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Pilot Project : Smart eco-social villages
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Pilot Project : Smart eco-social villages

5 .Current initiatives: lessons learned from good practices 

The identification of ‘good practices’ of existing initiatives has been achieved through Theme 3 of this study. The objective has been to identify, analyse and report on concrete examples of good practices, based on the criteria and set of characteristics established under Theme 2. Two main principles were used here: 

  • The first principle relates to the diversity of rural territories, in terms of contexts, the different levels of access to place-based assets, and their use in combination with ICT and other technologies; 
  • The second principle, of social connectivity, establishes the types of networks best practices actors have with research centres in order to understand their innovation process. 


This chapter is divided in three sections: section 5.1 gives an overview of the good practices, which are then presented in more details in section 5.2 and section 5.3 provides the key findings from the good practices. 

5.1 Overview 

The identification of ‘good practices’ emerged from two approaches: 

  • The active approach involved contact with knowledge brokers and other experts through networks available to the core project team. These experts were asked to search for self-initiated projects implemented in their own their Member State that could potentially be included in the list of ‘good practice examples’. This initial list was further complemented with internet and other literature source searches; 
  • The passive approach used an invitation on the Pilot Project website for stakeholders to suggest their own project or village, through completion of a form. 


Selection of the final ‘good practice’ examples of projects relevant to ‘Smart eco-social villages’ was achieved through three successive steps. At the conclusion of the search process described above, ‘good practice’ examples or projects were identified. From these, a pre-selection of 30 ‘good practice’ examples was made. Of those, the final selection of the 10+5 most relevant ‘good practice’ examples were chosen for analysis. 

In total, the following 15 villages were selected: [Munderfing (AT); Seeham (AT); Hofheim (DE); Kolga (EE); Aragón Infoenergía (ES); Eskola (FI); Bras-sur-Meuse (FR); Cozzano (FR), Ceglédbercel (HU); O’Gonnelloe (IE); Pinela (PT), Cluj-Nap (RO); Bohinj (SI); Fintry (UK); Superfast Cornwall (UK)] where key actors were interviewed to gather detailed information on the form of their Smart Village projects and activities. The locations of the selected examples are presented the map below; this shows the geographical spread and the type of cluster of the ‘good practice’ examples; brief descriptions are provided in the following section.



The descriptions of the good practices highlight aspects of the project related to the key parts of the definition. The table below presents the focus of the research team when analysing the information collected. Aspects highlighted in dark blue denote the main focus of the text, and light blue refers to the items mentioned. While it does not necessarily provide a holistic overview on the focus of the actual projects or initiatives, it gives a partial indication of the reasons for their inclusion in the sample.

5.2.8 Cozzano (FR) 

1. Main focus: Use of digital technologies, Environment dimension, Strategy development 

2. Cozzano is a village located in the mountainous southern part of Corsica, which has faced decreasing population. From 2000, the strategy aimed to develop of new services and infrastructures integrating sustainable development. Since 2016, the project had 

taken a new direction with the partnership with the local University. The goal was to implement a “Smart Village strategy” including new technologies. New technologies are viewed as a tool to bring the village into the digital era. The project also aims to involve the local population, education and social cohesion. 

Main characteristics 

  • Developing infrastructures and services with a sustainable development ‘attitude’; becoming a ‘positive energy territory’; 
  • Using new technologies to develop a ‘Smart Village’ and build a connected network between environment and economic activities in partnership with the University; 
  • Becoming a “Pilot Project”; 
  • Developing a ‘Smart attitude’, through a collective intelligence strategy, responding to needs and opportunities, with the participation of University students and involving the entire population (including the young and seniors); 
  • Raising awareness of the population and initiating innovative visions to increase social cohesion and territorial development. 


Main challenges 

  •  Facing the development challenges of the village and the decreasing population; 
  • Building a new enthusiasm through an integrated development strategy, including firstly a sustainable attitude, and secondly the “Smart Village strategy”; 
  • Getting a good cooperation between political management and researchers; 
  • Connecting all the projects together and creating monitoring accessible to the commune management and the population; 
  • Being understood by the population and building mutual trust between actors. 


Lessons learned 

  • Starting with well-defined strategies and goals; 
  • Building a good cooperation between policy makers and researchers; 
  • Raising awareness 

5.3.1 Conservation of the village and/or ambition to improve the quality of life 

The interviews indicate two types of rationale for the activities carried out. Some villages have experienced challenging situations and the development of new activities is a reaction to these challenges. These mostly relate to demographic challenges (depopulation and ageing population). This is particularly the case for the village of Eskola (FI) and Pinela (PT), where the quality of services had deteriorated and many young people had migrated to urban areas. The village of Cozzano (FR) also faced depopulation issues in the early 1990s and is now, as a result of a specific strategy, reversing the demographic curve. The concept underpinning the Superfast Cornwall (UK) project was also to limit depopulation in villages, especially of young people. The goal of the German project (Hofheim, DE) is similarly addressing demographic challenges such as emigration to urban areas and an ageing population. Access to job opportunities were an issue (Kolga, EE), and poor infrastructure leading to substandard connectivity prompted local-level solutions, for instance in the case in the village of O’Gonnelloe (IE) where the initial objective of the project was the collaborative construction of a 3km path to connect local amenities. 

The other stimulus is where some villages see transformation as an opportunity to improve their quality of life through projects and activities which are not a response or a solution to a problem; rather the initiative has focused on a specific matter such as energy, tourism or education. For instance, the village of Fintry (Scotland, UK) created the Fintry Development Trust to develop a Community Energy Project. Since then, the Trust has employed an energy advisor and has offered residents free roof and cavity wall insulation and solar panel installation. Finally, the Romanian example involves improvement of access to local products (Cluj-Nap, RO).