LEADER can play a valuable role in stimulating new and innovative approaches to the development of rural areas. Such innovation is encouraged by allowing LAGs wide margins of freedom and flexibility in making decisions about the actions they want to support. Innovation needs to be understood in a wide sense. It may mean the introduction of a new product, a new process, a new organisation or a new market. This common definition of innovation is valid for rural as well as urban areas.
However, rural areas, because of their low density and relatively poor level of human and physical resources, have weaker linkages with research and development centres and may find it difficult to produce radical innovations, although this is of course possible.
Innovation in rural areas may imply the transfer and adaptation of innovations developed elsewhere, the modernisation of traditional forms of know-how, or finding new solutions to persistent rural problems which other policy interventions have not been able to solve in a satisfactory and sustainable way.
This can provide new responses to the specific problems of rural areas. Introducing the LEADER approach, with its eight features, may be an innovation in policy-making in its own right, which may generate innovative actions by the original policy-delivery method that has been adopted. For example, the bottom-up approach described above may stimulate the emergence of new project ideas which may then be supported by the LAG because it is not bound by a fixed menu of measures. The adoption of information and communication technologies in rural areas may become an important channel for wider access to innovations by the rural population.
Local Action Groups stretched themselves to tackle more difficult problems and look far beyond their own boundaries to find solutions. Innovation is crucial in addressing rural decline and Local Action Groups have risen to the challenge to be innovative in their approach as well as in their projects.