Join the team from The Rural Design Centre Innovation Project as we join up with the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) to deliver our first annual event, the 'Rural Catalyst Conference' in the beautiful backdrop of Alnwick Garden Pavilion.

We're conscious that some people will be more confident attending physical events at the moment than others, given the continuing impact of Covid-19. With this in mind, we are intending to deliver the Conference both online and in person, depending on the public health situation and level of demand. Please let us know which method you would prefer when registering. The button on the left-hand side of this page will take you to the booking page on Eventbrite.


This full day event has been designed to bring together people from different sectors, industries and perspectives to combine knowledge in tackling rural challenges.

09:30 – 10:45 - Welcome & Keynote Speakers

Introduction from Lord Curry of Kirkharle

Pre-recorded welcome from HRH The Prince of Wales

Simon Green – CEO, Rural Design Centre

Jeremy Phillipson – Professor of Rural Development at Newcastle University and Director of the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise

Neil Ward – Professor of Rural & Regional Development, University of East Anglia 

11:15 – 12:30 - Design Mission Lightning Talks

Andy Dean – Chief Executive, Community Action Northumberland

Chris Jewitt – CEO, Food and Drink North East

Jamie Campbell – Design Associate at the Rural Design Centre discussing off-grid living in Northumberland

David O’Leary – Design Associate at the Rural Design Centre discussing working with rural businesses to improve their connectivity in often challenging circumstances.

13:15 – 14:45 - Inspirational Insights

Tom Heap – Climate change podcaster, author of '39 ways to save the planet' and presenter of BBC 1’s Countryfile.

Jemma Clifford and Anna Price – Directors and Co-Founders of the Rural Business Awards 

Sarah Dunning OBE – Chief Executive of Westmorland Limited

Speaker panel Q&A

15:00 – 16:30 - Collaboration Workshops

Landscape change What does the future of the rural landscape look like? How can businesses adapt to the biggest change to subsidy payments in over two generations? What opportunities are there for innovation in land management and ecology? 

Net zero – What are the issues facing rural businesses in their move towards net zero? And what can be done to support them?

Rural mobility – What are the barriers for rural SMEs to installing EV and e-mobility charging infrastructure? With a focus on tourism sites across Northumberland, we will look at what could help speed up the roll out of a comprehensive e-mobility network.

High Streets  – Is there a need for more flexible shared spaces for small business, community organisations on rural high streets? What are the barriers and problems that need to be solved to make a space that is economically sustainable and flexible enough to meet the needs of businesses and organisations.