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University of Aberdeen leads Europe in rural development research £1.5Million grant funding won from the European Union
Date: 28 February 2000
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An internationally respected University of Aberdeen unit which carries out research into issues of relevance to rural change and development, has won grants totalling over £1.5Million from the European Union to carry out a number of European-wide research projects. The projects are led by Co-Directors of the Arkleton Centre for Rural Development and Research, Professor Mark Shucksmith and Professor John Bryden, and Dr John Farrington, from the Department of Geography and an Associate within the Arkleton Centre.
The PAYPIRD project aims to analyse the effects of policies on young people aged 16-25 across rural areas of Europe, concentrating particularly in their integration with or exclusion from labour markets.
Professor Shucksmith explained: “All countries are experiencing changes in labour markets and often their welfare systems are also being revised, as with the New Deal and Welfare to Work in Britain. These changes interact with changes in the nature and duration of young people’s transition to adulthood. In some senses, young people are now growing up more slowly and their opportunities are structured by the jobs and the government support available in their local area.
“Rural labour markets differ from those in urban areas, welfare assistance may be less available or acceptable, and it is thought that young people in rural areas are likely to lead a qualitatively different kind of life from those in towns. It follows that apparently uniform policies may impact differently.”
The results of this research will have important implications for the future of rural development policy which is currently under review. PAYPIRD is coordinated by Professor Shucksmith and participating organisations are based in Germany, France, Ireland, Portugal, Austria and Finland.
Professor Shucksmith is also project director of The Rural Transfer Network, a research project supported by the European Union Northern Periphery Programme, as well as by the Scottish Executive and the Lowland Leader Network.
Professor Shucksmith explained: “Sustainable rural development is an important goal of policy in the northern areas of Europe, both for the European Union and for national governments, given their sparsely populated, rural character.
“The European Union Agriculture Council of Ministers has agreed that keeping alive the fabric of the countryside is an important objective, in seeking to ensure the cohesion of European society. In this context, employment and economic development are the primary concerns. This is echoed in the UK in the recent Cabinet Office reports, and in the Scottish Office’s “Towards a Developmental Strategy for Rural Scotland.”
But there is concern that rural development practice is not supported by sufficient research-based evidence of what works or why. There has also been little trans-national sharing of such knowledge-based experience between key players. This project will help to document such experiences, relating them to the changing context facing northern peripheral areas, and disseminating them to people in Scotland, Finland, Sweden and Norway.
Professor John Bryden is leading a two-year international project on the Dynamics of Rural Areas (DORA) which aims to devise practical strategies and programmes for sustainable rural and regional development in different contexts.
Professor Bryden explained: “We will do this by improving our understanding of the factors underlying persistent difference in economic performance between rural localities and regions.
“Regional economic disparity is a complex issue involving diverse factors, often deeply rooted historically. The multi-discipline project will draw on theories and research in economics, economic and social geography, political science, anthropology, sociology and institutional and management studies.
“The basic hypothesis is that differential development in rural areas and regions can be explained by a combination of ‘tangible’ and ‘less tangible’ factors, and the way these interact in specific national, regional and local contexts. Thus natural and human resources and investment are tangible factors, but how well they are put together depends on less tangible factors like institutional and market performance, culture and the kind of networks which people and organisations have.
“We will make use of national steering groups which will involve policy makers and practitioners from the regions and areas involved to ensure that local knowledge is tapped and that results are fed into policy making and practice.”
DORA involves partnership with researchers in Germany, Greece and Sweden.
The second project in which Professor Bryden plays a key role is the IT-Scand action research project, aimed at building co-operation between small enterprises involved in various aspects of Information and Communications technologies in the peripheral areas of Scotland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
Originally funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, Scottish Office and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the current programme of work is funded by the EU's Northern Peripheries Programme, with matching funding from the Scottish Executive and equivalent bodies in the participating countries.
In 1999 a study of “best practice” in projects involving trans-national co-operation between small and medium sized enterprises in the periphery was undertaken (details available on the project website: www.oslo.sintef.no/fora/prosjekter/itscand)
Professor Bryden said: There is a good deal of interest in all the peripheral regions of Europe in the potential contribution of Information and Communications Technology to development.
“A critical issue is how small enterprises use this technology to develop new products, access new markets, improve value-added and gain better links with consumers. Small enterprises face the same kind of issues and challenges in Scotland and Scandinavia, and trans-national co-operation not only allows them to learn from each other, and keep up with the latest advances, but also to work together on new ideas.
“The EU has many programmes encouraging such co-operation but these can be difficult for small enterprises to apply to. If policy makers really want such co-operation then there have to be opportunities to come together trans-nationally in order to build trust and establish areas of common ground. This is what IT-Scand tries to facilitate.”
Dr Farrington’s project, “Environmental Transport Policies and Rural Development”, aims to develop mechanisms to identify conflict and synergy between environmental transport policies and rural development throughout the European Union.
Dr Farrington explained: “We hope the results of our research will enable policy makers to identify ways in which policy can be adapted to the particular needs of rural areas in Europe. Recommendations will be made about policies such as fuel pricing and the redistribution of taxation revenue to rural areas when the final report is produced in August 2000.”
Other countries involved in the project are Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Greece.
Professor Bryden on 01224
Professor Shucksmith on 01224 272360 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr John Farrington on 01224 272350 (email@example.com)
University Press Office on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.