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Welcome to StRE!

Rural contexts do not naturally nurture large scale, sustainable enterprises. Rural enterprises wanting to grow, struggle without the honed infrastructures for collaboration, communication and distribution found in urban- industrial areas. The difficulties in achieving sufficient scale create barriers to entrepreneurial activity and prohibit rural business ecologies thriving, in particular the transaction costs associated with dealing with many micro-level organisations. This project addresses the fundamental challenge of scaling up rural enterprises within the UK and India and how we might exploit digital technologies to achieve this.

Economies of scale and scope have enabled the creation of large-scale multinational corporations that sit atop the "apex" of large supply chains. In pursuit of the cheapest product, companies place enormous price pressure on their suppliers, often exploiting digital technologies to manage supply chains and co-ordinate supply and demand worldwide. Rural enterprises involved in supply chains are often disadvantaged and there are a many examples where local producers participating in supply chains of national or global conglomerates are squeezed in the "race to the bottom". Furthermore, since many value chains worldwide are now oligopolies, there are few other customers for these rural communities to sell their products, making it very difficult for them to change their role in the supply chain - they are beholden to sell their products to those companies that agree to buy. The need for enterprise innovation in this domain is recognised, not least as a means to combat poverty, the issue is how rural communities might achieve this scaling up and support it.

Rural communities are currently uncertain of the appropriate forms of enterprise needed to scale up their endeavours and lack access to the appropriate IT enterprise capabilities to support these. Scaling up is essential if these communities are to obtain higher than subsistence income levels for the materials they produce.

This project brings together a number of currently disparate research traditions to develop approaches to "scaling up" rural enterprise by combining engineering, economics, interaction design and computing. The problem we are addressing is a complex, socio-technical one requiring a strongly inter-disciplinary user led approach. We work iteratively with real-world communities in India and the UK. As well as hosting interventions, these "living labs" help us understand how diverse networks of actors shape rural enterprises in both the UK and India, and stretch our thinking to ensure we guard against too specific a set of solutions. We focus on two particular distributed communities of practice that produce goods through shared labour which allows us to transfer lessons learned between India and the UK and vice versa.

Contact Us

For general enquires on the Scaling the Rural Enterprise project please contact Catherine Mulligan.

For website issues and queries please contact Jennifer Pearson