Rural and mountain regions, especially cross-border areas, are being deeply affected by core-periphery dynamics. This factor causes a gradual isolation and demographic decrease in non-central areas, which are suffering significantly from a depopulation process. On the other hand, mountains are also a wonderful laboratory for research, experimentation and innovation and for developing new uses related to emerging technologies. They are also territories which are experiencing the environmental transition of our societies and their impacts and threats.
Apart from conserving and managing a common cultural (and natural) heritage, rural and mountain territories, through research partnerships, must contribute to structuring the European area. Given this potential and attractiveness, the UNITA universities, which are solidly anchored in their territories, propose to set up an experimental model by de-compartmentalizing approaches and policies and thus offering a profoundly renewed vision.
The objective is to define a framework for action shared by all the public or private stakeholders of the territories wishing to get involved under the UNITA leadership, contributing in this way to reinforcing Smart Specialization Strategies and to building a model of sustainable development for rural areas aligned with the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The UNITA strategy is firmly committed to the three Os policy as defined by the European Commission in 2016: Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World. In order to contribute to the sustainable development of their territories, UNITA research and innovation will focus during the first phase of the project on three main thematic areas:
- Cultural heritage: enhancement of the heritage and identity of the territories.
- Renewable energy: energy transition and resource management.
- The circular economy, including the bio-economy: networking and the opening-up of economies.
UNITA proposes an action plan based on the launching in each of the three thematic areas of a Research and Innovation Hub. The objective is to extend the coverage in the long-term to all the thematic areas that can be addressed through the coordinated collaboration of all public and private actors in each ecosystem in order to strengthen the links between education and research & innovation, and to promote the societal engagement of staff and students as well as their entrepreneurial competences.