Amazon commissions Scottish college to study closing the urban-rural economic gap

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Rural England have launched a consultation on how to maximise the potential of the Internet and technology to boost the digital economy across the UK and level the urban-rural divide.

The college and think tank have been jointly commissioned by Amazon to invite rural businesses of all sizes and sectors across the UK to respond to the consultation and help inform new research on how to grow rural Britain’s digital economy. Responses will be analysed alongside official statistical data, interviews with key stakeholder groups, and economic analysis.

The report aims to understand:

  • How to grow the digital economy in rural areas through e-commerce, exports and productivity gains
  • The level of digital skills and capabilities in rural areas and how to further improve them
  • What digital business tools and services best support rural businesses
  • What enables businesses to successfully relocate from urban to rural areas
  • The business sectors emerging in rural areas likely to gain most from digital technology
  • The best rural locations to set up a digitally-empowered business.

The hope is also to provide potential policy ideas to drive the growth of the digital economy in rural Britain, bringing together the public and private sector to bring the rural economy into the digital age.

Research published today finds significant potential for the rural economy going digital. The SME Growth Tracker, a quarterly report by Capital Economics commissioned by Amazon UK and Enterprise Nation which assesses growth prospects and views of over 1,000 UK SMEs, found that Rural SMEs expect e-commerce revenue to increase by +1.9 per cent over the next 12 months, after it rose by +0.6 per cent over the past year.

This revenue growth was stronger than UK SMEs overall, who expected to grow annual revenues +1.7% in next 12 months, up from +0.8% over past year.  Whilst the survey also found all UK SMEs are downbeat about conditions for their business in the coming months (-11), the SME Confidence Index score was stronger for rural SMEs (-7) when compared urban SMEs (-12) and inner city SMEs (-15).

“We believe that the digital revolution can create significant growth and job opportunities for the rural economy and bridge the urban-rural divide,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “As long as you have a laptop, Internet connection and a great product, you can now be local and sell global. We’ve seen thousands of rural businesses do just that through Amazon Marketplace. We welcome and encourage rural businesses of all shapes and sizes from across rural Britain to participate in this important research project.”