The University of Aberdeen was awarded £12.4 million of funding over five years to investigate how advances in digital technologies can transform rural communities, society and business.
The funding from the Research Councils UK's (RCUK) Digital Economy Programme, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is the largest single externally funded grant to be received by the University.
The Rural Digital Economy Research Hub (RDEH), launched on October 1st 2009 and based at the University’s King’s College campus, is conducting research and development into digital technologies to enhance how crucial services such as healthcare and transport are delivered in rural areas across the UK.
It also investigates how new technologies can benefit rural economies and communities by promoting new forms of enterprise in areas such as tourism and natural resource conservation.
The Aberdeen RDEH is one of three such centres in the UK focusing on the development of digital technologies for the future and is the only centre to be based in Scotland.
Drawing together the University's research strengths in areas including computing science, transport, healthcare and sociology, experts from across these disciplines are working together to understand and assess digital technology requirements and develop and evaluate solutions.
Researchers are working alongside key partners including global transport provider FirstGroup, the NHS, development and enterprise agencies across the UK, and rural business and community groups, to enable new digital technologies to be developed and then tested within real life scenarios. Furthermore, the RDEH is also working to establish a network of academic partners at other institutions in the UK and overseas.
Research is centred around four main themes: Accessibility & Mobilities; Healthcare; Enterprise & Culture, and Natural Resource Conservation.
When the RDEH award was announced, Professor John Farrington of the University of Aberdeen's School of Geosciences, the RDEH Director, said: "Untapped economic potential in rural areas is of crucial significance, and has been estimated at £347 billion in England alone. Digital technology has a key role to play in realising this potential. The Rural Digital Economy Research Hub based at the University of Aberdeen will develop advances in technology which have the potential to transform how people in rural communities live and work in the future."
In December 2009, Professor John Farrington launched a new series of weekly, afternoon research seminars. These are free for academics and members of the public to attend, designed to be accessible and engaging – tackling diverse topics centred around the RDEH’s four application themes – and are held in the MacRobert Building, University of Aberdeen. For more information, along with the programme of forthcoming seminars, please see www.digital-rural.org.