Supporting Rural Innovators and Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely business – even more so if you live in a remote, rural area. In our latest blog, Chris Moule, Head of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Robert Gordon University, talks about a new initiative in Aberdeenshire helping rural entrepreneurial communities to flourish and thrive.
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. The traditional image of the innovator toiling away in the garage, or sitting busily writing up financial projections in a coffee shop, struggling to create a new venture while sitting in their kitchen, is often not that far from the truth. At a time when micro, or very small business, are using cost effective digital technology to create new businesses, these images are played out across the nation.
For the urban-dwelling entrepreneur there is some hope. If you live in a city like Aberdeen, you can access almost daily events, networks, workshops, activities, and guest speakers popping up at a variety of co-working spaces across the city. But what happens if you live in a rural area, out in the beautiful Scottish countryside – or the fabulous coastal regions, where one million Scottish people reside? Here the tough job of creating, building or growing a business is even harder, and for many, a lot more lonely.
That is one of the reasons why Robert Gordon University (RGU), in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council, and with funding from the LEADER rural development programme, has launched an exciting initiative comprising a network of new creative spaces in public libraries across the North East of Scotland. Called the Library Innovation Network Aberdeenshire (LINA) and starting in Banff and Peterhead, these new spaces are designed to bring inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, as well as local SME business leaders together. In this creative environment, this community of innovators will have the opportunity to take specialised and practical oriented short courses in a range of useful subjects including business model innovation, social entrepreneurship, design thinking and entrepreneurship growth. They will be able to share best practice, co-operate and collaborate – building knowledge and confidence.
A key part of LINA will be the support from the RGU Aberdeen Innovation Mentors or AIM group. These are volunteer mentors, many of whom live in the Shire, who will be giving of their time to support participants in these new creative hubs.
Libraries are perfect locations for this programme, as they are not only key community hubs in themselves, but their own focus has been changing in this rapidly digital world. Together with the university, the libraries can support the rural economy in a whole new way, building on their foundation as a ‘place of knowledge’ – as the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie said “a library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert”.
RGU already operates two creative hubs – the ‘Innovation Station’ on the main RGU Garthdee campus, and the ‘Startup Station’ based at the Opportunity North East Tech Hub in Aberdeen City Centre. Along with the four LINA locations (MacDuff and Fraserburgh to launch in 2020), RGU now boasts one of Scotland’s best networks for supporting economic growth across city and rural regions.
RGU’s vision is to provide accessible education and enhanced opportunities to everyone across society. Its focus is not only on encouraging entrepreneurial and innovative thinking and ways of working within the university. It is taking into account its broader role in economic development and extending its reach across the region to bring economic, social and cultural prosperity to the rural economy.