Rural enterprise hubs could help digital, media and creative industries that are often overlooked in the countryside to achieve their economic potential, say researchers at Newcastle University’s Centre for Rural Economy.
Their report, commissioned by the North East’s Rural Growth Network, examines the role of enterprise hubs in the local rural economy.
These are central points which may provide shared office space and support services, advice and opportunities to share knowledge between different businesses. The project identified 22 such hubs in the region.
As well as opportunities to share knowledge and experience, the affordable rents and enhanced facilities offered by enterprise hubs are vital, particularly for micro businesses that are making the key move from home working to dedicated premises.
Of the businesses surveyed, 63% had previously been located at home. Businesses’ owners are also looking for flexibility in the space available so they have the option of expanding in due course.
Researcher Paul Cowie said: “The existing hubs are doing a good job – they are rural enterprises in their own right and the facilities are appreciated by the businesses that use them.
“But more networking between hubs and with their urban equivalents could increase the benefits. Perhaps this could include a membership scheme giving hub users access to facilities across the whole network.
“We are also seeing that the hubs are growing a different kind of business – enterprises across the fields of digital industries, media, arts and creativity – and with careful encouragement, these could be playing a key role in future rural growth.”
Ray Browning, North East Rural “This research has shed light on the key issues facing enterprise hubs and presented several practical ideas on how the Rural Growth Network can further assist their growth and development across the North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership area.
“Over coming months we’ll be picking up on key recommendations including the creation of an enterprise hub network through which good practice can be shared, exploring opportunities for joint procurement and pursuing joint marketing to help attract more entrepreneurs into the rural North East.
“Enterprise hubs are concrete examples of rural economic development that we can build upon through this and future regional economic programmes.
“At the moment there is scope to expand provision across the region and we will need to consider how we can address this. We also need to look carefully at what businesses say they want from hubs.”