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Smart solutions for smart rural communities: empowering rural communities and smart villages to innovate for societal change

Proposals should start from past work conducted in the framework of i) EU action on smart villages[[https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/enrd-thematic-work/smart-and-competitive-rural-areas/smart-villages_en;

https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/smart-and-competitive-rural-areas/smart-villages/smart-villages-portal_en]], including the related preparatory actions[[http://www.pilotproject-smartvillages.eu;

https://www.smartrural21.eu]]; and ii) Horizon 2020 projects dedicated to social innovation in rural areas[[In particular:

SIMRA: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/677622 - RURITAGE: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/776465 RURACTION: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/721999]]. Proposals should support a large number of rural community-led, social innovation or smart village pilot initiatives in a set of locations in the EU and Associated Countries representative of the diversity of social and geographical contexts. They should prototype, test, pilot and demonstrate innovations that answer the most pressing rural challenges found at these locations, with particular attention to social and environmental challenges.

Proposals should explore various forms of innovations: technical, technological, business, organisational and social. 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. Proposals should exploit in particular the potential of digital technologies to answer rural communities’ challenges, respecting the principles of the declarations on “joining forces to boost sustainable digital transformation in cities and communities”[[https://www.living-in.eu/declaration]] and on “a smart and sustainable digital future for European agriculture and rural areas”[[https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/eu-member-states-join-forces-digitalisation-european-agriculture-and-rural-areas]]. Proposals should build on the work of projects funded under the topic DT-ICT-09-2020[[https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/opportunities/topic-details/dt-ict-09-2020]] and avoid duplications.

Criteria for selecting the pilot initiatives supported should include the contribution to rural people’s well-being, rural community resilience to shocks, Sustainable Development Goals and the EU’s long-term vision for rural areas as well as the potential transferability or replicability of the innovations to other European villages facing similar conditions. The experience gained from supporting these community-led innovation pilot initiatives should lead proposals to formulate upgraded approaches, methods and tools that should be widely disseminated in close coordination with the ‘expertise and training centre on rural innovation funded under HORIZON-CL6-2021-COMMUNITIES-01-02. Proposals should also capitalise on i) rural innovation processes and knowledge and innovation systems or ecosystems needed to support rural community-led or social innovation and smart villages; and ii) lessons learnt to improve policies and governance frameworks, especially on instruments supporting the development of social capital, social networks, social economy and social innovation and with attention to various needs of various target groups.

Proposals must implement the multi-actor approach, bringing together scientists alongside rural community organisations, action groups or networks with a demonstrated ability to connect to a large number of local communities and disseminate and exploit project results. The consortium should bring together a multiplicity of competences and science disciplines with an effective contribution of SSH disciplines, to ensure a skilled accompaniment of a wide range of innovation areas likely to come from the pilot initiatives (climate mitigation and adaptation, social care and services, energy, mobility, culture, education etc.) and innovation approaches and technologies (technical, organisational, social, digital…). It should demonstrate substantial prior experience in facilitating community-led bottom-up innovation initiatives.

As an option, proposals may provide financial support to third parties, particularly for SMEs or entities who would develop specific innovative solutions needed in the pilot initiatives. Consortia who decide to use this option should define the selection process of entities for which financial support will be granted.

Proposals should include a task to cooperate with other projects funded under this topic, other relevant innovation projects and with the ‘expertise and training centre on rural innovation’ funded under HORIZON-CL6-2021-COMMUNITIES-01-02 from the beginning of the project (taking up tools and training kits) until its end (dissemination of upgraded tools and smart solutions) and with the projects funded under HORIZON-CL6-2022-COMMUNITIES-01-01 for issues related to women-led innovation. Proposals should also foresee close coordination with the 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]] to maximise the contribution of project activities to the achievement of future common agricultural policy (2021-2027) objectives[[https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/key-policies/common-agricultural-policy/future-cap_en]], in particular in relation with smart villages[[https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/enrd-thematic-work/smart-and-competitive-rural-areas/smart-villages_en]]. Finally, proposals are encouraged to liaise with the relevant European Institute of Technology knowledge and innovation communities[[https://eit.europa.eu/our-communities/eit-innovation-communities]].