Preventing rural brain drain in Alpine space through digitalization with the Smart Village Approach

Check out eNu’s experience with the Smart Village Project, and learn more about new solutions for local actors from mountain areas to develop their region’s attractivity,

Alpine space rural communities are deprived of highly needed jobs, good provision of services as well as a favourable climate for entrepreneurship and social innovation, which result in a brain drain. Digitalization is a promising approach to counter the situation, but there is still an important digital divide between rural and urban areas, that even increased in the last years.

One of the Test Area from of the Smart Village Project is located in Austria, in the Pitztal Valley. It consists of four communities: Arzl im Pitztal, Jerzens, St. Leonhard im Pitztal and Wenns. All in all, 7,400 people are living in the Pitztal. From an economic perspective, the tourism sector is very important for the Pitztal. All four communities have a good accommodation sector.  The opportunities for employment outside of tourism sector are low, agriculture plays a large role. The outer Pitztal (municipality Arzl and Wenns) still has a balance of craft, trade and services. However, manufacturing and trade tend to have a local supply function. A large number of the residents is therefore classified as a commuter. Most of them work in the region of Imst and Innsbruck. Due to the steep slopes, the valley is characterized by a high potential of natural hazards.

The Smart Village Approach aims at unlocking the potential of local actors from mountain areas to make their region a more attractive place to live and work. EnU, the Lower Austria Energy and Environment Agency is one of the Project Partner involved together with 14 other organisations.

The objectives

The project aims to apply a Smart Village approach and bring together Regional Stakeholder Groups (composed of policy makers, business, academia and civil society) to improve the framework for innovation through new forms of stakeholder involvement facilitated by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

The project contributes to better framework conditions for innovation on two aspects :

  • the organizational and societal part through the work with Regional Stakeholder Groups
  • the technical part through the implementation of a Digital Exchange Platform and Toolbox with new digital products, and the combining of the strengths of both side.

The transfer of the results to the policy level contributes to improve the political framework conditions for digital innovation. The projects initiatives understanding and mutual learning on the Smart Villages Ecosystem. The analysis conducted focus on innovation resources, obstacles, opportunities or business models. Synergies are also developed with other programs such as the European Innovation partnership.

The facilitation of innovation is made possible through the development of tools and transnational exchange, especially DEP and toolboxes. The DEP brings together different stakeholders to a transnational knowledge sharing. The Toolbox is tried out in the Test Areas on a local or regional level. Results are synthesized transnationally to a common Toolbox that can be transferred to other regions.

Recommendations are elaborated and actions undertaken in order to facilitate the transfer of the projects results to the policy level. This helps raising awareness on Smart Villages policies.

The consortium is composed of 15 partners, from 6 different countries (Switzerland, Slovenia, italy, France, Germany and Austria. This project is cofinanced by the Alpine Space Interreg Program.

Methods & approach

For each Test Area (see map) will be formed Regional Stakeholder Groups (RSGs) involving policy makers, academia, business and civil society.

9 Regional Stakeholders Groups have been implemented. They Assist the assessment of smartness level of Test Areas, Give input for best practices and test the Digital Exchange Platform (DEP). They also Codesign the Toolbox and facilitate the transfer of project results to the policy level.

The different RSGs are interlinked via the Digital Exchange Platform enabling a favorable framework for innovation. The DEP guarantees the transnational knowledge sharing of the project findings within the project as well as with the wider public. The toolbox provides access to digital tools, methods and techniques that facilitate user engagement and the development of products with high value for the Smart Village ecosystem in all Test Areas.In all test Areas, best practices are developed. You can check those successful stories here.

Projects results

Regional Analysis have been produced in order to determine how advanced the Test Areas are in the smart transition process, as well as their own smart specialization strategies. This was done through the collection of the relevant data at the regional level and Test Areas level. See the deliverables produced regarding Regional Analysis.

Digital Exchange Platform enables the transnational knowledge sharing of the overall project findings and European SV best practices between Partners and the wider public. This also allows to deliver on the project results, and develops on the interoperability with existing platforms. Check here for the deliverables produced.

The Tool Boxes developed provide for the main successful ingredients of Smart Villages. It includes methods to guide partners and other Alpine regions. They are designed in collaboration with the Regional Stakeholders groups and based on pilot activities realized in the test areas. You can see here the Report of participatory tools, methods and techniques.

Finally, Policy Recommendations are developed in order to promote the results of the projects at the national and transnational level, helping to facilitate their implementation into strategies and policies. It also improves the framework conditions for a smart transition in academia, business and administration.


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Time frame :
2019 - 2022
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