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Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA)

SIMRA Project Coordinator Maria Nijnik, Scotland House, Brussels, June 2018
SIMRA Project Coordinator Maria Nijnik, Scotland House, Brussels, June 2018
SIMRA aims to unlock the growth potential of rural areas through enhanced governance and social innovation

SIMRA seeks to fill the significant knowledge gap in understanding and enhancing social innovation in marginalised rural areas by advancing the state-of-the-art in Social Innovation (SI) and connected governance mechanisms in agriculture and forestry sectors and in rural development in general. SIMRA is a Horizon 2020 European Commission project (Grant Agreement No 677622) which runs from April 2016 to March 2020. The James Hutton Institute is the project Coordinator.

Project Objectives

The objective is being achieved by blending diverse theoretical positions into a coherent explanation of spatial variability of Social Innovation, encompassing its empirical diversity (complexities and various dimensions),

  • co-constructing a novel evaluative toolkit,
  • and, developing improved knowledge of determinants of success in order to answer the question of how to support enhanced governance and Social Innovationss, addressing specific issues and priorities of social needs and new social relationships and collaborations. 


We are developing : i) guidelines to identify, analyse, adapt, integrate existing methods to evaluate Social Innovation and its impacts on components of territorial capital in rural areas at various levels; ii) a set of methods that can be chosen, adapted, combined sequentially case by case, and by means depending on needs (e.g. Social Innovation to be evaluated; evaluation objectives, e.g. jointly measuring all the impacts or only partial; ex-postin itinere, or ex-ante).

We apply quantitative-based, qualitative-based and mixed methods for assessing Social Innovation, measuring its impacts and understanding processes and policies. The selected, advanced and combined set of methods will be integrated with existing assessment frameworks (e.g. the Common Montioring and Evaluating Framework, CMEF). Attention is given to the economic, social, and institutional/political (governance) aspects of Social Innovation, e.g.  its role in enhancing businesses and entrepreneurship options and creating conditions for accessing new markets and providing new investment opportunities, and the means of increasing and reinforcing social capital as a key factor for local development. 

Key Results/ Findings

Key outputs will be:

  • A systematic theoretical and operational framework developed for categorising, understanding, and operationalising Social Innovation in different settings and across scales. Project deliverables which provide findings are: Classification of Social Innovation for Marginalised Rural Areas in the target regionTransdisciplinary understanding of Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (Deliverable D2.2). See also the work publishedf in Kluvánková et al. (2018).
  • A categorisation/classification (‘catalogue of diversity’) of the Social Innovations observable in rural areas.
  • An integrated set of methods for the evaluation of Social Innovation and its impacts in rural areas across the target region.
  • A co-constructed evaluation carried out (by academic and practice community) of success factors for Social Innovations across selected case studies, covering spatial variation and heterogeneity of regions.
  • New/improved knowledge of Social Innovations and novel governance mechanisms synthesised and disseminated to policy makers and other end-users.
  • Collaborative learning and networking opportunities created and innovative actions to be launched by integrating, consulting and engaging stakeholders at different and multiple scales, throughout the project.


Training courses on Social Innovation in Rural Areas

  • Face-to-face training course on Social Innovation in Rural Areas (Zaragoza, Spain, November 2019), Introducing Social Innovation, David MIller with Bill Slee of the Rural Development Company;
  • Session 1 of the e-learning course (MOOC). Introducing Social Innovation, and the Concluding messages of the course, David MIller with Bill Slee of the Rural Development Company;
  • For detalis of these two courses, see the report López-Francos et al. (2020; D7.5).

Recent project dissemination activities

The SIMRA Final Congress was held in Brussles, Belgium (18th and 19th Fenruary 2020). The first day was designed for an audience of policy, practice and research, with over 100 attendees. Sessions comprising presentatins or expert panels explained advances in understanding of social innovation, the support or roles of social innovation in EU policies, and a sharing of experiences of social innovation n the ground by local actors and practitioners. The second day comprised training sessoins on tools and methods developed in the SIMRA project, held at Scotland House, Brussels. 

Selected examples of scientific publications in which the James Hutton Institute is a co-author are:

United Kingdom Case Study

SIMRA is studying Case Studies of Social Innovation of different types. These are to enable the collection and analysis of empirical evidence of social innovations in agriculture, forestry and rural development in marginalised rural areas. These case Studies are selceted from European, Associated and non-EU countries, with a particular focus on the Mediterranean region. The James Hutton institute is the partner responsible investigation of the the Case Study of Lochcarron Community Development Company, Strathcarron, Wester Ross, UK

Guadalope Innovation Action

SIMRA is assisting with a set of 7 Innovation Actions. This will enable relevant actors in marginalised rural areas to test and exploit their potential for social innovation. The aim is for the local actors to create impacts in the territory and the market, in businesses, investments opportunities and in building capacity within local governments. The James Hutton institute is the Innovation Action Implementer for the VALAB (Integrated Ecosystemic value-enhancement of the Guadeloupe Forest Agrobiodiversity), Guadeloupe, France.

Categorisation of Marginalised Rural Areas

In collaboration with Perth College, James Hutton institute analysed geographic data of environmental and socio-economic characteristics of marginalised rural areas in Europan and the Mediterranean Region (Price et al., 2017; Deliverable 3.1). The outputs were to provide the first mapped representation of marginalised rural areas, at a regional level, to be used to inform the selection of Case Studies, and thei subsequent analysis.

Further Details

The Consortium consists of 26 partners, including 10 public bodies (8 universities and 2 research institutes) with excellent academic standing, 8 non-profit organizations, 5 SMEs, NGOs and networks, and 3 international organizations. Therefore, SIMRA’s expertise comprises scientific research, education, knowledge exchange and dissemination, and business, market and entrepreneurship proficiency. SIMRA partners are diverse not only in their expertise and activities, but in geography. These include mountains, islands, and coastal, remote rural and periurban locations across Europe, the non-EU Mediterranean region, new EU member states and associated countries. Organizations from 15 countries directly contribute to SIMRA. Fifteen other countries are also involved including Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco and a number of countries from Eastern Europe (e.g. Ukraine).

In addition to full partners and contributors to case studies, SIMRA has supporters from Mountain Networks (e.g. Carpathian Science, The Mountain Research Intiative - Europe and South Eastern Europe, and Carpathian Convention), FLEG II, the UNEP, UNESCO, FAO, IUFRO, ECOFOR, Earth System Governance, and others, including the Ecosystem Services Community Scotland (ESCOM).

SIMRA is active on various Social Media platforms. Please follow us on: FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

Staff Involved

EU Cordis WWW entry

SIMRA entry on Cordis 

SIMRA WWW pages of project partners

Perth College UHI

FAO Family Farming Knowledge Platform

Key Contact

Maria Nijnik

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.