Diversity, people and governance, some of the key messages in the last 2023 EU AgriResearch Conference

by | Aug 15, 2023 | MOVING

Author: Emilia Schmitt and Marta Baena (UCO)

Last June, the MOVING project, a Horizon 2020 European research initiative, was invited by the Commission to take part in the 2023 EU AgriResearch Conference, which was held in Brussels. At this event, MOVING had the honour of delivering a key-note speech, presenting its groundbreaking investigation that is leading the way in inspiring meaningful discussions. Emilia Schmitt, a researcher from the University of Córdoba, shared the project’s mission to build capacities and co-develop policy frameworks across Europe.

The EU AgriResearch Conference was focused on knowledge, innovation and skills for sustainable horizons, and how these concepts are shaping the farms of the future. This year’s edition gathered over 500 participants from diverse backgrounds, including scientists, farmers, rural communities, industry, advisors, policy-makers, citizens and NGO representatives. The event fostered critical thinking about how research and innovation can address challenges in agriculture, forestry, and rural areas, while also identifying new opportunities worth exploring.

During her intervention in the final session, Schmitt highlighted three key messages from a parallel session on rural opportunities: diversity, people and governance. The discussion emphasised the importance of diversity and why it should be put on the first place: “When talking about rural opportunities, we first discussed what rural areas are and found out that even the definition is not as clear as one thinks, because rural areas in Europe are very diverse, from dense to remote mountains. So, when thinking about solutions, we repeated that «no one solution fits all»”.

The debate centred around the diverse contexts we encounter in rural areas, leading participants to agree that “innovation is not possible without considering the specific locations and the people involved”. While technology a significant role in the discussion, there was a notable emphasis on the concept that smart technology should truly be «smart» rather than «tech».

The spotlight then turned to the crucial role of people in rural development demography emerged as a pressing concern, with a significant workforce leaving these areas. “If we want to develop opportunities for a sustainable development, we need these areas to be attractive and people to remain there”, added Schmitt.

The final aspect of the discussion revolved around governance particularly focusing on finding solutions and exploring the role of Research and Innovation (R&I) and other instruments in assisting rural areas: “We talked about the Living Labs role, at this point, and how we can or should integrate local rural people into decisions, to not just impose city visions and values in rural areas”. 

Empowering local people and involving them in decision processes about demography and other aspects of development, such as research and education, were considered essential steps toward fostering sustainable growth. 

You can read this article in Spanish here.