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Laying the foundations of NICRE

Laying the foundations of NICRE

12 February 2021

Setting out our stall for the years ahead

It’s been a busy few months here at NICRE since our official ‘start’ in September last year and I wanted to bring you up to speed on what’s been happening, writes Prof Jeremy Phillipson.

While NICRE has been many years in the making, we’ve been laying the foundations as a new centre and setting out our stall for the years ahead.

Our mission

Our mission is to fill gaps in current knowledge of rural enterprise and innovation by undertaking and commissioning new research.

We want to develop practical solutions with businesses, rural communities and economic development agencies to create new approaches to rural innovation that can be scaled up to solve problems and realise new opportunities.

And we will be working to provide evidence to contribute to better policy and support for rural businesses.

Put simply we want to foster rural enterprise and unlock the potential in our rural economies – a sector which despite its vast scale, is largely underexplored and underutilised. 

Setting up the centre during a global pandemic is not something we ever envisaged or planned for. It is hard to comprehend that I have not yet been able to meet in person with new members of the team. Nevertheless, what is certain, is that the challenges and innovations that COVID-19 has presented and stimulated for rural enterprise have only served to strengthen NICRE’s relevance and our commitment to its mission. Having the centre in place means we are much better paced to be able to respond and inform future recovery.

Working with partners

Work is now well underway with our founding university partners here at Newcastle University in the Centre for Rural Economy and Newcastle Business School, the Countryside and Community Research Institute at Gloucestershire and Royal Agriculture Universities and the Enterprise Research Centre at Warwick University. The cross fertilisation of two bodies of expertise – small business and rural development research – is at the heart of NICRE. Already this is leading to a creative exchange in which we are learning enormously from each other.

Of course, we’re indebted for the support of our founding business partners Strutt and Parker and Azets as we do this and to the expertise across NICRE’s partners and the many businesses and communities that are starting to get involved

First open call and innovation projects

As part of our commitment to fill our knowledge gap and widen involvement, we’ve launched our first open call for our £100,000 research and innovation fund and welcome applications from researchers who have an idea that could help bolster innovation in rural business. The deadline for applications is 15 March.

We’ve started working with a range of partners and rural communities on a series of diverse projects that will help innovation to grow. Our first research strands are also underway on a host of topics such as business support, external finance, international trade, Net Zero, digital adoption, COVID adaptation and an agenda for the rural creative industries. And we are preparing for NICRE’s first large-scale regional business surveys which will focus on business resilience. Keep an eye out for future blogs which will shine the spotlight on these exciting initiatives.

Welcome new team members 

I’m delighted to say that we’ve now successfully recruited a team of staff across our research centres to help us achieve our goals. Thanks to them all for their energy, enthusiasm and commitment in setting up NICRE.

And last but not least, a special welcome to our three latest recruits who started with us in January. Melanie Thompson-Glen is our new business development manager, Ian Merrell takes on the post of Economic and Social Research Council Research Fellow and Jaclyn Curry joins us as communication and impact manager. While based in Newcastle – however currently working from home, as we all are, in line with Government guidelines – they will work across NICRE’s centres, the wider partnership and beyond.

Each bring with them a wealth of experience in their respective fields and watch this space for blogs from them telling you more about themselves.

To keep up to date with developments follow us on Twitter @NICRErural or if you have queries email


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