Innovation in Leader+

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details No.5 (2006)
Publication Date 2006
ISSN 1830-107X
EC KF-AF-06-001-EN-C
Content Type

A series of features illustrating innovative projects of the Leader+ programme.

Today all EU policies aim at stimulating innovation as being the best way to expand growth and jobs in Europe. Leader has a long experience in this task: when it was launched in 1991 its focus was on finding innovative responses to rural problems. We have now a good record of the activities of local action groups, accumulated over time, that prove the effectiveness of the Leader approach in addressing rural innovation and which may serve as a reference for others. Innovation is not easy and is not just a question of funding. In rural areas it often requires the combination of local know-how with external, well-codified forms of knowledge, of `soft� and `hard� resources, and the adaptation of technologies and services to the specific needs of rural populations. Rural innovation is about finding and exploiting better the competitive advantages that rural areas may have for modern economies and societies, including the demand for environmental goods.

In economic terms, innovation can contribute to the successful and commercial exploitation of new ideas, thus contributing to the creation of sustainable growth and prosperity. What we consider innovative for a specific rural area may not be so for another rural area. For this reason it is important to establish links and interactions with other policy areas of a more sectoral nature, such as agriculture, information and communication technologies, the environment, transport and energy, small and medium-sized enterprises, and services, in order to adapt them to local, territorial needs.

The Leader approach has proved to be a very useful tool to promote rural innovation, by integrating and adding value to different types of sector know-how. This is not surprising since this is a crucial aspect of its experimental approach to rural development. Leader+ projects can display innovation in any one or combination of the following: in relation to a previous approach; new products or services; new ways of working together, either within a management structure,such as a LAG, or as a means of cooperating on a project level; bringing diverse sectors and groups together; combining different activities; exploring new markets and processes, etc. Here, innovation underpins other elements of the Leader+ development strategy by encouraging rural actors to think about the longer-term potential of their area, implementing integrated strategies, reinforcing the economic environment to secure jobs, improving their organisational abilities, andgenerally working together in new ways. All these actions can result in new rural development models which can be used to overcome many of the problems which face Europe�s rural areas.It is perhaps customary to think that only projects related to `new know-how and new technologies� and that only hightech companies and new inventions are innovative. In this edition of the Leader+ Magazine, innovation is illustrated in all of the Leader+ themes and across a wide spectrum of different projects. For example, it can apply to the choice of `target group�, project theme, approach, and mode of information dissemination. From the Netherlands, we see how a different approach to understanding the region�s needs enables the region to see itself in a different way. In Luxembourg,inclusion of a new target group in the project�s development results in a better quality of life for its ultimate beneficiaries. Austria provides an excellent example of how risk-taking in the choice of subject and the means of communicating can bring benefits, while from France, we see innovation in the combination of different ideas from within the same project theme.

Innovation is also relative to the existing conditions of a particular area. A novel project or idea in one region is certainly not the same elsewhere. This is why the networking aspect of Leader, which allows Leader+ to share and transfer knowledge, and to inspire other groups to be innovative, is also embodied in the programme.

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