Engaging Rural Micros (ERM) Trial

What is the project about?

The Engaging Rural Micros project is a 12 month research trial, designed to help us find out how we can shape future business support programmes to better support rural businesses, with less than 10 employees.

Who is eligible to join the trial?

If you are a business with less than 10 employees, or a freelancer or sole trader, based in rural Devon or the Exmoor and Blackdown Hills areas of Somerset, then you could be eligible to join this research trial, and access all the trial benefits.

We want to help you to help us by signing-up to this trial, so we can find out what you need from our future business support programmes.

The programme is specifically aimed at micro businesses, freelancers and sole traders. These businesses make up 90.1% of Devon’s rural economy (excluding Exeter). We understand that there is a need for these rural micros to overcome their tendencies towards stagnation and overworking, and increase time working on the business rather than in the business.

Why are we running this research trial?

The focus of this 12 month trial will be to learn how to stimulate growth mindsets and to monitor ‘productivity for a purpose’ rather than productivity for its own sake.  Better supporting these businesses in future could have a significant impact on our rural economy as well as mental health and wellbeing. This trial will identify how this can best be achieved, and how future business support programmes can be designed to engage and support rural micro businesses.   

We would love to get you involved!

Are you a rural micro business owner? Do you identify with any of the business or lifestyle challenges outlined above? This project could help you and your business! 

What is in it for you?

All participating businesses will:  

  • receive business monitoring for up to 12 months
  • receive a business insight report at the end of the project
  • be the first to be informed of the trial outcomes  
  • be invited to attend an event at the end of the project with key stakeholders and speakers – a great networking opportunity
  • be able to influence the wider economic knowledge and business support landscape by contributing to valuable research which will inform future support and funding programmes.   

What sort of businesses are we looking for?

The trial will be based in settlements with a population of less than 10,000 across Devon and the Exmoor and Blackdown Hills areas of Somerset, in four over-represented sectors: Tourism (including food, accommodation and retail); Health and Social Care; Trades (such as construction, market traders and lifestyle businesses); and Manufacturers.*

Does this sound like your business? Then sign-up by clicking on the Sign-Up Button.

What is the background to this project?

This trial follows a successful six-month proof of concept phase which engaged with over 100 micro businesses, targeting the Mid Devon and North Devon districts through surveys, case studies and focus group research. Expanding on our findings, we will now monitor over 250 businesses, examining their practices, challenges, and productivity over a maximum of twelve months.  

If you were one of the businesses which took part in the proof of concept phase, your input was extremely valuable and helped us to use the findings to launch this research trial. We would love to hear from you again, and get you involved in the trial!

Want to find out more?

Contact us

If you would like to know more about the ERM project or how to take part: 

Visit us

Each week we are visiting towns and villages across Devon and Somerset to spread the word about our trial and find out what matters most to you and your business. Follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page to stay up to date with our whereabouts and let us know if you’d like us to pop in for a chat. 

Background reading

If you would like to read more information from the phase 1 Proof of Concept study, our final report is now available, along with Annexe A and Annexes B & C.

This project is being run by Devon County Council, who has won government funding via Innovate UK.

If you would like more information about how we are handling your data as part of this trial, please read our privacy notice.

*If you’re not sure whether the population of where you live is less than 10,000 or which sector your business comes under, then please contact us and we will help you to find out.