The FUTURAL project, co-funded by the European Union, initiated its journey with a kick-off meeting on the 15th & 16th of June in Athens, Greece where 21 partners from a wide range of sectors were brought together from 10 countries across all Europe. Hosted by the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA), the meeting laid the groundwork for our ambitious agenda aimed at transforming and empowering rural communities across Europe.
Unveiling FUTURAL’s Ambitious Plans
Led by AUA and Prof.Spyros Fountas as the Project Coordinator, the meeting was much more than an initial get-together; it was an enriching platform that delved deep into the complexities and untapped potential of rural Europe.
Ari Lomis, Project Manager of FUTURAL, took us through the conceptual foundation of the project, explaining its core objectives and transformative methodologies that will guide our collective action.
Moving on, all work package leaders presented an overview of the project activities emphasising on the immediate actions required in order to establish a smooth and well-coordinated workflow.
Beyond Digitalization: FUTURAL’s Holistic Approach
After we went over the work packages, we dove into what we’re calling the FUTURAL Domains, which will be the key areas the project will focus on to make real changes; with the aim of weaving them into the fabric of rural life to create resilient, sustainable communities, we’ll be developing smart digital tools in six (6) Multi-Actor Pilots (MAPs) across the EU, in five critical domains:
- Circular Bioeconomy, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management: In FUTURAL we’re thinking about ways to make the most out of natural resources in rural areas without wasting anything. We are also aiming at helping rural communities to monitor biodiversity with the use of digital tools and available data sources. This approach enables the identification of vulnerabilities within these ecosystems and the adoption of preventive measures in rural areas.
- Climate Adaptation and Mitigation: Flooding and access to quality water are issues related to climate change that negatively impact rural development and agricultural activities. In FUTURAL, we want to help communities better prepare for changing weather patterns and lessen their environmental impact.
- Resilience to Shocks: The ‘health’ of bridges, road networks and buildings are of increasing concern for rural areas and can be affected by several factors (e.g., extreme climatic conditions adding stress on ageing structures that have exceeded their design life). In FUTURAL, we aim to help communities bounce back quickly from unexpected setbacks.
- Citizen Engagement and Quality of Life: Citizen engagement in rural areas is often neglected despite its many benefits related to individual social integration, social cohesion and a democratic political culture. In FUTURAL, we’re looking at ways to get people involved in community decisions and improve daily life for everyone.
- Lifelong Education and Training: Lifelong-education and training can help to equip rural citizens with the knowledge, skills, and the required mindset. In FUTURAL, we will strengthen rural areas’ human capital by facilitating and enabling accessible education and training for all with a particular focus on women, youth, and vulnerable groups.
Considerable time was devoted to exploring the focus of each domain and the types of smart solutions that can effectively address the unique challenges in each area.
A Collective Endeavour: Multi-Actor Approach
FUTURAL brings together a remarkable consortium of 21 partners from ten EU countries, ranging from academic and research institutes to service providers and non-profit organisations. The diversity of expertise ensures a comprehensive approach to tackling the multifaceted challenges rural Europe faces.
The multi-actor approach is necessary to bring all key stakeholders in the value chain to the table and engage them in developing and implementing realistic solutions aimed at effectively addressing the difficulties faced by rural communities.
What’s Next? Be a Part of FUTURAL’s Journey
This kick-off meeting marked just the beginning of an exciting, transformative venture. We are keen on sharing our developments with a broader audience and influencing policies to maximise the societal, environmental, and financial impact.
Stay tuned for regular updates on this multifaceted initiative aimed at fostering a more connected, resilient, and empowered rural Europe. Join us as we explore new horizons in the empowering landscape of rural Europe. Let’s make FUTURAL a living reality!
Co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.