The purpose of this area of research is to contribute to a more detailed understanding of the business and economic development at a municipal and sub-municipal level, and to analyse characteristics, causes, correlations, and consequences. The starting point is that rural and remote areas are not heterogeneous, and that their potential for development has to be seen in correlation with local prerequisites and the interaction with the surrounding community.
CLF’s research on business and regional economics has three different starting points.
Firstly, the centre will contribute with a territorial angle on innovation research. Knowledge of the capacity for innovation and innovation performance in businesses in rural and remote areas is insufficient, and one must assume that innovation has other and specific ways of manifesting itself. Through different projects the centre has already helped create an understanding of the significance of networks and innovative forms of organization. This knowledge will be expanded to include other elements, which help create a change, incremental or radical. Scientists of innovation research have worked largely with systems of innovation, but there is a need to “translate” and reinterpret this tradition in relation to rural and remote areas. This means that it is necessary to expand the previously central focus within innovation research on large businesses in manufacturing industries by including small businesses in the primary sector, businesses within the service sector, public actors and the civil society.
Secondly, the centre focuses on entrepreneurship and development in small businesses. Through national case studies and statistics, the research will analyse very small businesses (microenterprises) and small and medium sized businesses. The start up, survival, development and growth of businesses are pivotal for living conditions in rural areas, but a profound understanding of their vitality and patterns of development is lacking. The centre’s work, within this area, should contribute to a better understanding of the growth drivers, whether they are human resources, infrastructure, cooperation and network, technology, markets, public subsidies etc. Some of these factors are not sufficiently present in rural and remote areas, but the question is whether landscape amenities or the price of real estate for instance can compensate for this. Research activities will therefore also focus on whether there may exist other growth drivers in rural and remote areas, and how they may be activated.
Thirdly, the centre focuses on diversification among rural areas, especially in relation to tourism and recreation. In most of the western world, there is an ongoing trend of seeing natural resources as a broader and more complex production factor and as a focal point for an intensive innovation and active administration. The farmers should not only be food producers, but also producers of energy, landscape administrators, nature developers, experience producers etc. This makes it is possible to create new conditions and business opportunities, but also a need for new forms of cooperation and regulation, if it is to result in an economical development in rural areas.