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CENTRE FOR RURAL INNOVATION TO ENCOMPASS FLAGSHIP PROJECTS

Posted 28 July 2003

A NEW INITIATIVE DESIGNED to bring together as many as 50 current and forthcoming projects for rural business, sustainable farming and food will be launched by Harper Adams University College, Shropshire, this September.

The Centre for Rural Innovation will draw upon the wide-ranging expertise of Harper Adams’ staff to encompass a wide variety of technology transfer and reach out activities currently taking place between the University College and rural businesses and communities across the UK. The Centre will provide a focus for these efforts to provide support for rural economic development.

Initially, the Centre for Rural Innovation will be built upon a foundation of Harper Adams’ proven success with initiatives such as Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE), the Marches Farm Enterprise Programme and onBusiness.

The onBusiness initiative is designed to help rural businesses get on-line and provides free IT support and a dedicated web portal to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the West Midlands as well as offering advice and training on technical issues such as web sites and web based marketing. More than 250 businesses have already signed up.

The Marches Farm Enterprise Programme is specifically geared toward helping farm diversification projects and has given advice and support to around 400 businesses across the Marches area on business planning, marketing and promotions.

Meanwhile, the WiRE project is one of the flagship initiatives at Harper Adams with more than 800 business members. It’s pioneering remit of providing support for rural SME’s established by female entrepreneurs, in the form of networking events, advisory services and training workshops, has been phenomenally successful.

The WiRE network now covers the whole of the Midlands and has recently established itself in Yorkshire, East Anglia and the South West and links in with a variety of organisations including HSBC, which provides preferential rate business loans to members.

A spokesman for Harper Adams University College said: “The College has a considerable amount of expertise and proven capability in addressing the post-Curry agenda for sustainable development in farming, food and the support of other rural businesses.

“The College is an acknowledged national specialist centre for Higher Education and a number of its flagship reach-out projects already operate on a national scale as well as having a regional component.

“The Centre for Rural Innovation will provide a critical boost to the development of the role of Higher Education in supporting the rural economy.”

(Ends)

Notes to Editors: Further developments in the establishment of the Centre for Rural Innovation will be communicated in subsequent press releases. In the interim, information on the Centre for Rural Innovation or on any of the projects it will encompass is available from Harper Adams’ Press & Publications Officer Nick Barnes on +44 (0) 1952 815 371 or E-mail: nbarnes@harper-adams.ac.uk

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