I'm looking for 'best in class' examples and exploring the business models related to this work. How they fund the activity and how (or if) they make money. I have a tonne of examples of organizations doing great work in more urban areas and small cities, as well as rural areas that are home to some sort of college or technical institute. However, I'm look for best practices for inspiring startup activity (getting people with entrepreneurial potential to take action) in areas with a smaller population base and then supporting the development and growth of early stage startups in those communities.
I don't have a direct answer to your question, but I'd like to add this to the mix:
Rural regions without colleges tend to have populations focused on production, not R&D. Can these regions produce startups? Of course. But it won't happen in the quantities it does in urban areas.
I think the recipe for high quantity/quality startup production is: High population (populous areas will have more of everything, including startups), high education (startups require a R&D mentality), high salary (someone's got to pay for those startups), and high number of head offices (management experience).