One of the possible solutions of rural development is rural Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs). Rural DIHs represent an efficient way of improving local environments in a more sustainable way, by affecting local businesses, people and local authorities. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the concept of a rural DIH by exploring the following elements: business model, digital technology and competences, and the policy instrument. We investigate the above-mentioned conceptual elements by conducting a literature review study and synthesizing the findings. Additionally, we provide a case study of the Divina Wine Hub Šmarje as an example of a rural DIH, whose activities are aimed at supporting rural businesses and individuals. The results show that a rural DIH does have a positive impact on local businesses, in particular regarding their sustainability aspect. The local DIH explained in the case study provides possibilities for local businesses to use innovative technological solutions, by supporting them with the right technological equipment and skilled people. From an economic point of view on sustainability, this resulted in business processes optimization, cost reduction, employment opportunities, as well as the strengthening of sustainable consumption and marketing for the winegrowers. Furthermore, it adds to environmental sustainability by adequately assessing the conditions in the vineyards to determine the optimal time and location of effective action, resulting in reducing the environmental footprint. All of this together also contributes to social sustainability by providing fairer distribution of social opportunities and digital inclusion. In this manner, we conclude that rural DIHs should be part of the Smart transformations of rural areas and included in rural development policies.

Stojanova, Simona, Nina Cvar, Jurij Verhovnik, Nataša Božić, Jure Trilar, Andrej Kos, and Emilija Stojmenova Duh. 2022. “Rural Digital Innovation Hubs as a Paradigm for Sustainable Business Models in Europe’s Rural Areas” Sustainability 14, no. 21: 14620.