News | 29 Mar 2023

The Smart Rural 27 is launching new rural communities’ knowledge clusters on Renewable Energy and Digital Services

The Smart Rural 27 project is launching new Knowledge Clusters for Rural Communities on themes of common interest. Rural communities are welcome to join as followers of the Knowledge Cluster on Renewable Energy (launched on 17/03/23) or apply as members of the new Knowledge Cluster on Digital Services(information on call coming soon).

The Smart Rural 27 project (2021-2023) - supported by DG AGRI - aims to improve Smart Villages support in the context of regional, national and EU policies, and in terms of supporting local rural communities across Europe to become smart villages. The Smart Rural 27 project is currently setting up the European Smart Villages Pilot Observatory in an experimental way, which is a platform to engage stakeholders from all levels (from local to European) in practical exchanges on Smart Villages.

One of the main pillars of the European Smart Villages Pilot Observatory is the so-called Knowledge Clusters for Rural Communities. Knowledge Clusters aim to support exchange of practices, peer-to-peer learning and capacity-building among rural communities interested and acting in the same Smart Villages theme, such as renewable energy communities, digital services, rural businesses, mobility & transport, etc. Rural communities are invited to get engaged at three levels: lighthouse communities (those that already have smart solutions in the relevant theme that others can learn from), learning communities (those who started action but would like to learn about new ideas and gain new experience) and follower communities (who would simply like to closely follow the cluster process and its outcomes).

The 1st Smart Rural 27 Knowledge Cluster on ‘Local Energy Transition and Renewable Energy Communities’was launched in an experimental way in February 2023 through a call for rural communities. 35 applications have been received from rural communities in response to the call. Work with the members started through an introductory (launch) meeting on 17 March 2023, where needs, expectations and “hot topics” were discussed, including how rural communities are using different energy sources (solar, wind, water, biomass), how local energy communities can be set up and supported, how energy self-sustainability can be achieved, what further themes the cluster should address (such as use of digital technologies, energy poverty, national legislations, available funding sources). Inspiring approaches of two lighthouse communities: Stanz (Austria) and Häradsbäck (Sweden) were also presented and discussed. As a next step, a detailed workplan will be shared with members on opportunities for peer-learning (including cross-visits), knowledge sharing and capacity-building. The cluster work is expected to continue until October 2023.

A 2nd Knowledge Cluster on Digital Services will soon be launched (expected before the end of March on the cluster page).. The digital services cluster is about utilising digital technologies to address challenges frequently faced by rural communities: Enabling access to public services, meeting the demands of an aging population, facilitating access to employment, strengthening social cohesion and volunteering are among the key topics to be discussed.

Rural communities interested in the themes above can follow the outcomes of the work of the cluster through the knowledge cluster pages, or can express their interest to become follower communities in the Renewable Energy cluster - receiving regular information and updates, as well as having the opportunity to participate at selected online sessions and exchanges; or member communities in the upcoming Digital Services Cluster (lighthouse, learning or follower). If you are interested, you can also contact