There is increasing emphasis on innovation as a driver of continued prosperity in the rural economy. Globalisation poses challenges to rural areas given technological advances and intensified competition in agricultural markets, ageing rural populations and expansion of urban areas. However, in recent years, the conception of rural areas has shifted from places of production to places of consumption. In line with an increasing urban demand for consumption of products and services close to nature within the rural landscape, we observe the emergence of experiential offers based around non-wood forest products (NWFP) where the consumer is closely connected to the harvesting and use of the products. In this paper, we examine how such intersecting demands have created new forms of market for NWFP, by analysing in-depth four innovative examples in Austria and the United Kingdom. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the managers of these businesses, and cases were analysed through application of both the experience economy and the innovation systems approach. We found that all four businesses were on the one hand derived from traditional, regional cultural skills and values and, on the other hand, directly connected to new consumers’ demands. The apparent success of these emerging business models lies in the accretion of new social values onto traditional products. Thus creative approaches blending offers designed to enhance cosumers’ experiences into traditional sectors, such as forestry, would have potential in the future. However, our results indicate that there is a lack of institutional support for the development of such businesses in both countries. Better suited innovation policies and support structures would be important for mainstreaming or encouraging the development of similar businesses, innovations and knowledge.
Živojinović, I; Weiss, G; Wilding, M; Wong, JLG; Ludvig, A 2020. Experiencing forest products - An innovation trend by rural entrepreneurs. Land Use Policy. 2020; 94, 104506
*This paper is co-authored by the researcher from the Forest Policy Research Network