Going ‘under the radar’

A novel, participatory approach for identifying existing partnerships for innovation (informal or formal) that are not so visible and easy to find

European Rural Innovation Contest

When preparing the project proposal, the LIAISON consortium anticipated that simply consulting publicly available databases for eligible multi-actor innovation co-creation projects would result in our selection being severely unrepresentative of the true diversity of such activities. 

LIAISON therefore organised a ‘European Rural Innovation Contest’ or ‘EURIC’, which was a novel, participatory approach to creating a second channel for partnerships to present themselves to LIAISON for review.

With the participation of all LIAISON partners, the EURIC was heavily publicised in all EU Member States and also in some neighbouring countries. Candidate partnerships were invited to submit an online application, placing special emphasis on what was particularly ‘inspirational’ about their innovation activity.

We were hopeful that we would receive around 150 entries but, in the event, 229 entries were received. Following an eligibility check, 175 innovative projects and other partnerships were retained.

The results from the EURIC were used by the LIAISON consortium in three ways:

Firstly, some EURIC entries were included among the 200 projects and partnerships selected for ‘light-touch’ review. This substantially improved the representativeness of our research sample, which consequently ranged from international Horizon 2020 funded projects with 25 partners or more, to local, informal, innovation partnerships with no external funding.

Secondly, every EURIC entry is showcased on an online ‘Story Map’. The Story Map clearly illustrates to academics, policy makers, farmers and foresters, and the general public that the EURIC entries come from all corners of Europe and that they address a very broad range of innovation topics.

Thirdly, representatives of 15 of the most inspiring EURIC entries were invited to a LIAISON event held in Brussels in December 2019 where they were each presented with an award in recognition of their contribution to innovation in agriculture, forestry or related value chains together with the title of ‘Rural Innovation Ambassador’.

Representing 13 countries from across Europe, these Ambassadors  work closely with the LIAISON consortium during the rest of the project, hence they contribute their valuable practical insights to interpreting correctly the results of the research.