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The uneven rural development and the investigation of the place of rural areas in the modern knowledge-based economy raise an important question. How can we foster knowledge emergence and dissemination in peripheral areas that are often considered less innovative due to their remoteness and weak technological creativity? This paper aims to present the contributions of the French PSDR program to rural knowledge creation and dissemi- nation in France based on a comprehensive and synthetic analysis of its participatory research projects. We identify five key components of the knowledge-related PSDR approaches which have significantly contributed to rural innovation in France linked to (1) the governance of agricultural lands, (2) the territorial attractiveness and well-being, (3) the agroecological transition in the territories, (4) the territorialized food systems, as well as (5) the bioeconomy and circular economy. We emphasize the need to combine technological, organizational, and territorial innovation and involve local partners in the design and elaboration of research programs. Rural areas can thus produce new knowledge beneficial to local communities and transferable to other sectors or territories. Finally, we suggest a comprehensive territorial vision for knowledge-based rural development and discuss the importance of a national multidisciplinary and participatory research program.
Journal of Rural Studies 97 (2023) 428–437
Available online 5 January 2023
0743-0167/© 2022 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
A collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to knowledge-based rural
development: 25 years of the PSDR program in France
e Torre
, Fr´
eric Wallet
, Jiao Huang
UMR SADAPT, INRAE, University Paris-Saclay, AgroParisTech, F-75005 Paris, France
UMR AGIR, INRAE, F-31326 Castanet Tolosan Cedex, France
Rural development
Rural resilience
Knowledge economy
Territorial vision
Collaborative research
Multidisciplinary approach
The uneven rural development and the investigation of the place of rural areas in the modern knowledge-based
economy raise an important question. How can we foster knowledge emergence and dissemination in peripheral
areas that are often considered less innovative due to their remoteness and weak technological creativity? This
paper aims to present the contributions of the French PSDR program to rural knowledge creation and dissemi-
nation in France based on a comprehensive and synthetic analysis of its participatory research projects. We
identify ve key components of the knowledge-related PSDR approaches which have signicantly contributed to
rural innovation in France linked to (1) the governance of agricultural lands, (2) the territorial attractiveness and
well-being, (3) the agroecological transition in the territories, (4) the territorialized food systems, as well as (5)
the bioeconomy and circular economy. We emphasize the need to combine technological, organizational, and
territorial innovation and involve local partners in the design and elaboration of research programs. Rural areas
can thus produce new knowledge benecial to local communities and transferable to other sectors or territories.
Finally, we suggest a comprehensive territorial vision for knowledge-based rural development and discuss the
importance of a national multidisciplinary and participatory research program.
1. Introduction
The place of rural areas in national socio-economic development
remained uncertain for a long time. Rural development policies differed
widely over time and from one country to another, emphasizing agri-
cultural activities, industrialization, or services to the local population
(Torre and Wallet, 2020). Rural territories have recently been increas-
ingly recognized as crucial, particularly in industrialized countries, for
not only agricultural production but also recreational spaces, biodiver-
sity preservation, natural areas, and local culture (Kim et al., 2005;
Torre and Wallet, 2016). Based on this multifunctionality, rural liveli-
hood diversication contributes to meeting the needs of city dwellers
and in-migrant rural households with an urban lifestyle and provides
transition pathways for rural sustainability (Smith and Phillips, 2001;
Wilson, 2010). It has become necessary to implement diversied rural
policies that consider the specic characteristics and resilience of local
territories (Westlund and Kobayashi, 2013; Pelucha et al., 2021). In
other words, policymakers should explore smart rural development
based on knowledge and innovation (Naldi et al., 2015).
However, there are several limitations to rural innovation and
knowledge development. The concept of a Knowledge Economy has
been debated and studied for decades (Westlund, 2006). A large body of
work highlights innovations in large urban areas (Grandadam et al.,
2013; Secundo et al., 2020). Rural areas are deemed much less well-off
and suffer from an insufcient innovation capacity because of a lack of
knowledge suppliers, educational institutions, and adequate education
among local actors (Bock, 2016). The small population size and its
sparse distribution over the rural territories also lead to a certain level of
disconnection and weak network connectivity (Fountain et al., 2021).
Many researchers criticize the above remarks as a typical but
incomplete conception of the knowledge society which focuses mainly
on formal, academic knowledge and technological innovation (Rooney
et al., 2005; Neumeier, 2012). An essential part of rural knowledge relies
on grounded know-how and networks of local actors with different
objectives and goals from those in metropolises. Knowledge is less
formal and more experiential in rural areas, where innovations are more
rooted in the social and institutional fabric; the knowledge imported
from outside is reinterpreted and reformulated to adapt to local realities
(Li et al., 2016; ˇ
umane et al., 2018). Therefore, on the one hand, it is
always important to introduce to rural territories the most recent
* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (A. Torre), (F. Wallet), (J. Huang).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Rural Studies
journal homepage:
Received 28 April 2022; Received in revised form 2 December 2022; Accepted 28 December 2022
Journal of Rural Studies 97 (2023) 428–437
progress in science and technology, such as digital technologies or
electrical mechanization (Cowie et al., 2020). On the other hand, public
policy and actions need to support the emergence and development of
local knowledge embedded in rural products, e.g., labeled local products
or the Protected Designation of Origin (Ca˜
nada and V´
azquez, 2005), and
practices and skills of the rural population, e.g., the short supply chains
(de Roest et al., 2018).
The work on the Knowledge Economy for regional and rural devel-
opment has increased extensively in recent years, focusing on innovative
milieus (Crevoisier, 2004), learning regions (Asheim, 2012), and other
approaches to contribute to rural sustainability and resilience (Li et al.,
2019). These approaches emphasize social innovation, local knowledge,
and networks between local and external actors (Cooke, 2005; Neu-
meier, 2017; Jones et al., 2021). There is a strong demand for
cross-boundary research across sectors and scales (Eversole, 2021) to
encourage collective learning through formal and informal knowledge
interactions (T¨
odtling et al., 2006) and to support the development of
innovation clusters (Varis et al., 2014). However, several major prob-
lems need further consideration. For example, most previous research
was about innovation in rms and industries or knowledge-based
entrepreneurship in rural areas (Richter, 2019; Kristensen and Dubois,
2021). A systemic vision is needed considering agriculture (Arzeni et al.,
2021), food system (Martindale, 2021), forestry (Weiss et al., 2021),
rural living standards (Jacobs et al., 2019), and other broad themes.
There are still not many empirical reports about how knowledge-based
initiatives are developed in the territories, what initiatives can facilitate
the involvement of regional authorities and other partners, how the
policy adapts to new urban-rural relationships, etc.
The experiences developed in the PSDR program (For and On
Regional Development) in France can hopefully provide meaningful
responses to these questions. The program nanced multiple research
projects from its rst generation, launched in 1996, to PSDR4, which
closed in 2020. All projects followed several principles, such as solid
interaction between regional partners and research institutes, co-
denition of research themes, multi- and inter-disciplinary ap-
proaches, collaborative and participatory research between researchers
and non-academic actors, and linkage with multi-level rural networks
(Box 1). These research projects covered broad themes linked to agri-
culture, forestry, food, agroecological transition, and other issues in
rural and peri-urban areas. The idea of the program is to enhance local
techniques, introduce and adapt external knowledge, and, above all,
encourage the emergence and development of local expertise, knowl-
edge, and tools that territorial actors and other rural areas can use..
The objective of the paper is to present an overview of the PSDR
approach during the last 25 years and the main ndings of the projects
for knowledge-based rural development and resilience. The goal is
twofold: rst, to present the new knowledge they bring to French rural
territories regarding agricultural land governance and other issues; and
second, to explain how this knowledge is locally created or reinvented
based on local skills, cooperation between stakeholders, and the explo-
ration of existing innovations. The structure of the paper is as follows.
Section 2 is a literature review on rural development in the knowledge
economy and an introduction to the PSDR approach. Section 3 presents
the main results of the PSDR program in its most recent generation
around ve critical issues of rural knowledge and innovation. Section 4
discusses the contributions of a participatory and comprehensive
Box 1
A short introduction to the PSDR Program in France
The PSDR (For and On Regional Development) program ( was rst launched in 1996 and recently closed its 4th phase in 2020
(Table 1). Its rst generation - DADP (19961998) - established the basic principles of the program, including 1) Strong interaction between
regional partners (e.g., the Regional Councils of participating regions) and research institutes (especially INRAE, the French National Institute
for Agriculture, Food and Environment) in co-funding the projects and dening research themes; 2) Special attention to territorial development
processes in rural and peri-urban areas directly or indirectly linked to agriculture, forestry, food, and other agroecological issues; 3) Collabo-
rative research in partnership with local actors throughout all stages of the projects; 4) Research projects rooted in territories and interdisci-
plinary approaches combining social and natural sciences.
Each generation improved the strategy and approach of project management. For example, all projects were coordinated by a researcher-actor
pair after the rst experimentation carried out in DADP2 (20012005). All projects participated in one or more of the three joint working groups
formally created in PSDR4 (20142020), following tentative initiatives in PSDR3 (20072011) to strengthen collaboration between projects.
PSDR3 reinforced the requirement for improving the quantity and quality of scientic publications from the projects, with an independent
national jury in charge of evaluating the projects and their results. There was also a shift in focus from knowledge dissemination to facilitating
reuse from DADP2. The projects had extra funding for one year dedicated to knowledge transfer supported by a communications team at the
program level in PSDR4. A book chapter about PSDR3 explained how the projects were selected and managed (Torre and Wallet, 2022).
An increasing number of regions participated in the program, starting with those of specialty crops and services and followed by those of in-
dustrial eld crops. The focus of the projects also extended beyond agricultural production to a wide variety of topics contributing to sustainable
regional development, for example, food systems, value chains, farmland management, urban-rural relationships, natural resources, environ-
ment, climate change, territorial impacts assessment, and public policy. The research outline evolved to address the rising societal demand for
agroecological transformation, food quality, circular economy, and the coordination of different goals. Many projects worked, stimulated by the
reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the successive versions of the Green Deal, on the search for alternative agricultural systems
and social structures to ensure a balance between agricultural, environmental, climate, and smart rural development objectives. The program
aimed to contribute effectively to regional and territorial development by providing information, methods, and tools for local actorsdecision-
making and action, particularly within the framework of regional policy priorities.
In PSDR4, the 33 projects mobilized 128 research teams (universities, institutes, ), combining various disciplines of social sciences and natural
sciences with an average of 4 teams per project. About 151 non-academic partner organizations were involved (on average 5 per project),
including actors from the agricultural world, local and territorial authorities, decentralized services of the State, environmental organizations,
industrial and service companies, shing and forestry stakeholders, and others. There were more than 1100 participants, of which 73% were
The TETRAE program (Transition in Territories of Agriculture, Food and Environment, 20222027) succeeds the PSDR and retains the same
structure and principles. TETRAE aims to promote transitions toward more sustainable territorial development. It revolves around three
essential points: reasserting the central place of local territories in sustainable development, opening up the research towards the socio-
economic world and civil society, and focusing on transitions under the Agriculture Food Environment Health nexus.
A. Torre et al.
Journal of Rural Studies 97 (2023) 428–437
research program like PSDR to rural innovation compared with other
relevant initiatives in order to provide some general and critical thinking
for future research and policy-making. Section 5 concludes the paper
and opens ways for the future.
2. Knowledge-based rural development: a theoretical review
and the PSDR problem-driven approach
This section presents a literature review on rural development
challenges and the research and policy for a knowledge-based rural
economy, followed by a conceptual introduction of the problem-driven
approach of the PSDR program. This summarization of the PSDR
approach aims to provide a tool that bridges the gaps in rural develop-
ment between top-down knowledge and local innovation and between
researchers and actors.
2.1. Literature review
2.1.1. Challenges of rural development
In the background of globalization and the growing mobility of
capital and people, it has been widely noticed that rural areas are often
marginalized in socio-economic development (Bock, 2016; De Toni
et al., 2021). Many are experiencing population decline and a downfall
in private business, employment, and public services. The reasons are
associated with the geographical and relational remoteness of rural
areas due to limited socio-economic connections. The lack of knowledge
institutions and links to them results in weak innovation systems in
peripheral regions, demonstrating a low level of collective learning and
insufcient capacity to absorb interregional knowledge spillover (Pel-
konen and Nieminen, 2016). It is worth noting that initiatives increasing
the connectivity of these remote areas without improving local inno-
vation capacity may lead to the risk of resource-grabbing and rural
gentrication (Zoomers, 2022).
Several large-scale studies of the European Territorial Observatory
Network (ESPON) show the need to consider territorial disparity, di-
versity, and balance in rural research and policy-making. The EDORA
ndings highlight the different capacities at the micro-scale to respond
to the ubiquitous drivers of rural change (Copus et al., 2011). The
PROFECY nal report shows a spatial variation between two main
drivers of inner peripherality: a lack of access to regional centers and
services and poor economic potential (Noguera et al., 2017). The
ESCAPE results suggest a diverse shrinking pattern and substantial
intra-regional variation (Copus et al., 2020). The authors remind us that
many European regions are declining due to relative disadvantage
rather than absolute weakness compared with nearby regions.
Rural areas need to meet the rising societal demands, especially from
urban citizens, for high-quality food, a circular economy, labeled local
products, natural environment, and other services. The regulation of the
CAP and the EU Green Deal has reinforced the requirement for agro-
ecological transition and more sustainable development pathways.
Rural resilience is no longer essentially linked to the agriculture sector
but a question combining the environmental, territorial, and socio-
economic dimensions (Pelucha et al., 2021). Rural research needs to
adapt to societal and policy needs. It remains a big challenge to coor-
dinate multiple development goals and explore alternative agri-food
systems. Therefore, the transformation resilience of rural areas be-
comes the key to preventing system crises (Dwyer, 2022). When busi-
ness as usual becomes impossible, the capacity of a rural territory to
change its internal structure and feedback mechanisms toward a new
healthy, dynamic, and efcient system will be crucial.
France faces these general challenges and some specic character-
istics. The share of the agriculture sector in employment and the econ-
omy has diminished considerably. However, the role of agricultural
activities remains essential in spatial planning and landscape manage-
ment. France has experienced a signicant evolution towards regional
specialization in agriculture and rural economy (Chatellier and Gaign´
2012). Agri-food industrialization and exportation characterize the
North-West and, to a lesser extent, the South-West parts. The North-East
part relies more on an industrial tradition. In the South-East, on the
contrary, specialty agricultural products and services contribute most to
the local economy, e.g., labeled products, short supply chains, rural
tourism, and second homes (Le Bras and Schmitt, 2020). Remote rural
areas generally see a shrinking and aging population, but rural attrac-
tiveness tends to increase in the metropolitan outskirts and coastal areas
under intense land pressure. As in the case of PSDR (Box 1), the regions
of specialty agriculture were the rst motivated to search for alternative
production models and value chains. Those dominated by large-scale
industrial crops and livestock are increasingly urged to break the
socio-technical lock-in favoring intensive farming (Meynard et al., 2018)
by the rising demands for agroecological transition, sustainability, and
resilience. These territorial specicities of France call for heterogeneous
research focus in cohesion with the regional context and multi-level
coordination to facilitate exchange and collaboration among projects.
The research outline and strategy of the PSDR program (Section 2.2)
considered these specicities and relevant needs.
2.1.2. Research and policy for a knowledge-based rural development
The creation and exploitation of knowledge have become the pre-
dominant engine in developing wealth and progress in the knowledge
economy and society (Peters, 2010). Previous research has revealed the
following critical elements of knowledge-based rural development.
First, apart from technological innovation, social and cultural inno-
vation is also essential in rural areas (Dargan and Shucksmith, 2008).
There can be divergent pathways for knowledge transfer and collective
learning through formal and informal knowledge interactions (T¨
et al., 2006; Slee and Polman, 2021). Kristensen and Dubois (2021)
propose a framework combining the function of social ties (e.g.,
bonding, bridging, and linking) to achieve organizational proximity in
order to construct a rural cluster. Torre et al. (2020) suggest a regional
strategy to focus on diversity and related variety in rural areas to
facilitate inter-sector knowledge spillover and borrow size from more
developed neighboring regions.
Second, rural innovation is steered from the bottom up and driven by
local communities and initiatives (De Toni et al., 2021; Zoomers, 2022).
Table 1
A brief overview of the PSDR Programs past four generations.
Number of
Number of participating
Budget Key progress in strategy and approach
21 3 No
Establishment of basic principles (i.e., partnership with regional councils, collaborative research,
76 5
6 M Experimentation of project coordination by a researcher-actor pair; a shift in focus from knowledge
dissemination to facilitating reuse
36 10
10 M Increasing requirement for scientic results of projects; experimentation of joint working groups;
external evaluation by an international jury
33 14
11 M One extra year for knowledge transfer; creation of a communications team at the program level
Regions before the French territorial reform effective on January 1, 2016.
A. Torre et al.
Journal of Rural Studies 97 (2023) 428–437
It means identifying local needs and integrating local knowledge,
strengths, and opportunities (Bosworth et al., 2016; Arzeni et al., 2021;
Kluvankova et al., 2021). Thus, there should be a new perspective of
governance connecting global and grassroots efforts (Leach et al., 2012;
Eversole, 2021). Pelkonen and Nieminen (2016) suggest relying on
existing networks and local resources to solve the problem of lacking
dynamic clusters or knowledge suppliers in rural areas.
Third, the over-reliance on the local network may reduce creativity
(Varis et al., 2014). It is crucial to improve the absorptive capacityof
the territory and individuals to exploit external knowledge (Cohen and
Levinthal, 1990). Cooperation between local and external actors at
regional or sub-regional levels is necessary (Dahlstr¨
om and James,
At the policy level, rural development has become the 2nd Pillar of
the EUs Common Agricultural Policy since Agenda 2000. A menu of
measures is proposed to the Member States or regions to design Rural
Development Programmes (RDP). Some have explicitly targeted to
support knowledge transfer and innovation since 2007 (Bonglio et al.,
2017). The CAP is in continuous reform, and one central issue is rein-
forcing its contributions to regional growth and cohesion. The task re-
mains challenging because the CAP is criticized as a cause of increasing
territorial imbalance (Esposti, 2011; Bonglio et al., 2017). The RDP
20072013 integrated LEADER initiatives, a bottom-up method in the
EU to reinforce the links between actions for the development of the
rural economy. Social innovation and networking are of central
importance (Dax et al., 2016; Georgios et al., 2021). The integration into
RDP has largely brought the small-scale and limited-budget LEADER
program to the mainstream, though it is now showing a gradual decline
(Georgios et al., 2021). At least 5% of RDP funding must go to actions
based on Community-led Local Development (CLLD-LEADER). The EU
regulations 2021/2115 for CAP Strategic Plans 20232027 reafrm the
importance of Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS)
and locally led initiatives like LEADER.
The successive shifts of European regional development policies over
the programming periods have underlined the difculty in reconciling
competitiveness and cohesion. Innovation, R&D, and other intangible
factors have been emphasized as the engine of economic growth since
the 1990s. The support for smart specialization and place-based initia-
tives for a decade tried to counter the harmful effects of the wholesale
and one-size-ts-all approach centered on advanced technologies.
However, existing strategies did not sufciently consider territorial
specicities, the role of infra-regional dynamics, and the quality of
governance and intermediation systems at these scales. This defect calls
for a reinforcement of knowledge production and dissemination mech-
anisms that stick more closely to the contemporary issues of rurality.
Policy evolution impacts the focus of the research (as mentioned in
Box 1, Section 2.1.1) and, in turn, is inuenced by the research, e.g., the
assessment of territorial imbalance and the conception of social inno-
vation mentioned above. Nowadays, huge amounts of data, reports,
videos, etc., of the European Commission and the EU-funded research
projects, e.g., Framework Programs, ESPON, and RURAGRI ERA-NET,
are available on the websites. Thus, research can be closer to opera-
tional actors and provide them with case studies, development models,
action points, databases, and networks. In France, research has suc-
cessfully brought a territorial dimension to rural development policy by
revealing the impacts of the territorial context on the performance of
governance mechanisms. Researchers have also drawn the attention of
policymakers to stakeholder diversity and the development of consul-
tation tools promoting collaboration and learning dynamics. In addition,
considering territorial congurations justies place-based policies,
which integrate the particularities of rural territories (Torre et al.,
2.1.3. Major problems and needs for knowledge-based rural development
The above review leads to the identication of several major prob-
lems for knowledge-based rural development nowadays, which needs to:
i) be based on a systemic vision addressing a variety of subjects and
their interdependence in rural areas, e.g., agriculture, food,
ecological transition, rural well-being, adaptation, and resilience
under the changing urban-rural relations.
ii) reconcile the targets of local territories and regional development
in dening research themes and implementing projects. This
reconciliation is essential for binding together different stake-
holders and obtaining resources at regional and supra-regional
iii) involve researchers and actors in different disciplines to address
broad issues (Lowe and Phillipson, 2006).
iv) develop collaborative research and bridge the gaps between
research institutions (knowledge suppliers) and other actors in
rural areas to promote territorial innovation (Doloreux et al.,
v) integrate informal and formal knowledge from local and external
actors to avoid the risk of reduced creativity in an isolated system.
Rural communities need to connect to global pipelines, which are
trans-local knowledge linkages between regions and clusters
(Morrison et al., 2013).
2.2. The PSDR approach
The work and results of the PSDR program can provide helpful so-
lutions that respond to the needs presented in Section 2.1.3. The pro-
gram was designed based on several principles, which became
increasingly evident over subsequent generations (Box 1). These prin-
ciples, aiming to produce scientically rigorous knowledge directly
useable by local partners or policymakers, can be grouped into ve
broad categories. Fig. 1 presents how these principles potentially
respond to the problems and needs in knowledge-based rural
2.2.1. Broad research themes for rural areas
The projects in the PSDR program covered the major themes related
to rural development, which facilitates a systemic vision in public action
addressing new challenges to rural territories. The research themes were
dened following regional needs and the demand of the EUs new
Cohesion Policy, Smart Growth priority under Europe 2020, and the new
CAP for the transition of agriculture and rural areas in the context of
climate change.
These research themes can be summarized into ve categories: 1)
governance of agricultural lands under increasing pressure in rural and
peri-urban areas; 2) territorial attractiveness and well-being, including
landscape preservation, cohesion, and competitiveness between regions
and territories; 3) agroecological transition in the territories in light of
local conditions and global changes, such as the evolution of agricultural
practices and adaptation to climate change; 4) territorialized food sys-
tems in pursuit of food security, social benets, and environmental
sustainability; 5) bioeconomy and circular economy. Researchers and
partners also participated in three joint working groups among projects
to promote knowledge exchange between regions and produce general
and transferable results and tools. These joint working groups focused
respectively on: rural-urban relations around land use, attractiveness,
and well-being, agroecological transition in different systems and ter-
ritories, and innovation to boost circularity in the food and forestry
systems and chains.
2.2.2. Strong interactions between research organizations and regional
Within the framework of the general topics selected at the national
level, local research teams worked with policy and decision-makers to
dene the specic research subjects in each region. This smart devel-
opment strategy is highly grounded in local problems and needs. Local
teams rst conducted some preliminary diagnostics about, for example,
the depopulation processes in mountain areas, the agroecological
A. Torre et al.
Journal of Rural Studies 97 (2023) 428–437
transition through the development of pulse crops, and the short supply
chains near the capital city of the region.
The Regional Council provided at least 50% of the project funding.
They followed their projectsprogress with the coordinators of the PSDR
program and participated in a regional monitoring and consultant
committee. They expect to integrate the knowledge produced in the
projects into regional policy-making.
2.2.3. Multi- and inter-disciplinary research projects
A partial or disciplinary approach can hardly meet the requirements
of a global and systemic vision of the problems at the territorial level.
PSDR research projects are interdisciplinary at two levels:
Recommended by the evaluation bodies of the program, the projects
were proposed and carried out by multidisciplinary research teams. The
general design and all work packages should include multidisciplinary
research. For example, none of the projects had a purely economic or
agronomic work package, and most projects engaged teams from social
and natural sciences.
The projects in PSDR4 involved about 40 disciplines, including 10 in
social sciences and 30 in natural sciences. The most frequent disciplines
included economics, sociology, geography, agronomy, ecology, man-
agement, politics, and law.
2.2.4. Collaborative research and knowledge transfer to local actors
Each PSDR project was coordinated by a researcher and a non-
academic partner and based on collaboration between research teams
and local partners in dening research topics, theoretical framework,
eldwork, and the transfer of results. The 151 partners involved in the
program included agricultural actors (e.g., cooperatives, groups of
farmers, and the chambers of agriculture), local authorities (e.g., mu-
nicipalities or groups of municipalities, department councils, and
regional councils), decentralized bodies of the State for research, agri-
culture, and environment activities, territorial organizations (e.g.,
Pays), water agencies, Regional Natural Parks, and other actors in
territorial development (e.g., environmental organizations, industrial
and service companies, and shing and forestry stakeholders).
The fth year of PSDR4 was specically dedicated to transforming
scientic results into practical tools to promote knowledge transfer to
local actors and other regions. The PSDR projects created about 1000
operational products, including thematic meetings and workshops,
training courses for students, professionals, and the public, videos, e-
books, manuals, software, databases, posters, etc. These products
include good practice manuals for actors and territorial expertise guides
to help local decision-makers select and elaborate public action. Most of
them have been shared on social media and are freely available on the
2.2.5. Linkage with multi-level rural networks
The PSDR program is close to the European Innovation Partnership
for Agriculture (EIP-AGRI)
in principles and structure, which has
enabled their cooperation in the Rhˆ
one-Alpes region. The EIP-AGRI
initiative comprises multi-stakeholder projects searching for practical
and concrete solutions to a problem or an opportunity. It aims to facil-
itate the transfer of innovation and knowledge between countries in
order to foster agroecological transition across Europe. The PSDR pro-
jects in the Rhˆ
one-Alpes region were also involved in the French Col-
lective Mobilization for Rural Development (MCDR)
program to
support collaborative projects with a national or inter-regional dimen-
sion, promote network building, and contribute to rural development.
This joint coordination between the three initiatives in the projects
has brought about fruitful results. Primarily, it indicates an approach for
rural areas to create knowledge linkages with multiple rural networks
across local, regional, national, and European levels. Teams with
different targets worked jointly to organize workshops and produce
practical documents sharing the results of innovative projects with
various actors and policymakers. These partnerships echo the multi-
level perspective on transitions (Geels, 2002). The production of prac-
tical knowledge favoring agroecology or short food supply chains has
contributed to operational standards and strengthened their legitimacy
in public policies and stakeholder strategies.
3. Results of the PSDR4 projects about rural knowledge and
innovation linked to agriculture and food issues
The research of the PSDR projects in very different local territories
leads to essential contributions to understanding the dynamic evolution
and resilience of rural spaces and concrete proposals for public action.
This section presents the key ndings of the recently closed PSDR4
projects linked to ve major issues in rural development among the
broad research themes introduced in section 2.2.1. References to pub-
lications from the projects are provided in the text.
3.1. Governance of agricultural lands
Multiple PSDR4 projects studied the resilience of farming systems
near the city, where agricultural lands face increasing urban pressures.
They focused mainly on adaptation strategies and land management that
help peri-urban farming to persist. The multidisciplinary PSDR approach
facilitates a systemic vision combining research on land use manage-
ment, social relations, and agroecological impacts, which contributes to
identifying new opportunities and trade-offs in agricultural land
Fig. 1. The PSDR solutions to the problems in knowledge-based rural development (Source: Authors original work).
The EIP-AGRI is supported by the EUs Common Agricultural Policy (the
European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) and the European research
and innovation program Horizon 2020.
The MCDR program is coordinated by the National Rural Network of
A. Torre et al.
Journal of Rural Studies 97 (2023) 428–437
governance under urban pressure.
First, land use studies reveal the difculty of making land available
for agricultural activities at the urban-rural interface. For example,
downzoning from an urban development zone to an agricultural zone in
land use planning means a loss of value for landowners and could lead to
litigation in the administrative court (Le Bivic and Melot, 2020). How-
ever, researchers have identied innovative practices of land ownership
backing (portage foncier) to help new farmers to get land for culti-
vation through the transfer of land use rights and diversied design of
innovative agricultural projects (L´
eger-Bosch et al., 2020). One of the
projects has created an interactive digital tool to manage local land re-
sources for agricultural projects. It is an open web platform of collabo-
rative mapping for local actors to report property initiatives.
Then, the research on social relations suggests recognizing the
importance of local agriculture at the urban-rural interface following the
change in eating habits and lifestyles in cities. For example, home gar-
dens in metropolitan outskirts signicantly contribute to the diet of
working-class households, but their value has long been underestimated
(Darly et al., 2021). Farmland preservation in peri-urban areas can be
integrated with local food strategies, which enables to rethink of the
meaning and ways of sustainable urban planning (Buyck et al., 2021;
Kassis et al., 2021). In addition to farmers and other traditional actors,
local municipalities, residents, and social services are increasingly
engaged in agricultural and food issues. The relationship between so-
ciety and agriculture is now growingly inuenced by consumers and
public authorities with rising interest in local food.
Other research on the ecological impacts of land use changes shows
that the urban-rural interface, valley bottoms, and agricultural/indus-
trial wastelands favor the production of ecosystem services and the
preservation of biodiversity. These lands are conducive to agroecologi-
cal transition. Researchers nd that peri-urban areas with intermediate
proportions of urban and agricultural lands (Renaud et al., 2022) and
urban domestic gardens (Lev´
e et al., 2019) positively impact pollination
and plant species richness. However, water contamination in peri-urban
areas is more correlated with agricultural fertilizer and pesticides than
urban land use. Thus, public policy should consider the environmental
risk linked to agricultural activities (N´
elieu et al., 2021). These ndings
can provide pathways for change in public policies on biodiversity.
Some foresight workshops between local institutional actors and other
stakeholders have mobilized these results using a specic method
AVEC® to draw future landscapesfor interface areas like urban and
peri-urban farmlands.
3.2. Attractiveness and well-being of the territories
The attractiveness of rural territories represents a signicant issue in
the public action of European countries in the last decades with
increasing consideration of the well-being dimension. PSDR projects
have developed a comprehensive approach to assessing territorial
attractiveness. They investigate the basis for individual and collective
well-being in a territory and how the two are articulated with each other
and with territorial attractiveness. The well-being indicators and the
surveys among local populations have made it possible to demonstrate
the advantages of rural territories in terms of attractiveness.
For example, Bourdeau-Lepage and Fujiki (2021) surveyed local
peoples perceptions of their living environment. They identied the key
territorial components of well-being in rural areas, e.g., natural ame-
nities, access to health services, and safety. They highlight that the
decision-makers must consider the objective and subjective dimensions
and the individual and collective dimensions of public policies and
strategies. Tardieu and Tuffery (2019) show that, besides
socio-demographic characteristics, the biophysical context plays a
prominent role in the recreational attractiveness of the territory and
should also be considered in the recreation policy and planning. They
claim that GIS-based mapping can be a valuable tool for valuing land-
scape services in peoples daily decision-making. These results and tools
help to develop participatory strategies to optimize well-being, renew
landscape design, and contribute to public policies for improving terri-
torial attractiveness.
3.3. Agroecological transition in the territories
PSDR projects conceive agroecological transition as the change of
agricultural models to promote sustainable food systems that respect
peoples benets and their environment, both at the farm and territorial
level (Charpentier et al., 2019; Magrini et al., 2019). This approach
combines technical and agronomic research and the mobilization of
supporting services, consumers, and various other actors in local terri-
tories to improve farmersknowledge and involvement (Bouttes et al.,
2018). The results show that, besides addressing the question what is
good in a biophysical sense, considering local actors perception and
participation is highly meaningful to the target of agroecological
The work on biophysical dimensions shows that considering poten-
tial ecosystem services is a major lever of agroecological transition at all
scales: regional, territorial, or farming systems (Lopes et al., 2017;
Fauvel et al., 2020). Many technical manuals have been developed to
help farmers and agricultural advisers to understand the benets of
biodiversity to agriculture. PSDR teams investigated the autonomy of
the farming systems, including cultivation, breeding, and the
re-composition of the two. They have developed alternative systems that
reconcile animal welfare with the health of the system at the farm and
territorial levels while reducing dependence on synthetic inputs (For-
teau et al., 2020; Guinet et al., 2020a, 2020b; Maxin et al., 2020;
Mugnier et al., 2021). Practical guides have been created to facilitate the
construction of nitrogen-autonomous systems with farmers through
design and conception workshops and the diagnosis of nitrogen losses in
the elds.
Another big part of the work was about the involvement and coop-
eration of local actors in the transition processes, especially in sharing
knowledge, learning, and accompanying projects. The results call to
rethink the role of agricultural advisors in providing technical support
for a systemic change, which needs to adapt to the singularity of the
projects and local situations and develop knowledge for and with local
actors (Catalogna et al., 2018). Several practical tools of PSDR projects
help different actors to understand the transition practices. For example,
the Agroecology Dictionary is an online and evolving multimedia tool
providing denitions of the main terms and concepts in agroecology.
The Capor® software is a digital decision support tool for grassland
design. Other tools include multiple synthesis booklets on the conver-
sion to organic agriculture, a video game around the practice of mixed
breeds, etc.
3.4. Territorialized food systems
The PSDR4 work suggests a three-level approach combining
conception, governance, and collective intelligence to territorialized
food systems.
For the conception, researchers have revealed different forms of
innovation that redene the links between food, agriculture, and terri-
tory (Galliano et al., 2019). The work shows differentiated dynamics of
reterritorialization in the production, transformation, and distribution
of food value chains (Desquilbet et al., 2018; Madelrieux et al., 2018).
This reconnection of agriculture, food supply, and people in local ter-
ritories brings long-term benets. It helps to dene the trajectories of the
Territorial Food Projects
by combining individual and collective
PSDR results also show the importance of governance associated
The Territorial Food Projects were introduced by the French Law for the
Future of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (LAAF) of 2014.
A. Torre et al.
Journal of Rural Studies 97 (2023) 428–437
with these systems. Local elected ofcials and public actors play an
essential role in structuring sustainable food systems through multiple
levers such as collective catering, land management, or support for local
agriculture (Magrini et al., 2019; Kassis et al., 2021). However,
launching local food strategies beyond the modest and scattered initia-
tives is challenging. Civil society can be a remarkable driving force
through collective and individual practices, e.g., food self-production
and diet change for the sake of human and animal health (Mon-
ier-Dilhan, 2018; Duru, 2019; Morel-Journel et al., 2021). The economic
operators in charge of processing, distribution, and others still have a
marginal place in food governance, though they can strongly inuence
the creation of territorial food systems.
In the end, the research shows a strong need for accompanying in-
struments and collective intelligence, which allow actors to rethink and
implement changes in their territory. In this respect, the PSDR collab-
orative research projects, emphasizing the joint work between stake-
holders, consultants, and research teams, have developed multiple tools
promoting skills and knowledge learning, such as algorithms, chroni-
cles, games, and good practice guides.
3.5. Territorial bioeconomy and circular economy
Unlike the traditional linear production processes, the secondary
products or wastes are partly reused or recycled in the form of material
or energy ows in the circular economy and bioeconomy. PSDR results
underline the territorial dimension of the bioeconomy (Vivien et al.,
2019). Several projects worked on the deployment of local loops related
to food issues and other agricultural and forestry activities. The pro-
duction reterritorialization and the activation of territorial resources
help to create an innovation ecosystem conducive to territorial resil-
ience and local network creation.
These PSDR projects observe an active development of a circular
economy in agriculture in France, especially the anaerobic digestion
projects (Bourdin et al., 2020) and territory-based initiatives for
improving circularities in forestry (Fortin et al., 2019; Bessaad and
Korboulewsky, 2020; Lenglet and Peyrache-Gadeau, 2021). These
studies reveal the adaptation strategies of enterprises and cooperatives.
They also demonstrate the acceptability of residents and other actors
and the creation process of innovative eco-projects in rural areas. The
results show that localization is a recurrent argument of circular econ-
omy projects for two main reasons. First, it allows a more environ-
mentally friendly and economically efcient local loop than the
long-distance transport of products and energy ows. Second, it calls
for collaboration with different stakeholders in the territories, which
reinforces territorial governance. It is important to consult not only the
actors engaged in the bioeconomy projects but also the local population,
who are sometimes opposed to certain initiatives, to ensure their
agreement (Bourdin and Nadou, 2020; Niang et al., 2021).
4. Discussion: implications for knowledge-based rural
development and limitations
In a rural context marked by fewer actors in the innovation
ecosystem, collaborative research projects like those in the PSDR pro-
gram can be intermediaries promoting knowledge co-production and
transfer. They also contribute to the structuring of research commu-
nities, involving permanent actors who go beyond the framework and
periods of the program.
4.1. Toward a territorial vision of knowledge-based rural development
The PSDR approach underlines the importance of territorial inno-
vation for knowledge-based rural development. It means to combine
innovation processes connected with a given territory, in which actors
organize themselves to develop new knowledge. As seen from the evo-
lution of the CAP (Section 2.1.2), rural development is no longer
considered merely an agricultural or a sectoral issue. The research and
policy-making ask for strengthening a territorial vision. The PSDR pro-
gram, just as its full name suggests (Box 1), emphasizes addressing ter-
ritorial needs, focusing on territorial processes, and working with
various related actors. The approach contributes to a comprehensive
conception of a territorial vision for rural development, which should be
multiscale, collaborative, and multidisciplinary. This multiscale vision
allows it to combine top-down and bottom-up initiatives, integrate local
and regional interests, actors, and resources, and connect internal and
external networks. The collaborative approach facilitates research out of
laboratories, focusing on problems and solutions close to the territory.
Multi- and interdisciplinary work is necessary to successfully address
territorial problems, which are usually complex and multifaceted.
Multidisciplinary projects may nd new opportunities and trade-offs by
making visible the relationship between agriculture, society, environ-
mental issues, food security, and other subjects, as the examples in
Section 3.1 show.
The PSDR results have conrmed previous observations that most
innovation processes in rural areas are in social, cultural, and organi-
zational dimensions (Hargrave and Van de Ven, 2006; Le Chevalier,
2019; Moulaert and Maccallum, 2019). Technological innovation,
which always matters, is probably less central and often imported and
adapted from outside of rural areas. Innovation is growing faster in rural
territories because digital technologies are increasingly frequent at all
stages of agricultural value chains (Cowie et al., 2020). More impor-
tantly, local projects foster innovations in terms of short supply chains,
land use management, and circular economy, which have improved the
well-being of local communities. The PSDR results on agroecological
transition demonstrate how the collective dynamics of actors (especially
the groups of farmers), who are confronted with common problems
associated with a specic territorial context, facilitate the generation of
appropriate knowledge and more sustainable solutions. This idea about
territorial innovation is consistent with social metabolism in addressing
transition issues, which requires considering the entire ow of materials
and energy needed to sustain all human activities (Fischer-Kowalski and
Haberl, 2015).
4.2. Signicance of a national research program like PSDR in the creation
of a multidisciplinary and participatory community for rural knowledge
and innovation
The PSDR experiences suggest the signicance of a national program
of its type in creating and maintaining a huge participatory community
at the national level for rural knowledge and innovation. This commu-
nity integrates a variety of research teams, practical actors, policy-
makers, and other partners and goes beyond the framework and periods
of the program. The PSDR program was the rst initiative in France of its
type. The connection within the PSDR community has a multi-level
structure. First, local research teams and actors cooperate closely
within a project focusing on specic topics and problems of that terri-
tory. Second, the regional committee and project management team
actively facilitate exchanges between projects in the same region. Third,
the three joint working groups (Section 2.2.1) and the seminars,
participatory workshops, and other scientic events organized at the
program level promote knowledge exchange and cooperation at the
national level.
The PSDR community kept growing over the past generations and
became quite stably embedded and well-known in the territories. For
example, some research projects carried out continuous social experi-
mentation in PSDR3 and PSDR4. Local actors and research teams have
become more familiar with the participatory research approach,
methods, and joint territorial learning process. This working mode and
associated cooperation network continue to exist in the next TETRAE,
other research programs, and many policy initiatives. One example is
the integration of the PSDR in the Rhˆ
one-Alpes region into the EIP-AGRI
initiative (Section 2.2.5).
A. Torre et al.
Journal of Rural Studies 97 (2023) 428–437
Thus, a national multidisciplinary and collaborative research pro-
gram can make signicant contributions to addressing rural challenges
beyond the single project level. The active work of a multi-level coor-
dination team has promoted effective knowledge exchange and coop-
eration between social and natural sciences and different territories. The
intense national coordination can be a peculiarity of the PSDR program
compared to other relevant European initiatives, e.g., the EU Framework
Programs (European Commission, 2019), Horizon 2020, and ERA-Net
RURAGRI. The national level is in proximity to the regions compared
to the EU level, which makes the national level ideal for performing
certain functions in territorial development and fostering knowledge
and practice exchanges.
4.3. Limitations and future perspectives
The PSDR program shows the advantages of a multidisciplinary and
collaborative approach, which mobilizes multiple research teams and
local actors to produce new knowledge in favor of the evolution of
perceptions and practices. But this type of project requires cognitive
resources to translate local issues into research questions and transform
scientic progress into practical tools. It also requires substantial human
and nancial resources because the project needs the regular presence of
non-academic actors, which is sometimes difcult, especially for those
strongly based on voluntary work. As the example of PSDR shows, the
non-academic participants are usually the head of their organization,
which call into question the potential for disseminating new knowledge
to end-users. Another problem is the weak participation of civil society.
Associations remain relatively few among PSDR partners. The partici-
pating associations are institutionalized representations of citizens and
are sometimes far away from the local population. It is thus difcult for
local people to have their opinions heard. The future design of collab-
orative research programs should consider these limitations.
Future programs must also pay attention to the complexity of
regional development. The CAP measures (Bonglio et al., 2017) and
the Cohesion Policy (Berkowitz et al., 2015) have shown their limits in
responding to the challenges of territorial imbalances. In this regard,
future research and policy should recognize the spatial effects of
knowledge-based territorial actions and networks. Can they bring so-
lutions promoting cohesion between different regions, or do they
aggravate inequalities? To what extent do they contribute to reconsi-
dering rural-urban relations in the knowledge economy? The existing
research often neglected the territorial dimension of transitions, and
there is a call for a spatial perspective in transition studies (Coenen et al.,
A territorial vision of transitions is central to the objective of INRAE
in transforming the PSDR into the TETRAE program. The future program
deploys the systemic interdependencies between different elds (agri-
culture, food, environment, health, waste management, land use, etc.)
and the tensions and potential collaborations between stakeholders. It
will lead to the experimentation of solutions based on open innovation
and the confrontation of expertise to identify new territorial congu-
rations that foster mutually benecial relationships between urban and
rural areas. A further limitation that the future program will address is a
reection on social, cultural, and psychological barriers to agroecolog-
ical transition and changes in production and consumption patterns of
agri-food systems. It is important to analyze why the initiatives for
change often need long-term involvement and can hardly be successful
in the short term.
5. Conclusion
The paper presents the contribution of the PSDR program to
collaborative knowledge creation and open innovation in rural terri-
tories of the vast majority of French regions for more than 25 years. The
analysis of the programs basic principles and the main results obtained
by the projects allows us to draw three main conclusions: i) the results
are very rich and diverse, primarily related to the governance of agri-
cultural lands, the territorial attractiveness and well-being, the agro-
ecological transition in the territories, the territorialized food systems,
as well as bioeconomy and circular economy; ii) the collaboration
initiated from the outset of the projects between researchers and local
partners is essential for a shared denition of research themes and
collaboration between consortium members; iii) the funding specically
devoted to the transformation of results to scientic and practical
products at the end of the projects is an essential condition for the
success of the program.
The PSDR approach contributes to a comprehensive territorial vision
for knowledge-based rural development. Yet there are several limita-
tions. The PSDR program requires the substantial involvement of project
coordinators at different levels, which is challenging to maintain over
the long term without signicant nancial support. Moreover, the non-
academic partners are mainly from the private, public, or associative
sectors without the real involvement of civil society. These results
question the relevance of the quintuple helix model (Carayannis and
Campbell, 2010) applied to contexts outside dense and high-tech urban
spaces. Thus, the PSDR experiences underline that future participatory
research needs to create conditions for the long-term involvement of
eld-based actors, including civil society, in innovative projects and
promote knowledge dissemination beyond partners. Finally, future
research should also pay attention to the complex spatial impacts of the
territorialized rural initiatives and the transition of agriculture and rural
areas at the request of the new CAP, the EU Green Deal, and the
changing urban-rural relationships.
Credit author statement
e Torre: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal analysis,
Writing-original draft, Writing-review and editing, Validation, Super-
vision, Funding acquisition. Fr´
eric Wallet: Methodology, Formal
analysis, Writing-original draft, Writing-review and editing, Validation,
Project administration. Jiao Huang: Methodology, Formal analysis,
Data curation, Writing-original draft, Writing-review and editing,
Data availability
No data was used for the research described in the article.
This work was supported by the PSDR4 Program (On and For
Regional Development/Pour et Sur le D´
eveloppement R´
egional), funded
by the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment
(INRAE) and ten French Regions, namely, Auvergne-Rhˆ
e, Bretagne, Centre-Val de Loire, Grand Est,
Ile-de-France, Normandie, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and Pays de la
Loire. The authors thank all the participants of the projects, the co-
ordinators at different levels, the members of the Scientic Committee,
and other people who have contributed to the program and the activities
of the projects. The authors are grateful for the valuable comments from
the two anonymous reviewers.
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Pollination contributes to both human food security and the reproduction of the majority of wild plant species, but pollinators are facing a rapid decline, a major cause of which is habitat conversion and degradation due to human activities. Urbanization is one of the major types of habitat conversion, but its influence on pollination has been surprisingly mixed, ranging from markedly negative to strongly positive effects. One hypothesis proposed to explain these discrepancies is that pollinator responses to urbanization are highly dependent on the non-urban control habitat, with negative effects when the controls are natural or semi-natural areas but positive when they are intensive agricultural areas. It was also proposed that the pollination response along an agricultural-to-urban gradient is non-linear, with maximum pollination observed at an intermediate level of urbanization due to increased environmental heterogeneity. To test these two hypotheses, we selected a group of 38 sites in a peri-urban area near Paris, France, using a semi-stratified sampling strategy that ensured that all three of the urban, agricultural and semi-natural gradients were maximized. We then estimated pollination using two approaches: we evaluated the pollination success of Lotus corniculatus, a strictly entomogamous self-sterile plant species pollinated mainly by bees, and we measured the species richness of entomogamous and non-entomogamous plants, the difference in their response being expected to relate to the pollination service provided by the overall pollinator community. We found that in our study area, pollination success of L. corniculatus responds positively to the agricultural to urban gradient but not to the semi-natural to urban gradient. The diversity of both entomogamous and non-entomogamous plants is highest at sites surrounded by intermediate proportions of urban and agricultural areas. In addition, high proportions of urban areas have a negative effect on the diversity of non-entomogamous but not entomogamous plant species, suggesting that pollinators are able to partially buffer entomogamous plant species against the negative effect of urban development. Our results show the importance of urban areas in pollination conservation plans and demonstrate that the interaction between different anthropogenic land-use is an important factor for understanding pollination.
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