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New Research To Support Rural Business Policy

Bob Newbery and Gary Bosworth have been appointed by DEFRA to lead a new project that will help local authorities to better target support for their rural economies. An earlier study of rural business start-up, growth and survival rates revealed combinations of factors that created more vibrant environments for rural entrepreneurs to thrive. In continuing this research, more detailed analysis will provide a more nuanced explanation of the uneven spread of rural entrepreneurship across England, as shown in the map below.

birth rate heat map of the UKApplying a Fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (FsQCA) approach, the new project will work with updated datasets to identify multiple combinations of attributes that correlate with positive indicators of rural entrepreneurship. Theories of affordances and rural capitals informed the choice of seven variables: Broadband connectivity, business networks, household income levels, touristic assets, distance to larger service centres, skills levels and the presence of anchor institutions. Rather than focusing on each factor in isolation, presenting multiple combinations of these attributes can reveal the most effective allocation of resources for local authorities seeking to enhance their rural economy.

The team, which includes Jeremy Phillipson and Matt Gorton from NICRE at Newcastle University, will work closely with DEFRA to turn this into a dashboard that will be piloted with rural policy-makers before a potential role-out across the country. The study is funded by the UK Government’s Economic Data Innovation Fund and will report on finding in early summer 2024.

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