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Opening my eyes to the breadth of rural enterprise

Opening my eyes to the breadth of rural enterprise

22 July 2021

My intern experience

Over the last seven weeks I have been a communications assistant intern at NICRE, writes Vicky Roddis. First and foremost, this role has opened my eyes to the breadth of rural enterprise in the UK, gaining an insight into the challenges faced and learning more about how innovation can help address them.

What has been loud and clear is that rural enterprise is not all about farming and agriculture. Rather it entails a wide range of sectors including food and drink businesses, creative industries and retail.


One of NICRE’s aims is to fill gaps in current knowledge of rural enterprise and innovation by undertaking and commissioning new research. Raising awareness of this, such as considering the contribution of rural SMEs to Levelling Up and the impact of COVID-19 on rural businesses, on the website and on social media was a large part of my role. I also promoted research funded by NICRE being carried out by universities across the UK, such as exploring innovation in rural agricultural shows and engaging rural enterprises in communities. I had great fun making an animation showcasing the research, highlighting the four cross-cutting themes these fall under; resilient rural, smart rural, productive rural and engaged rural.


My role also entailed promoting events. I attended and live tweeted about a key event for food and drink businesses; a collaboration between NICRE, the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project and Food and Drink North East. This really shone the spotlight for me on the issue of low-carbon logistics and transport as well as being inspired about how small businesses such as Cake Stories to big businesses such as Greggs are all making an effort to be more sustainable. It was great to hear how Cake Stories delivered 17,500 cakes across Newcastle by cargo bike with ZMove, another business which attended.

'Just one thing'

The highlight of my time at NICRE has been helping set up the ‘Just one thing’ campaign, providing a platform for rural businesses to share their ideas, experiences and challenges of moving towards net zero in a Facebook group. Working on this campaign has really affected how I go about my day-to-day life, constantly thinking about how I can reduce my own carbon footprint. I have since limited the amount of plastic I use and have been taking part in plastic-free July. For me, the significance of what we are discussing in NICRE would only be genuine and relevant if I was actively playing my part. It was great to see NICRE take part in the event hosted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and showcase net zero in rural enterprise to businesses in the South West.

I must admit it felt rather daunting coming into a new organisation as a postgraduate student, however Jaclyn Curry (communications manager) and the team have been so welcoming and supportive, allowing me to flourish and grow in my role. Overall, my experience at NICRE has been task-filled and extremely rewarding. I have learnt so much about rural enterprise and communications, which I will definitely carry forward into my next adventure.

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