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Rural Economy Cluster

The Rural Economy Cluster (REC) aims to develop a community of Open University researchers in the Faculty of Business and Law and beyond to investigate rural livelihoods, regional/local development, policy, and related topics. We seek to address the perception that, until recently, the rural economy across Europe has been largely overlooked by academic research and public policy.

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The REC demonstrates the OU's expertise in rural economy-related research themes. Our long-term vision for research, knowledge exchange and impact work, is to support a more thriving rural economy and enable actionable outcomes for businesses, policy makers and community organisations that contribute to Levelling Up, and creating sustainable liveable rural places and communities.

A range of OU colleagues from different faculties and departments with related expertise are currently conducting novel research on agricultural economy and fisheries, non-land based economy (retail, leisure and tourism, creative industry, business services), business support and social enterprises.

About us

We aim to be the OU voice on rural policy and rural research to influence practice and policy on business support for growth and tacking inequalities in rural areas contributing to Levelling Up in the UK.

While the rural economy has tended to be largely overlooked by academic research and public policy until recently across Europe, a range of OU colleagues are currently conducting novel research on the rural economy from multiple disciplines. This research includes land-based firms (farming and agriculture, which constitutes only 15% of all business units in rural areas), and non-land based rural economy activities, such as rural creative industries, rural community enterprises, retail and tourism businesses, and innovation support for rural businesses.


  • Encourage research exchange with a seminar series.
  • Build partnerships with public sector bodies and third sector organisations.
  • Develop collaborative funding applications with researchers from across the OU.
  • Support early career researchers.
  • Develop further collaborative research projects and publications.
  • Influence policymakers and practitioners on rural development - through knowledge exchange and external engagement.
  • Conduct consultancy work for policymakers and civil society organisations.
  • Measure our impact.

Our team

External partnerships