Entrepreneurial ecosystems have the potential to support the regeneration of low-density and rural territories, but they are predominantly applied in urban environments, could these frameworks be applied in a rural context? João Almeida of the University of Aveiro (Portugal) has been investigating and we asked him about his work.
Requirements of Low-Density and Rural Territories
Low-Density and Rural Territories (LDTs) cover 75% of EU territory but only 19% of the EU population, facing several structural challenges that thwart their social and economic development in a vicious declining cycle, affecting their capacity to be resilient to external shocks.
Given their specific characteristics, entrepreneurship and innovation have been considered key factors for the development of LDTs.
Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (EEs) have emerged as providing a supportive environment for entrepreneurial and innovative activities and have been successful in promoting the development of a given place. However, there is a clear bias in EE literature towards urban territories, with few studies focusing on resource-constrained environments, such as LDTs.
The preliminarily results of my PhD research have highlighted that well-known EE processes, elements and frameworks developed for urban territories or cities will not necessarily suit LDTs and rural contexts.
Rural areas have different community cultures, social and historical dynamics. There are also greater concerns over natural capital, the quality of life and sustainability. The role of leadership is also a relevant element to consider.
The outputs and outcomes of EEs in LDTs are also different, going beyond the traditional outcome of economic development to include the social and sustainable development of their community, institutions, and territory.
The focus of the research is three-fold:
- – provide an in-depth understanding of the elements and processes of EEs in LDTs
- – understand how policymakers can potentiate the sustainable development of their territories
- – identify ways to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities, especially in the midst of the current pandemic crisis.
Learning points for R&D Management
There is a clear call for more research and policy discussion on how entrepreneurship and innovation (ecosystems) can be used to break the vicious declining cycle of LDTs.
LDTs and rural areas are crucial to tackling many of the ongoing challenges related to climate change and must be at the core of research and policy to promote a green and just future for all places and people.
Thus, the R&D Management field must include these types of places in their analysis. Most research on entrepreneurship, innovation or R&D is biased towards urban and more dynamic territories.
‘Hot Topics’ in the field
Topics like the green economy, circular economy, sharing economy, or sustainability are hot topics. Researchers must keep up the production of reliable evidence to help policymakers and communities build more sustainable economies where no one is left behind.
Local/regional resilience is also one of the hot topics at the moment, given the pandemic crisis that we are facing. It is important to understand how certain regions resist and/or recover better than others to the social and economic shock provoked by the pandemic and the lockdown measures.
Finally, the pandemic also brought a new window of opportunity for rural areas, given the new remote work and digitalization trends, increasing concerns with environment and sustainability and the increasing search for well-being and less-crowded places. Thus, researchers and policymakers must be aware of these trends accelerated by the pandemic to seize and include them in local/regional development strategies.
Key Books/Papers for a newcomer in the field
To a newcomer to these fields, I would like to recommend the following two articles as a stepping-stone to this impactful field of research:
If you want to know more about Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, I would suggest the book “Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Theory, Practices and Futures” by Ben Spigel (2020) as one of the best guides to understanding EEs. Also, the recent paper of Wurth, Stam and Spigel (2021), “Toward an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Research Program” provides an important conceptual analysis and proposes a research program to the concept.
Regarding LDTs and rural areas, I would suggest the recent book “Smart Development for Rural Areas” by André Torre et al. (2020) and the policy reports on the “Long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas”.
João Almeida is a PhD Research Fellow at the University of Aveiro (Portugal). He has a Master’s in Management, and he is currently a PhD student in Business and Economics, both from the University of Aveiro (Portugal). His main research interests are entrepreneurship education, innovation, entrepreneurial ecosystems and local/regional development.