Centre for Rural Economy

Staff Profile

Dr Barbara Tocco

Senior Research Associate and NICRE Centre Manager



I am Senior Research Associate in Rural Enterprise and Centre Manager at the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE), since October 2020. 

I am an applied social scientist in sustainable agriculture, food and the rural economy and hold a PhD in Economics. My research interests relate to rural development challenges and have undertaken quantitative and qualitative research on various topics including: small rural businesses and development strategies, economic rural diversification, regional foods and short food supply chains, economic impacts of agricultural policy, competitiveness and sustainability of agri-food supply chains. 

Prior to joining NICRE, I was based at the Newcastle University Business School (since Feb. 2015), where I was Project Manager on H2020 Strength2Food (March 2016 - May 2021), and was extensively involved in various EU-funded multidisciplinary projects (Strength2Food, Valumics, Compete).

Current Projects

NICRE (Centre Manager & Senior Researcher) - National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise; Research England (UKRI). Centre Director: Prof Jeremy Phillipson, SNES, Newcastle University. 

NICRE officially launched on 1st Sep 2020 - it aims to undertake research and knowledge exchange to inform policy, foster the innovation and resilience of rural businesses, and unlock the potential of rural economies across the UK. www.ncl.ac.uk/nicre/


PhD in Economics, University of Kent, 2016. Thesis on “Agricultural Employment and Inter-Sectoral Labour Mobility in Selected EU Member States ”; Advisors: Prof Sophia Davidova, Dr Alastair Bailey. 

MSc in International Finance and Economic Development, University of Kent, 2010.

BA Economics and Politics, University of Kent, 2009.


European Commission FP7 Research Project ‘Factor Markets’ - PhD scholarship at the University of Kent, awarded by the European Commission, 2010-2013


Member of the European Association of Agricultural Economists (EAAE)

Member of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE)

Member of the Agricultural Economics Society (AES)

Research Groups at Newcastle University

CRE - Centre for Rural Economy 

IEDB - Innovation, Enterprise and Digital Business 

Research Profiles

Google Scholar

ORCID Profile



Research Interests

My research interests relate to rural development challenges. Specific areas of work include:

  • Competitiveness and sustainability of agri-food supply chains
  • Food quality policy, regional foods, rural development
  • Short food supply chains and local food systems
  • Small rural businesses and development strategies
  • Rural-urban migration, occupational choice and income diversification
  • Economic impacts of agricultural policy

As an applied social scientist, I have undertaken both quantitative and qualitative research methods. 

Current Projects

NICRE - National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise; Research England (UKRI). www.ncl.ac.uk/nicre/

Strength2Food - Strengthening European Food Chain Sustainability by Quality and Procurement Policy; Horizon 2020 http://www.strength2food.eu/

Completed Research Projects

  • STRENGTH2FOOD (Project Manager & Researcher) - Strengthening European Food Chain Sustainability by Quality and Procurement Policy; EU Horizon 2020. Project Coordinator: Prof Matthew Gorton, NUBS, Newcastle University. 

Strength2Food is a five-year, €6.9 million project to undertake research and demonstration activities and provide evidence-based recommendations to improve the effectiveness of EU agricultural products quality policy and Public Sector Food Procurement and to stimulate Short Food Supply Chains. Our 30-partner consortium represents 11 EU and 4 non-EU countries and combines leading academic, communication, SME and stakeholder organisations to ensure a multi-actor approach. www.strength2food.eu 

** Watch our Demo Video showcasing some of the Local Pilot Action initiatives aimed at "Stimulating a short fish supply chain in North-East England", in partnership with Food Nation & Newcastle University.

  • VALUMICS (Researcher) - Understanding food value chains and network dynamics; EU Horizon 2020 (http://www.valumics.eu)

  • COMPETE (Researcher) - International comparisons of product supply chains in the agro-food sectors: determinants of their competitiveness and performance on EU and international markets; EU FP7  (http://www.compete-project.eu)
  • FACTOR MARKETS (Researcher) - Comparative analysis of factor markets for agriculture across the Member States; EU FP7 (http://www.factormarkets.eu)

Current PhD Students:

Richard Freeman, Achieving sustainable territorial development through the creation of short supply chains in the fisheries sector, ESRC NINE DTP, with Prof J. Phillipson and Prof M. Gorton (since October 2018)


Student Supervision

Agri-food Business Management and Marketing Dissertation (ACE3099), School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, 2021-2022 (undergraduate).

Dissertation in Marketing (NBS8512), Newcastle University Business School, 2019-2020 (postgraduate).

Contemporary Marketing Dissertation (MKT3096), Newcastle University Business School, 2015-2017 (undergraduate).

Teaching experience 

The European Economy in the Twentieth Century (EC311), School of Economics, University of Kent, 2011-2014 (undergraduate - teaching assistant).