A CONSORTIUM of 14 English Universities and Colleges has been awarded funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to establish the National Rural Knowledge Exchange.

The NRKE is one of 22 successful bids to establish ‘Centres of Knowledge Exchange Activity‘, which have been recognised as centres of excellence in work between academics, businesses and the community.

The consortium led by Harper Adams University College has secured funding for the first two years of the project which is expected to last five years.

The aim of the NRKE is to promote the development of the rural economy by using academic skills and knowledge to help rural businesses through advice, access to technology and innovative ideas.

In addition, NRKE staff will collaborate on business support projects to take advantage of European, national and rural funding.

The project splits England in to four regions, based on the areas of the nine Regional Development Agencies.

Each region will have a Regional Rural Innovation Manager to bring together rurally-focussed academics and businesses.

Central Lancashire, Harper Adams, Writtle College and the Royal Agricultural College are the four lead organisations, there regional partners are:

  • The North : Central Lancashire, Newcastle and Hull Universities.
  • The Midlands: Keele, Birmingham and Warwick Universities and Worcester and Harper Adams University Colleges.
  • The East and the South East : Reading University and Writtle College.
  • The South West: Bournemouth, West of England and Gloucester Universities, and the Royal Agricultural College.

“Rural businesses and rurally-focussed academics have much in common, no matter where they are in the country,” said Eric Howell, Head of Business Services at Harper Adams.

“The project harnesses the long tradition that rural people have of working together to share experiences.

“Through the NRKE, groups or individuals will be able to use the business enquiry e-mail service, gain publicity, promote their own events, get professional advice on funding, and talk to similarly motivated rural networks across the country,” he added.