NICRE’s State of Rural Enterprise Report The rural economy post-pandemic: opportunities and barriers for business growth calls for continued improvements in infrastructure in rural areas.

Businesses in rural areas perceive new opportunities for growth but long-standing challenges such as affordable housing, transport and broadband capacity are hampering take-up, according to a major new survey from the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE). Almost half of rural firms in the North East, South West and West Midlands see opportunities for providing products or services relating to health and well-being and the environment as consumer priorities and interests change post-pandemic.

There are however deep rooted issues in rural areas that threaten firms’ ability to grasp opportunities with 40% citing a lack of availability of affordable housing locally, compared to a third of urban firms, and 39% a lack of transport services/infrastructure, compared to 26% of urban firms. A third of rural firms also identified inadequate broadband capacity, compared to a quarter of urban businesses. The most common constraint for both rural and urban firms was staff recruitment and retention (50%).

This report is the third to be published from NICRE’s survey of rural businesses in summer 2023 and follows The cost-of-doing-business crisis: rural impacts and adaptation and Rural SMEs and the environment published towards the end of last year.

Read the latest report and Infographic here