Vital Rural Area


The project considered three themes connected to rural development; lack of economic development and innovations, negative or insufficient exposure of regions and downsizing in level of services and amenities.

Using a co-operative approach, the project partners worked together on a number of pilot initiatives to consider these issues in a transnational setting. The end result of the project was a Rural Power Pack, which was disseminated and communicated at an EU level. The project was supported by a scientific support group.

01/01/2009 - 31/12/2014
4 - Promoting Sustainable and Competitive Communities
Area of Intervention
4.1 Tackling the needs of areas in decline
ERDF Grant
3,650,424.00 €
ERDF Equivalent
119,746.00 €
Total Eligible Budget
7,700,000.00 €
Lead Beneficiary
NOFA, The Netherlands
Wietse Hermanns
Tel: +31 263 793872
Project Homepage
Beneficiaries per Country
The Netherlands
Province of Fryslân
Municipality of Sluis
Friese Poort Bedrijfsopleidingen
Streekplatform & Meetjesland
Intercommunale Leiedal
Province of West Flanders
United Kingdom
Norfolk County Council
Stadt Langenhagen
Wirtschaftsakademie Schleswig Holstein GmbH
Vejen Kommune
Rogaland Fylkeskommune
Finnoy Kommune
Background and Aim

The major aim was to make a valuable contribution to the socio-economical improvement of rural areas and the revitalisation and fortification of communities in decline in the North Sea Region, putting rural development to work for jobs, growth and sustainability.

A key deliverable and added value of Vital was that the pilot results were converted to one transnational, transferable working method/standard to develop new projects on rural development, about other subjects, in other regions and in other periods. On the basis of a dissemination marketing strategy, this project development tool was promoted by an implementation team to other regions in Europe27.

Since the reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy in 2003/2004, rural development is playing an increasingly important role in helping rural areas to meet the economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century. The EU member states are encouraged to work towards a more sustainable rural development - in line with the Goteborg Strategy - to boost growth and create jobs in rural areas, in line with the Lisbon Strategy.

The Vital partners encountered in their regions more or less mutually comparable socio-economical problems as regards growth, jobs and sustainability, which were summarized in three themes:

  • lack of economic development and innovation
  • negative or insufficient exposure of their region
  • downswing in the level of services and amenities.

However, local and regional authorities were too small to solve these challenges. Acting on their own and with too limited resources they could only present partial solutions.

To break through this deadlock, Vital developed and disseminated in transnational co-operation a transferable general working standard to set up (future) sustainable projects on rural development: the Rural Power Pack. This pack was developed, implemented and tested on the basis of the experiences and tangible results of three dynamically interconnected trails of intervention:

  • empowering SMEs for a better economic climate
  • branding the qualities of the region to improve the overall perception
  • optimizing the level and quality of (social and health) services.

The Rural Power Pack integrated the co-operative agreement approach for public private partnership - cross-sectoral, top-down and bottom up - as the common standard for (international) co-operation. In the co-operative agreement approach, the different stakeholders drew up agreements with targets/conditions on how to work together to reach the jointly formulated goals within an agreed time period.

  • Transferable working method on how to empower SMEs, including e-learning courses on solar heating and other energy issues, local entrepreneurial partnerships, for example in Norfolk and Finnoy (on food) and Innovation House (transferred  from Vejen to Rogaland and North East Fryslân).
  • More than five successful regional branding campaigns with tools ranging from regional ambassadors to a West-Flemish language app.
  • Transnational method on how to brand a region, set up as a practitioners manual.
  • Transferable working method on how to optimize social services, with pilots ranging from leaner government services (such as an interactive portal on “ugly spots”), bringing “fibre to the classroom” and setting up  a portal for Burum village, which operates as a virtual community centre, and a lifestyle training course.
  • Rural Power Pack, a web-based toolbox for rural areas in transition, applying Vital’s recurring theme, the Cooperative Agreement Approach. 
  • Seven themes selected and six country pages and papers produced, covering all pilots systematically.
  • 45 pilots (more than twice as much as originally planned), including a number of local and transnational quadruple/quintuple helix networks, innovation houses in three partner regions/countries and regional platforms.
  • Website ( on e-learning for SMEs and practitioners, focusing on renewable energy.
  • Results wrapped up in three scientific articles, 10 newsletters, web video and web-based toolbox, four Inspirational Policy Forums, and over 100 in-depth pilot descriptions and background documents.

flags flying at Rinsumageast Policy Forum 2011

David McAllister (left), Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, FRG, is being informed about Vital Rural Area at Langenhagen (June 2011)

racing car at Billund Policy Forum 2010

flags flying at Billund Policy Forum 2010

For entreprise. It's us - pilot in West Flanders, B

flags flying at Norwich Policy Forum 2009

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