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Living Lab research concept in Rural Areas

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LIVERUR (Living Lab research concept in Rural Areas)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

LIVERUR is an EU funded research and innovation project dedicated to improve existing business structures in rural areas by helping farmers and small and medium agricultural enterprises implement a circular economy approach in 13 selected pilot zones all over Europe, as well as selected countries in Africa and Asia. LIVERUR achieves this objective by expanding an innovative and dedicated business model called Living Labs among those rural regions. Living Labs are ecosystems which operate in a territorial context, integrating research and innovation processes within a public-private partnership and in a co-creation process with all relevant actors in the territories.
LIVERUR identified and compared the differences between the new approach of Living Lab and more entrepreneurial traditional approaches (mass production, development of prices, optimizing cost structures with companies, rationalization) in order to implement a circular economy within each territory driven by waste reduction, new business creation and overall expansion of business opportunities for SMAEs.
Finally, LIVERUR will create an interactive online platform, featuring videos with guidance from business and agricultural experts, relevant data of the territory, support for linear and circular rural business creation and funding opportunities.
Phase 1 consisted of an analysis of the rural living lab concept and identification of existing rural business models throughout Europe. This included the creation of an extensive analysis of the existing business models in rural territories in order to foster collection and capitalization of existing knowledge, and the development of a comprehensive approach to rural business models analysis, which identified relevant benchmarking criteria and suggested innovative comparison strategies.
In the second phase, LIVERUR developed a benchmark classification to list existing business concepts and models in terms of starting conditions, obstacles faced, enabling factors, financial mechanisms, generation of added value, jobs and other environmental and social benefits in order to leverage existing procedures.
After all the analysis, comparisons and studies phase 3 worked on the creation and conceptualization of a totally new business model concept - The Regional Circular Living Lab business model concept (RAIN).
Phase 4, still at early stage, consists of the creation of a Living Lab territorial community to gather all the users and stakeholders necessary for the piloting implementation, through an ICT enabled service ecosystem (RAIN platform). Taking a Responsible Research and Innovation approach, the LIVERUR project used the Living Labs and Co-creation methodologies to gather and involve all the relevant stakeholders in a Public-Private-People Partnership in the Piloting Actions.
Last phase of the project consists of the validation of Rural Living Labs, which means testing and validating the operability of the living lab approach in rural areas by University and open innovation centers through the 13 pilot areas. Until now, LIVERUR has only made progress on the creation of round tables with entrepreneurs and elaboration of an ICT enabled platform for them.
LIVERUR project aims at having effects at different levels of action. Until now LIVERUR has been mainly developing strategies and methodologies at the analytical, business model and knowledge share/communitarian level. The analytical level encompasses the conceptualization of existing rural business models in EU and regional areas and the development of relevant benchmarking criteria and innovative comparison strategies. The business level includes the study of the living lab technique and the feasibility assessment on the integration process in the consortium territories, plus the development of a regional circular living lab business model. LIVERUR has already started to develop a regional circular living lab tool for entrepreneurs in rural areas (RAIN Platform), considered as an anchor where entrepreneurs will be able to find marketing advices, funding solutions, experts counselling and legal feedback. Moreover, this platform aims to be the first Pan-European living lab entrepreneurs’ platform.
At operational level, LIVERUR will make the Regional Circular Living Lab model operative. This means it will be implemented in the 13 selected territories in order to prove the feasibility and operability of the concept. Territorial guidelines will be implemented and a Toolbox is going to be integrated in order to facilitate the testing of the new business model.
At capitalization level, the outcomes of LIVERUR are planned to be capitalized and disseminated outside the consortium areas, in order to ensure their transferability even after the end of the development period. LIVERUR will disclose its main results to local and regional policy-makers not belonging to LIVERUR territories in an understandable and attracting way and will create a long-term vision that brings rural inclusion and rural equity. Every piloting area commits to include another nearby and similar area in order to start a process of share of best practices. In addition, a tutoring activity will be performed in order to help the other territorial communities to develop their own strategic plans.
LIVERUR will enable not simply networking and knowledge share activities among socio-economic research institutes, open innovation experts, regional development agencies, agricultural entrepreneurial organizations, etc., but it will also foster the knowledge exchange and spillover effects between traditional sectors and innovative sectors of the rural framework. The final aim will be the adaptation and implementation of regional circular living lab concept based on already existing “best practice business” models.
In the long term, the results will increase the potential for rural economic diversification, added value and job creation in a variety of rural areas thanks to the dissemination of promising business cases. The involved SMAEs will become even more multifunctional, offering the following items: new services, related to green infrastructure services; new products and services related to the agriculture-environment-tourism as well as environment-culture-tourism value chains; co-operation with the educational system; cooperation with the regional rural development authorities. The SMAEs will reduce the water, energy and CO2 footprints of their products/services and they will improve its environmental management system.
In addition, rural economies and societies will become more resilient to global economic and climate changes and social inclusiveness thanks to the labor delocalization and internal migration. Moreover, the use of local food chain valorizes local food production enabling the conservation and proliferation of local resilient genetic material.
Last but not least, LIVERUR will improve the delivery of ecosystem services resulting from innovative forms of valorization. The LIVERUR consortium will create a long-standing after project co-operation and knowledge platform between the Rural Living Labs, using the ICT tool and the lesson learned implementing the circular economy principle.
LIVERUR pays special attention to the potential barriers that could arise linked to socio economical and gender status and it involves immigrants, elderly and disabled people.