In the context of European SMEs in rural areas, the improvement of their innovation capacity is essential for both growth and survival. Improvement in SMEs' innovation capacity is essential to promote the regions' regional economic development. Barriers to rural SME growth and development can vary from region to region but can generally be categorised as including geographic isolation, lack of physical infrastructure (roads and ICT connectivity), access to a skilled workforce, workforce retention, access to market(s), access to finance, scaling up challenges, rural transport and difficulty in sourcing innovation partners.
RATIO is funded by the Interreg Europe programme and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the project aims to identify potential policy change(s) to promote the access and enable rural-based SMEs to reach their potential. RATIO is a collaborative project with a total of 9 partner organisations from 8 countries across Europe and includes the following: Aragonese Federation of Municipalities, Regions and Provinces (FAMCP), Spain; Aufbauwerk Region Leipzig GmbH, Germany; Regional Development Agency of Usti Region, Czech Republic; Malopolska Institute of Local Government and Administration, Poland; Business Confederation of Aragon (CREA), Spain; Vidzeme Planning Region, Latvia; Municipality of Vila Pouca de Aguiar, Portugal; Regional Association of Lazio Municipalities, Italy; and Cork Chamber, Ireland. Cork Chamber endeavours to benefit from the interregional learning process where the Chamber can share expertise and learn about best practice examples with a focus on initiatives that can promote the expansion and enhancement of innovation witin rural SMEs. This is a four year project which commenced in April of 2016. Cork Chamber's involvement in this project is specifically focused on innovation within rurally-based SMEs within the Cork region.