The “Smarte.Land.Regionen” model project

BMEL supports digital solutions for rural areas

Under the “Smarte.Land.Regionen” (smart rural regions) model project, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is supporting seven rural districts in developing and implementing digital solutions in rural areas and is making these solutions available on a joint platform, a "digital ecosystem". The BMEL has earmarked 25 million euros for this project.

Rural districts selected by an independent jury

Of 21 regions chosen in the first step of a two-step approach, the seven eligible regions were selected by an independent jury headed by Volker Bruns of the Federal Association of Non-Profit Rural Organisations (Bundesverband der gemeinnützigen Landgesellschaften; BLG). This selection was based on an objective set of criteria. These seven regions will, for a four-year period that started in January 2021, receive funding of up to one million euros each to support the implementation of their digitalisation strategy and other digital services.

  • District of Bernkastel-Wittlich
  • District of Coesfeld
  • District of Lörrach
  • District of Neustadt an der Waldnaab
  • District of Potsdam-Mittelmark
  • District of Vorpommern-Greifswald
  • District of Uelzen

The districts chosen in the first round but not selected by the jury in the second will also benefit from the model project. The BMEL is providing 200,000 euros to each of these regions from 1 January 2022 to support one of the digital projects in their digital strategies. In this way, they will also benefit from the digital ecosystem. These districts are: Bad Kissingen, Wunsiedel im Fichtelgebirge, Dahme-Spreewald, Elbe-Elster, Marburg-Biedenkopf, Werra-Meißner-Kreis, Wetteraukreis, Emsland, Grafschaft Bentheim, Lippe, Neuwied, Meißen, Ostholstein and Nordhausen.

The model project approach

The model project addresses predominantly rural areas and is designed to turn the participating regions into smart rural regions. The project is part of the Federal Rural Development Scheme (Bundesprogramm Ländliche Entwicklung; BULE).

The use of new technologies is crucial in order to ensure that rural areas remain attractive places in which to live and work. This applies in particular to technologies that are of vital importance to the future, such as e-mobility, e-learning, e-education, telemedicine and flexible work structures. Social and cultural services in the countryside could also benefit from digital networking and promotion measures.

In order to explore the opportunities offered by digitalisation and to reap the benefits for people in rural areas, the BMEL is supporting the renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering (IESE).

IESE is supervising the creation of a digital ecosystem (i.e. a digital platform) and the development of and research into services and applications to be made available on this digital ecosystem. The central question is: what digital services could assist the rural districts selected for the model project in setting the digital stage for the future, and in what way?

More specifically, this involves

  • testing and introducing digital services in predominantly rural districts to improve basic services;
  • testing and introducing a networking platform;
  • developing a digitalisation strategy in every rural district taking part in the project;
  • developing skills in the field of digitalisation; and
  • gaining and transferring knowledge on the potentials arising from digitalisation to strengthen rural regions.

The Rural Development Competence Centre (KomLe) at the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) will accompany and support the model project. KomLe will act on behalf of the BMEL as the liaison office and funding organisation for the entire model project and the stakeholders involved.

Many districts to benefit from the model project

A map of Germany shows: With this model project, we are supporting new digital solutions in seven model regions and 14 other digital projects that will be applied nationwide.

In order to successfully implement the model project in all regions, the participants must meet ambitious requirements. The project aims to transfer the results and digital solutions to other regions in Germany so that in future all rural districts in Germany will benefit. The remaining 14 districts from the first application phase will not only receive funding for a digital project but also be included and supported in their digitalisation activities during the further course of the model project.

Partners and key elements of the project

  • The “Smarte.Land.Regionen” model project is implemented by several institutions on a partnership basis: the BMEL serves as funding body and the BLE’s Rural Development Competence Centre (KomLe) as head office of the model project.
  • Development of the project: The Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering (IESE) ( is responsible for working with the model regions to translate the technical development, testing and research of key digital solutions into practice and for setting up a digital platform ("digital ecosystem”) to pool these services and ensure that they can be transferred in the future. Over the course of the model project, additional external service providers will also be involved in the development of further digital solutions.
  • Consultation and advisory services: IT project monitoring supports the model regions with regard to the technical and strategic implementation of the digital services and the platform, and with regard to participatory processes and the acquisition of skills.
  • The German Association of Rural Districts (DLT) also advises the actors involved in the model project and supports networking between the model regions.
  • Participation: The online participation platform CONSUL, which has already been successfully implemented in the districts of Bernkastel-Wittlich (, Neustadt an der Waldnaab (, Potsdam-Mittelmark ( and Vorpommern-Greifswald (, is aimed at enabling the population and other actors on the ground to participate in the digitalisation process in the model regions. The platform provides instruments for participation formats and fosters community building processes. In addition, it serves as the interface to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative within the Second National Action Plan of the Federal Government, especially strengthening public participation and the principle of transparency.
  • Evaluation: The model project will be evaluated by sociological research with a view to gaining new insights for the design of future policies at federal level.

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