What is the European Startup Village Forum?
The European Startup Village Forum was set up in 2021 by the European Commission as the flagship action for the Long-term Vision for the EU’s Rural Areas. The Forum is part of a larger vision for rural areas in the EU, the Vision identifies several areas of action toward stronger, connected, resilient, and prosperous rural areas and communities by 2040. The annual European Startup Village Forum aims to support knowledge-sharing and cooperative efforts in this context. It also serves as a forum where institutions and stakeholders can gather, exchange ideas, and help direct initiatives for startup-driven innovation in rural areas. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in the Startup Village Conceptualization report – released on the same day as the event – define the Startup Village concept as “A place (or a network of small places) that embraces innovation and ambitious entrepreneurship as a way to unlock development potential and support wellbeing in rural areas“.
Why is it important?
Through genuine science-for-policy interaction, the 2023 Forum discussed the key components and prerequisites of the Startup Village concept, assisting in the identification and analysis of factors that stimulate innovation and startup creation in rural areas. In the welcoming speech, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel (Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) pointed out that promoting innovation the rural areas is crucial. Rural areas in Europe represent more than 20% of the European population, and the promotion of innovation and proliferation of startups in EU rural areas can revitalize the territories, mostly those that are being depopulated. In addition to serving as an open forum where institutions and stakeholders can gather, discuss, and plan action for startup-driven innovation in rural areas, the Forum aims to promote knowledge exchange and cooperation activities.
What happened at the Forum?
During the Forum ongoing experiences related to Startup Villages were discussed as well as supporting tools, both established by the European Commission and developed by different stakeholders. Several innovators from rural areas of Europe were given the opportunity to speak at the event, along with some of the organizers of rural innovation ecosystems. An example, the Startup Village Alliance, a network of rural innovators, startups, corporates, and clusters, has recently formalized a commitment to support rural entrepreneurship and innovation under the direction of the Lithuania AgriFood Digital Innovation Hub. Another example is the Startup Village Alliance Hub, which is run by the European Universities Alliance and aims to link scientific knowledge with the real needs of rural areas. Furthermore, the Joint Research Centre shared the breaking news about the launch of the Startup Village Mapping Tool. The goal is to collect and visualize all Startup Villages across rural areas in Europe. The tool is based on the voluntary contribution of any local authority.