Penela is a village in Portugal that supports a population of approximately 6,000. The community has a low demographic density, which is also mostly ageing. To promote regional development and to address rural challenges, Penela as a municipality began forming partnerships following a quadruple helix model. In this model, the public sector forms partnerships with people in their community as well as those in the private and academic sectors as a way to revitalize and attract growth.
As a result, the Smart Rural Living Lab was created by the municipality, for Penela to become a testbed for user-driven innovation focused on encouraging sustainability through natural resources, social development, tourism and entrepreneurship. Initiatives such as SmARTES provide support for those in the creative industries and houses an accessible, affordable rapid prototyping lab (FabLab). There is also the Mini-Habitat, for micro-companies and the Habitat de Inovação Empresarial nos Sectores Estratégicos (HIESE) for business innovation. In addition to the municipality’s financial support for entrepreneurs with an investment support plan, each of these initiatives provide highly competitive pricing models and the opportunity to connect with local academic institutions. Furthermore, the Living Lab is located in close proximity to two major industrial areas which support construction and manufacturing. These partnerships between sectors strengthen the region by attracting growth and development and addressing rural challenges in ways that leverage its local resources.
What did we learn from Penela?
A rural community can attract growth and investment by adopting the quadruple helix model which fosters collaboration between diverse sectors—the community, academia, the private sector and the public sector.
The collaboration between diverse sectors leads to innovation. In Panela, it led to the establishment of successful innovations, start-ups and businesses. Among them are Connect Robotics, which uses drone technology for rural delivery options, BugLife, which offers alternative high protein sources for animal feed and EcoXperience, which is a circular solution for food waste.