In a context of significant changes and increasing complexity of economic and social systems, new challenges arise for rural research. It is commonplace that many research issues cannot any more be understood by regional or national studies alone but have to be framed in their international setting. A recent ERA-NET, the RURAGRI network, addressed the gap in European research organisation for providing a common research agenda on rural development research. It highlighted that this research field can be covered sufficiently only if the interrelationships between agricultural, ecological and spatial development are addressed appropriately and taken up as core research questions. The Strategic Research Agenda elaborated through the partners of this network, representing research organisations in 20 European countries, indicates the wide scope of issues for respective international research. Some of those aspects, and particularly the aim of increasing our understanding of these interrelationships, are taken up in a fi rst set of selected international studies resulting from the ERA-NET’s call. The intensive discussion on research collaboration and the high status of rural development policy on the political agenda within the European Union also underpins the need for future international collaboration on research organisation of rural development research.