Building modern rural policies on long-term visions and societal engagement

The design of modern rural policies requires capturing and anticipating the long-term trends affecting European rural areas. The EU has already invested in rural research on a variety of issues, although the impact on policies has been insufficient due to the diversity of rural areas, the complexity of the problems at stake and the multiplicity of policy makers involved. The interfaces between science, society and policy makers need to be improved to enhance the use of new and existing knowledge, provide policy makers with the evidence they need and empower rural citizens to take part in policy-making, including designing future research priorities. In addition, there are still knowledge gaps regarding big challenges facing rural areas and how they will impact people and territories. One of the most important is demographic change. Current trends combine rural exodus, selective out-migration of women and young people and the arrival of newcomers, including migrants, highly-skilled former urban dwellers and retired people. The challenge is particularly acute in the farming sector. With 6% of farmers under the age of 35, as opposed to 55% who are above 55, the ageing of farmers is one of the biggest threats to food security, farming systems diversity, biomass provision and rural vitality in the coming decades. The situation is similar for small forest owners. A new generation needs to be empowered to take over. Beyond young farmers, who are supported by the common agricultural policy (CAP), a broader group of people referred to as "new entrants into farming" could contribute to generation renewal while bringing new approaches to farming and rural areas. This could happen provided they can overcome the many obstacles they face, such as access to land. Finally, long-term trends and changes are likely to increase disparities between rural areas faced with various constraints. Mountainous areas, which represent 15% of EU utilised agricultural area and are particularly supported under the CAP, are likely to be more strongly impacted by climate change, as well as by increased economic competition, due to geophysical conditions which limit productivity, production choices and adaptability. A deeper understanding of how rural communities, territories and businesses will evolve is needed to design new policies that would protect rural areas from the existing threat of decline and help them seize opportunities.


Proposed actions shall address one of the following sub-topics:

A. [2018] Rural society-science-policy hub (CSA)

Actions shall setup a knowledge and policy hub that engages policy makers, scientists, stakeholders and rural dwellers locally with the objectives to: take stock of past and on-going rural research; translate outcomes into attractive and easily understandable tools for policy- makers and citizens; conduct public engagement activities contributing to future rural policy and research policy design; and explore avenues for longer-term science-society-policy interfaces. Activities shall at least build upon relevant past and on-going research projects funded under EU framework programmes in the last fifteen years, including those under this topic, and consider integrating toolboxes and datasets used within these projects. Communication products and tools shall bring real adding-value content to the different target groups in various countries and languages. The use of multimedia is encouraged. Public engagement activities shall involve rural dwellers, policy-makers and other business, social innovation or community actors at various geographic levels in a representative and balanced set of geographical and socio-economic situations across the EU, including coastal areas. Building on knowledge made accessible and on outcomes of foresight activities under this topic, public engagement activities shall result in concrete proposals to renew policy instruments that impact rural areas at various levels, as well as an agenda for future research activities matching rural citizens' needs. Close cooperation and networking activities will be needed, throughout the project, with relevant networks and platforms and with all the relevant on-going projects. The duration of the project shall take into consideration the need to implement participatory approaches.

B. [2018] Renewing rural generations, jobs and farms (RIA)

Actions shall carry out foresight analyses of the evolution of European rural populations and jobs, in time and space, in the coming decades, describing the drivers and root causes explaining the expected changes. They shall cover all economic sectors with particular attention to farming (including farm structures and forest and farm land ownership) and all socio-economic and age categories, with special attention to women, young people and migrants (from inside and outside the EU). Beyond basic demographic indicators, activities shall extend to skills profiles and other relevant social capital dimensions. A significant part of activities shall be dedicated to rural newcomers and new entrants into farming, improving the understanding of their human, social and professional characteristics and of their role in generation renewal, in innovation and in rural development in general. The issue of access to land, including the impact of such aspects as legal and policy arrangements and land market trends, shall be analysed. An EU-wide quantitative analysis shall be combined with more focused qualitative analyses. The qualitative analyses shall include significant public engagement activities and cover a representative and balanced set of geographical and socio-economic situations across the EU to yield generalizable policy conclusions. Actions shall undertake an ambitious policy design exercise aimed at assessing the performance of current policies and public or private strategies which impact rural and farming attractiveness to different types of people, and at proposing a set of renewed policy options, backed by a prior assessment of their possible impacts, and accompanied by practical tools allowing i) policy makers at EU and other governance levels to easily exploit project outcomes for forward-looking policy design (e.g. typologies, maps, policy analysis, benchmarking); and ii) new rural generations to find inspiration in winning strategies developed by their peers.

C. [2019] Building resilient mountain value chains delivering private and public goods (RIA)

Actions shall carry out foresight analyses of the development of primary production and related value chains and ecosystems in mountainous areas, in the coming decades, looking in particular at the positive and negative effects of climate change, of changes in policies influencing these areas and of broader socio-economic drivers. The analysis shall benchmark production and land-use systems with regards to their capacity to sustainably improve performance and resilience under changing climate and broader conditions while securing public goods provision for uplands and lowlands, taking into account interactions across scales (field, territories and ecosystems) and sectors. Particular attention shall be paid to new or emerging products or practices which could develop sustainably under more favourable climatic conditions. Activities shall cover a variety of situations representing the diversity of environmental and socio-economic conditions in European mountains as well as the diversity of mountain crop, livestock and forest-based products and value chains. Public engagement of stakeholders in the activities will be key to securing relevant results. Activities shall assess whether current policy approaches are fit for the future and shall deliver a set of renewed policy options, backed by a prior assessment of their possible impacts and accompanied by practical tools and recommendations to i) modernise relevant policy instruments available at EU and other governance levels (with a particular focus on CAP, quality policy, regional policy, climate and environment policies and innovation policy tools), ii) adapt value chain development strategies, and iii) secure long-term public good provision.

All sub-topics – Proposals should include a task to cluster with other projects financed under this topic, under RUR-02-2018 and – if relevant – with other relevant projects in the field funded by Horizon 2020. They shall fall under the concept of multi-actor approach[2], bringing in the complementary expertise of private sector and civil society representatives of relevance to the scope. The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 5 million (sub-topic A), 6 million (sub-topics B, C) would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

This topic aims to foster the design of future-proof rural policies. In the short to medium term, proposals are expected to:

  • translate visions of future trends and dynamics and understanding of the associated drivers into strategic options for policy design, delivery and monitoring and maximise their uptake by the relevant policy levels (sub-topics A,B,C);
  • ensure a wide outreach and engagement in most EU Member States through a balanced and representative coverage of activities (sub-topics A,B,C);
  • improve the uptake of available knowledge by policy makers and open avenues for long-lasting mechanisms improving interfaces between society, science and policy makers (sub-topic A);
  • help diversifying rural economic activities, improve the skills base and social capital by identifying and promoting policy options which enhance the attractiveness and sustainable development of rural areas and favour generation renewal (sub-topics B, C);
  • increase the number and success rate of new entrants into farming; ease their access to farmland and forested land by promoting the most efficient instruments and strategies implemented in the Member States when it comes to accessing land (sub-topic B);
  • maintain and enhance sustainable primary production, income generated by value chains and ecosystem service delivery in mountain areas through adequate policies and integrated strategies (sub-topic C).

In the long term proposed actions shall contribute to improving quality of life, socio-economic prospects, resilience to climate change, job diversity and the attractiveness of rural areas.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Gender
  • Socio-economic science and humanities
Date de candidature
Sciences sociales : Sciences de l'information et de la communication, Démographie, Economie, Sciences environnementales, Identités, genre et sexualités, Géographie, Sciences de l'éducation, Science politique, Sociologie
Humanités : Anthropologie & Ethnologie