SIMRA brought rural areas to the front throughout a series of conference sessions this autumn, co-led by colleagues from the James Hutton Institute

The social innovation research conducted under the Horizon 2020 project SIMRA – standing for Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas – is coordinated by the James Hutton Institute, complementary to the delivery of the ecosystem services based social innovation research for Scotland, carried out under the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme. The research on social innovation in rural areas has seen some broad media coverage in recent months with its recognition at an international level due to the organisation of sessions in several conferences.

isirc2This includes the co-organised session by the SIMRA Consortium at the ISIRC 2018 Conference “Bridging Social and Business Innovation”. The conference was held on 3-5 September 2018 in Heidelberg, Germany, and hosted by the Ruprecht-Karls-University. It strived to bridge social and business innovation research, highlighting that social innovation has clearly gained momentum over the past decade, spurred notably by the growing interest in its theory, practice and policy. The session “Social Innovation in rural and deprived regions” was co-chaired by Dr Carla Barlagne, the James Hutton Institute, and Prof Manfred Perlik, from the University of Bern, who represented the SIMRA team, together with Dr Alice Ludvig from BOKU, Dr Elisa Ravazzoli from EURAC, and others, presenting at this event some of the intermediate results of the SIMRA project.

Then, the XVI European Rural Development Network Conference of 17-19 September 2018 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, provided an opportunity for researchers to meet and discuss achievements and experiences, resulting from the implementation of the CAP and other relevant for rural areas policies, as well as challenges and economic, environmental and social dilemmas which some areas and communities in Europe are yet facing. Opportunities arising from social innovation were put in the centre. Prof Maria Nijnik, the SIMRA project Coordinator gave a keynote talk in the plenary session. Her joint paper with Prof David Miller, and other James Hutton SIMRA colleagues, reflected on socially innovative experiences from Scotland and ideas for the future of marginalised rural areas in Europe and beyond. The intention was to answer the questions: Can social innovation make a change and how can it help in reviving marginalised rural areas? The SIMRA partners of AWI, Austria, and the University of Foggia, Italy, also participated in this conference., Prof Nijnik was also invited to present at the International Conference on “Natural assets use in regional settings” organised by the Ukrainian National University and taking place in Lviv, 5-7 October 2018. There, Prof Ninik gave a talk on the role of social innovation in linking ecological sustainability with rural development objectives in marginalised mountain areas. This is a joint work and is co-authored with David Miller and Carla Barlagne from the James Hutton Institute, Martin Price, Rosalind Bruce and Diana Valero from the University of the Highlands and Islands, Simo Sarkki from the University of Oulu, and Mariana Melnykovych from UNFU.

On October 15 – 18, 2018, the 5th Forum Carpaticum organised by the Science for the Carpathians Steering Committee, of which Prof Maria Nijnik is a member, is taking place in Eger, Hungary, seeking to advance science-based solutions to pressing environmental, economic, and social challenges in marginalised mountain areas. The H2020 SIMRA consortium is a co-organiser of the Forum and the organiser of its session on “Rural development, social innovation and adaptive responses of disadvantaged communities in mountain areas to local, regional and global challenges”. Prof Bill Slee from the Rural Development Company (UK) will give a keynote talk, reflecting on the role of social innovation for rural communities. A couple of co-authored talks will come from other SIMRA project partners, including from the James Hutton Institute. PhD student Mariana Melnykovych and Dr Lyudmyla Zahvoyska from the Ukrainian National Forestry University (UNFU), as well as Dr Veronika Gezik, from the National Academy of Sciences of Slovakia, co-chair the social innovation session.

For further information about the September-October 2018 international conferences led by the Scotland-based Social Innovation team, please contact Prof Maria Nijnik. Special issues of journals are foreseen as follow-ups of all these events. You can stay updated by subscribing to the newsletter here.


María Nijnik (James Hutton Institute and coordinator of SIMRA project)
María Nijnik (James Hutton Institute and coordinator of SIMRA project)

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