Innovation and digital transformation in rural areas

An online event was organized on Feb 24th 2022 with the goal of bringing visibility to the consortium and the project, network with relevant stakeholders and reach agri-food SMEs with a discussion on innovation and digital transformation.

The event was a round table held in Spanish with the title “Innovation and digital transformation in rural areas”. Although conducted in Spanish, in the recording there are English subtitles available.

The event was moderated by Sandra Isabel Novo Canto, from Sostenibles DIH, and we had the pleasure to host a table with remarkable panellists:

  • Emilio Corchado, Prof. Universidad de Salamanca, CEO & Founder of Startup Olé Accelerator, REInA (Rural European Innovation Area) and CYL-HUB (International Hub on Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship of Castille Leon).
  • Lara Rodríguez – Project manager at EIT Food
  • Pelayo González– Digital Transformation Director at ASINCAR (Technology Center and Agri-Food cluster in the Principality of Asturias)
  • SainLópezPerez-Team coach Mondragon Team Academy (Mondragón University)
  • José Alfredo Martín, Founder & CEO apadrinaunolivo.org
  • David Ciprés – Data Analytics, IoT y Blockchain specialist at ITAINNOVA (Instituto Tecnológico de Aragón)

Besides, the event posed the opportunity to briefly present the SmartAgriHubs Project, and Open Calls. We were joined by Agustín Serrano, from SAH RC Iberia, who introduced SmartAgriHubs network and its potential for identifying collaboration opportunities. He also presented SAH Open Calls currently available.

In the event we had the opportunity to learn about different innovation initiatives and ecosystems in agri-food sector and rural areas:

Mr. Emilio Corchado presented Startup Olé 8th edition, which is one of the most remarkable events around innovation and entrepreneurship in Spain, LATAM and South of Europe, and will take place in Salamanca on 5-8th September 2022. He also presented the initiatives he is leading to create a vibrant innovation ecosystem inclusive with rural areas in Europe: on the one hand REIna, a European platform for innovation in rural Europe, with support from the European Commisson and aligned with Startup Village Forum; and CYL-Hub, a hub launched in February to create an innovation and technology ecosystem in the region of Castille Leon.

Ms. Lara Rodríguez presented EIT-Food and a couple of its latest initiatives: first, its work on regenerative agriculture with learning activities and a manual for farmers recently published; second, its project Test Farms which seeks to link agricultural startups with farmers and testing-land

Mr. Pelayo González presented ASINCAR agri-food cluster in Asturias and its technology center focused on supporting agri-food SMEs access and testing of technology, and develops I+D+i projects in at the national and European level in a wide range of topics. He emphasized its work with SMEs supporting the uptake of new processes for the elaboration and transformation of raw products and the development of new products.

Ms. Sain López presented MTA-Mondragon Team Academy, the division in Mondragon University focused on developing entrepreneurship and social innovation programs. MTA is renowned as being one of the most advanced academic programs on entrepreneurship and social innovation globally and counts on a global community of +2000 social innovators around the world. MTA has hubs in rural areas in four continents, and she shared some of the social innovation initiatives undertaken by MTA alumni in Spain. She highlighted two projects, one is InsektLabel biotech applied to insects to develop functional and clinical nutrition solutions; the second is VIVID, a lab for rural innovation around wine and viticulture in a rural depopulated region with tradition in wine production, which seeks to attract young talent to keep the wine tradition and innovate in the sector.

Mr. José Alfredo Martín presented the initiative he co-founded, apadrinaunolivo.org, which gained over 15 national and international recognitions by its work recovering abandoned olive trees in rural areas in Aragón. Thanks to the project, olive oil production in the area was recovered, bringing jobs and opportunities to a depopulated area. He also mentioned a new ongoing initiative to support entrepreneurship and innovation in rural areas in the area of Teruel.

Mr. David Ciprés presented ITAINNOVA (Aragon Institute of Technology) and its work supporting SMEs technology uptake and developing cutting edged advanced technologies in a wide range of fields such as blockchain, IoT, robotics, or AI. He highlighted ITAINNOVA’s efforts in reaching SMEs in rural areas with INNORUTA, an initiative designed to support SMEs digital transformation and their uptake of advanced technologies. He also shared a recent project supported by ITAINNOVA in agri-food for the monitoring of grape harvesting.

The conversation revolved around three proposed questions posed to the panellists:

  1. Key ingredients to develop innovative ecosystems inclusive with SMEs and rural areas
  2. Ideas on the path to facilitate access to technology and innovation for SMES and ruralareas.
  3. Areas and technologies with highest potential for SMEs

Key ideas on ecosystem development revolved around collaboration of a diverse range of stakeholders, the importance of seeking public-private partnerships, and engaging “early adopters” in each community as ambassadors. It was highlighted the need to continue raising awareness amongst SMEs on the importance of digital transformation, and in training and accompanying SMEs in their digitization process. The service of testing technology provided in technology centres is conductive and of high value to facilitate technology adoption, as well as the adaptability of the technology to SMEs needs, structure and use cases.

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