International perspectives for rural areas

Press release of 30 January, 2020 

© LUH / Thehos The project pools the competencies of five institutions. At the first project meeting at Leibniz Universität Hannover, the participants prepared the selection of model projects to be analysed in Scotland, Sweden and Austria.

A new research project led by Leibniz University of Hanover deals with the infrastructure in rural areas.

Doctors, educational institutions, local public transport - there is often little infrastructure in rural areas. Demographic change exacerbates the situation: young people see better prospects in the big cities; in rural areas, for example, it is becoming more and more difficult to find young people for the voluntary fire brigade. But Germany is not alone in facing these problems. "There are regions in Europe that are much more rural than here in Germany," says Prof. Dr. Winrich Voss from the Geodetic Institute at the Leibniz University of Hanover. He heads the InDaLE project which started in January 2020 and aims to learn from the experiences of other European countries.


Impetus from Scotland, Sweden and Austria

The project focuses on post-school education and training in Scotland, telemedicine in Sweden and the voluntary fire brigade system in Austria. As part of case studies, the researchers analyse model projects in these countries that have been successfully consolidated. "There are already many good model projects in Germany. But if the financial and staff support runs out, they often fail when it comes to continuation over time", says Professor Voss. Then, for example, the neighbourhood manager hired as part of a model project cannot have his contract extended and the newly created set-up falls into disuse.

Since other regions of Europe have been facing these challenges for some time, they have already gathered more experience in consolidating model projects like this - this is the starting point for the research project. The project is a cooperative effort between the Leibniz University of Hanover and the University of Oldenburg (whose research will concentrate on Scotland), the Technical University of Dresden (focus on Sweden), the Thünen Institute in Brunswick (focus on Austria) and the Academy for Territorial Development in the Leibniz-Association that will look for German model projects to which the knowledge gained can be successfully transferred. The team at the University of Hanover is to focus on the theoretical background and cross-sectoral topics: What is meant by project continuation and sustainability? Which strategies are effective in these cases? And how do exemplary solutions have to be adapted to fit the circumstances in Germany?

The results expected are eagerly looked forward to.

"There is already a lot of interest in the results of the project: in local councils, at funding providers and among project sponsors", says Voss. In the rural areas within Germany, the project team is paying particular attention to Lower Saxony. The eastern federal states of Germany are also strongly affected by the problem - they are represented in the team by the TU Dresden. The main basis for the interdisciplinary cooperation in this project is the cooperation within the Leibniz Research Centre: "TRUST Spatial Transformation - A Future for Towns and Countryside" which has been based at the University of Hanover since 2016.

The InDaLE research project ("Innovative approaches to public services in rural areas - learning from the experiences of other European countries for Germany") has been given funding for two and a half years from January 2020 of around € 900,000 from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. A part-time position will be created at each of the participating institutions as part of the project, leading to a doctorate. Students can also participate in research as part of their final theses.