Rural Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Technology: Narratives From the Italian AgriFood Startup Ecosystem

Rural Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Technology: Narratives From the Italian AgriFood Startup Ecosystem

Teresa Graziano (Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Catania, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9837-4.ch017

Abstract

Innovative startups, namely newly-created, innovation-based companies, are regarded as drivers of local development in addition to mirroring the entrepreneurial attitude of a local innovation ecosystem. However, “smart” and “startups” have become “buzzy” words, often used as labels to attract new investors and/or high-profile residents, namely in urban contexts. Although often depicted as marginalized, rural areas are not new to innovation. Agriculture and food technologies have enormous potential in terms of sustainable food production, provision, and protection of rural areas. As a result, it is interesting to evaluate to what extent the rhetoric of the “startup effect” also affects rural areas, traditionally depicted as marginalized. Thus, the chapter scrutinizes the narratives about the “startup effect” in the Italian Agrifood sector, and explores the relations among innovative AgriFood startups, rural milieu, and local entrepreneurial ecosystem from an Economic Geography perspective.
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Startups And Technology-Driven Innovation For Rural Development: Beyond The (Apparent) Oxymoron

The current digital revolution across the globe has not implied an even distribution of Web access possibilities, by fostering new kinds of socio-economic polarization as well as shaping new inequalities (Graham, 2011; Philip et al., 2015; Riddlesden & Singleton, 2014). Furthermore, the growing diffusion of smart technologies has been fostering new kinds of clusterization, based on technological infrastructures concentration, mostly in urban areas. As Graham and Marvin (2001) put it, this is the result of “splintering urbanism” which has been at the core of urban theories such as the Florida’s creative visions underpinning the idea that city is the innovative milieu par excellence.

As far as rural areas are concerned, Roberts et al. (2017) underline how they are often described as passive, regarded as the antithetical pole of a dialectic where urban areas are, on the contrary, active and fully inserted in global networks. Due to the pervasiveness of the current digital Revolution and as ICTs become an integral, sometimes invisible, aspect even of rural areas, several researches have increasingly evaluating the role of the so-called triple helix digital divide (broadband connectivity, skills, uptake) in marginal areas such as the rural ones.

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