategies), preparatory actions such as the Smart rural project[[https://www.smartrural21.eu/]] or SMARTA[[https://ruralsharedmobility.eu/]] and other EU or non-EU relevant actions. Projects from these programmes should be considered as relevant if they produced practical tools to develop and/or implement strategies and roadmaps in various domains (energy, digital, climate adaptation and mitigation, mobility, environment, social, education and care, food etc.), innovation approaches such as living labs, activities related to smart villages; training packages, videos etc. innovation activities in general and innovative solutions. Proposals should pay special attention to social innovation[[Social innovation is defined for this topic as “the reconfiguring of social practices, in response to societal challenges, which seeks to enhance outcomes on societal well-being and necessarily includes the engagement of civil society actors”. (SIMRA)]], which has been demonstrated to have a high potential to meet rural challenges. Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the interface between social and technical solutions and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake. Capacity building should target in particular communities developing smart village strategies[[https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/enrd-thematic-work/smart-and-competitive-rural-areas/smart-villages_en]] as foreseen under the common agricultural policy for 2021-2027[[https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/key-policies/common-agricultural-policy/future-cap_en]] or similar initiatives, paying attention to the needs of various groups within these communities (e.g. women, youth etc.). They should map and promote funding opportunities and prepare the ground for rural communities to take part in innovation actions funded under Horizon Europe or other innovation support actions that can be used to support ecological, digital or social transitions in rural areas (whether or not they are targeted to these areas).

Proposals should organise the capitalisation and exchange of knowledge between projects funded under Horizon Europe working on innovation for rural communities. They should feed in and translate results from the research and innovation actions as these results become available. They should allow the portfolio of projects to reflect on rural innovation processes, lessons learnt and ways to improve innovation processes and innovation systems for rural communities in a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral way. They should also ensure a lively interface between actions supporting rural community-led innovation funded under Horizon Europe (e.g. HORIZON-CL6-2022-COMMUNITIES-01-01 and HORIZON-CL6-2022-COMMUNITIES-02-01-two-stage in the work programme 2021-2022) and common agricultural policy networks[[Currently ENRD and EIP-AGRI (https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/key-policies/common-agricultural-policy/rural-development_en#enrd) to be replaced by the networks to be funded under the future CAP: https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/key-policies/common-agricultural-policy/future-cap_en ]]. The project duration should be adapted to ensure such capitalisation is possible (a duration of at least five years is recommended). They may engage in collaboration with projects funded under other relevant calls[[e.g. HORIZON-CL6-2021-GOVERNANCE-01-26 ‘Deepening the functioning of innovation support’, HORIZON-CL6-2021-CIRCBIO-01-08 ‘Mainstreaming inclusive small-scale bio-based solutions in European rural areas’; HORIZON-CL6-2021-GOVERNANCE-01-09 ‘Revitalisation of European local communities with innovative bio-based business models and social innovation’ etc.]].

Proposals should explore with rural communities and benchmark various options and business models to create viable, networked and long-term rural innovation expertise and training mechanisms, centre(s) or hub(s) in Europe, able to capitalise on new knowledge and tools created and process them into training packages and sessions for rural communities in Europe and beyond. They should engage with international partners, including relevant international organisations (e.g. FAO, OECD) and partners in priority regions of the world for EU international cooperation on rural development (e.g. Africa) or with outstanding expertise in rural development, on resources to support the sustainable development of rural communities. Proposals may include partners from these countries in capacity building activities.

Proposals must implement the multi-actor approach, bringing together the required competencies in communication, dissemination, exploitation and training alongside genuine knowledge of rural communities’ context. Training contents and packages should be provided in multiple languages and multimedia formats allowing their wide dissemination in the EU and beyond. They should be developed, tested and validated taking into account the specific needs of various types of rural actors (including women, young people, entrepreneurs, community-leaders, elderly etc.) in various types of rural areas (e.g. close to cities, remote etc.) and cover a wide variety of important aspects of rural life that rural communities may want to innovate on (e.g. energy, mobility, education, services, health, climate, environment etc.). Proposals focusing on one type of activity or sector (e.g. primary production) would not be considered as addressing the challenge appropriately. Synergies may be developed with other actions targeting community-based innovations in specific domains, innovation support or education and training.