Past blooming rapeseed fields, past a roundabout, from which a junction leads directly to the adjacent field – this is the way to the north Hessian half-timbered town of Homberg an der Efze. This story could now tell that on the way to the center every third shop is empty, that people are already drinking beer together at the market square fountain in the late morning, although it constantly rains briefly.
However, this story tells of the fact that Homberg won more new residents this week in May than it has for a long time. The reason for this is the so-called Summer of Pioneers, an initiative that invited 20 digital workers from metropolises – for example from Berlin or Frankfurt – to try living in the small town for six months. The initiative aims to make country life so appealing to people who have previously lived in the big city that some of them stay. They should enrich the region with their income, their digital know-how and their ideas. Initiators Jonathan Linker and Frederik Fischer have already attracted digital workers to four small towns with a similarly weak structure as Homberg.
But can a few “pioneers” turn the downward trend in places like Homberg? The global perspective speaks against it: Investments in innovations in rural areas are rare. A study by the OECD and the Bertelsmann Foundation from 2019 shows that San Francisco was just two percent in the United States of the population is responsible for around 15 percent of patent applications. In France alone, Paris accounts for almost 47 percent of all patent applications.
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