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Research and Evidence

Research and Evidence

We’re a focal point for research, evidence and knowledge exchange.

Changing the debate

We aim to shift the policy narrative about rural enterprise and unlock innovation potential.

Our aim is to strengthen the research and evidence base. There are many challenges and opportunities for rural businesses and communities.

Our research will analyse existing data sources to inform policymakers and supporters of rural economies. We will also invest in regional surveys of small and medium enterprises and micro-businesses.


Man mixing milk in a stainless tank during the fermentation process of cheese manufacturing.

Our research evidence priorities and work strands

We undertake and commission new research in order to fill evidence gaps in our current knowledge of rural enterprise and innovation.

Our research activities focus on NICRE’s core cross-cutting themes: productive rural, smart rural, engaged rural and resilient rural.

Click on each of the themes to find out about our research in these areas.

Productive rural

We aim to ensure that policy and business support services reflect rural enterprise and innovation. Rural businesses can then respond to the need for productivity improvements in the economy.

Smart rural

We respond to challenges to the ways we live and work through many themes. These include rural mobility, an ageing society, clean growth and big data.

Our research helps us to understand their impacts on rural economies. This enables rural businesses to respond and thrive.

Engaged rural

Many dispersed micro-firms, the self-employed and home-based businesses make up our rural economies. We want them to connect more with university researchers and innovation networks.

We research more effective ways of integrating rural businesses into this ‘innovation ecosystem’.

Resilient rural

Rural areas account for 80% of the UK’s land area. Its natural assets underpin the resilience of economies and communities everywhere. We want to explore how rural businesses capitalise on these assets.

It is important they also pursue future growth while contributing to sustainable development.


The current pandemic is having a major effect on global, UK, regional and rural economies.

We are researching the:

  • effect of the COVID-19 crisis on rural economies
  • reach and effectiveness of government COVID-19 business recovery measures
  • longer-term changes affecting rural economies