On 19 October 2016, FEP attended a workshop on “The politics of creativity” within THE ARTS+, the space dedicated to the international cultural economy and new business models in the creative industries at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The workshop, organised in the framework of the Aldus project, had the subtitle “Breaking the mould: Innovation policies for the European creative and cultural sectors”, as it looked into ways to come up with innovation policies and prompt cross-border exchanges for the creative and cultural sectors, increasingly relevant as creators of jobs and growth and generators of spill over effects, but at the same time difficult to target as they lie at the intersection of technology, culture and business. It was also an opportunity for stakeholders interested in innovation policies to meet each other, taking advantage of the position of book fairs as places to connect people and promote innovation. This coming together is the right background for culture to thrive, as the cultural and creative industries deal with business, creativity and politics alike. The discussion will be the basis of a white paper and be followed by more events.
The presentations were introduced by a first question about what kind of innovation network is needed in the EU for the creative sectors and who is already active in this field. Aliette Dörflinger, Senior Researcher at the Austrian Institute for SME Research, presented the key findings of the study on “Competitiveness of cultural and creative industries for growth and jobs”, carried out by her institute on behalf of EASME – the Executive Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises of the EU. The study looked at a wide range of core cultural and creative industries, companies at the intersection of art, ICT and the economy, in particular because of their economic importance: the main indicators of the situation of the sector are in fact very positive and have been so for many years – and seem likely to continue like that, too. Cultural and creative industries make up 11% of all EU companies and provide 5.3% of the total value added; they present an absolute predominance of SMEs (95%), with 70% of them being 1-person enterprises. The study analysed national and regional strategies, EU policies and in general the necessary framework conditions to guarantee an ideal future development of the sectors, with a focus on innovation. The cultural and creative industries being mostly SMEs, innovation takes a broad meaning; those companies are very innovative, both in terms of output and input (R&D); their processes are also remarkable, within companies and with clients. Hence a huge potential, not only for hard innovation, not only about technology, but also a lot about process, which often goes unseen, especially in funding programmes. Moreover, innovation works through networks, too. Thus one key recommendation of the study was for the European Commission to take a broad understanding of innovation, also in processes, a view of an open innovation – which creative industries already often take through their networks – and an innovation not only technological, but also social, geared towards addressing societal challenges.
Jens Nymand Christensen, Deputy Director General of the Directorate General Education and Culture of the European Commission, praised the innovative format of THE ARTS+ and stressed the interest by the Commission in innovation and its support. He said their purpose was not just policy but also to help innovators and create a good environment for them, for example by “connecting the dots” and making a difference with evidence-based policy-making: filling the gaps, making analyses, finding what works, and so on. Thus the experts come in, showing that investing in the cultural and creative industries means stimulating jobs and growth, supporting SMEs. All of this is meant to give Ministers of Culture arguments to build their discussions upon, contributing to find the best way forward with all stakeholders. Mr Nymand Christensen highlighted the double role of his Directorate General: supporting the cultural sector through the Creative Europe funding programme (with its calls for projects of a European nature and dimension) and, beyond funding, trying to connect players, create networks and bring together stakeholders and experiences for discussions across borders.
Anni Hellman, Deputy Head of the Unit Media Convergence and Social Media at the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology of the European Commission, explained that her Directorate General provided a lot of funding for innovation through the Horizon 2020 programme. As everything became more digital, she added, the Digital Single Market Strategy of the EU was there to provide support; this applies also to the cultural and creative industries, which are becoming increasingly digital, so that the Commission tires to help their development, investing in technologies like the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality and 5G, bringing artists and ICT people together, and more. Asked about the difficulties for micro companies to get in touch with possible project partners, cooperate and apply to calls (as Horizon 2020 is about collaborative innovation, bringing together for example universities and companies), Mrs Hellman explained that the programme was about fostering research to bring about innovation and help growth, about bringing together many SMEs with different talents and competences, connecting them with academia, to work at EU level, share EU added value, and also to bring all countries up to speed. She stated that the goal was to link creative people, technologists and those who know how to apply for calls, and that the Commission was in fact still working on simplifying the application procedures – although the fact that it is about public money means there must be rules and a minimum degree of complexity is unavoidable. National Contact Points have been created precisely to help potential applicants at national level.
The issue of access to research and the positive role of cooperative research was the central theme of the following presentations, starting with Rolf Krämer, Head of Division Creative Industries at the Hessian Ministry of Economics (Germany), who introduced his ministry’s newly created creative industries department (it used to be a sub-department), tasked with advising the government, developing measures for the development of the sector (consulting, funding) and organising stakeholder dialogues to gather requirements. The latter exercise has highlighted a need on behalf of the cultural and creative industries for spaces to work and to develop networks (especially with other industries); the State of Hessen, aware of hosting a huge creative sector, has invested tax funds to further develop it and ensure its success. Mr Krämer recommended taking a broad approach to innovation, not based only on technological developments but on new uses or approaches, to be fostered via dedicated funding strands, and stressed the importance of clearly defining sectors.
Bernd Fesel, Managing Director of the European Creative Business Network (ECBN), Rotterdam, and Senior Advisor of the European Centre for Creative Economy (ECCE), North Rhine Westphalia (Germany) introduced the ECBN, a network of creative development agencies and creative centres with the mission is to support the creative and cultural industries to internationalise – to do business and to collaborate across Europe. An important achievement of the ECBN, which provides services to its members and does research and analysis, was to convince the European Commission to include the cultural and creative industries in President Juncker’s Investment Plan. Mr Fesel also stressed the importance of collaboration, recalling that the ECBN has 26 industry defining members, currently stemming from 13 EU countries, and recounting its role in the European Capital of Culture project, a success story that didn’t need a huge budget.
Ute Lütkenhaus, from the Business Development Department of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, explained how the association, aware of the way digitisation was affecting the traditional book industry, decided to look into innovation: to get its members to talk about it, and to meet the demand by start-ups to know how to get a foothold in the publishing market. They therefore created a start-up club for those interested in the book sector; it organises networking events for start-ups and publishers, responding to their significant interest to know each other. Publishers are indeed interested in new BM; the Association also launched an acceleration programme for start-ups (ContentShift) this spring, sponsored by publishers looking for new partners. The need for people to network and work together, a key factor, was determinant for the success of the accelerator, proved by the fact that some companies in the jury actually pay for it. The Association’s broader aim is to establish a network of policy, industry and research, for projects in areas like big data. So far innovation activities are supported member fees and sponsoring, no EU funds have yet been available; and while it’s not easy to find financial support within a trade organisation, the German Association, representing the whole book trade, companies big and small, more or less advanced, is moving in the right direction.
Marta Izquierdo, member of New European Media (NEM) and Chairman of eNEM (Spain), and Director of European Affairs and Institutional Relations at Smart Digital Entertainment (U-Tad, Ilion Animation Studios, Pyro Mobile, ZED), Madrid, first talked about NEM, a European Technology Platform bringing together cultural and creative industries and ICT companies to foster innovation, which is still trying to attract more CCIs. Trying to connect different stakeholders is also the core of her job at Smart Digital Entertainment: U-Tad, for example, is a university created by companies that wanted to form the professional profiles they needed, as they couldn’t find them on the market. In her views, European industry should take the lead: it has creativity and talent; it needs education – the right skills and mind-sets, new and innovative kinds of education (her company mixes different profiles in projects, artists and technology people, and it works) –, public institutions that create the right framework (facilitating the process), funding – for example infrastructure to distribute content, which remains is king – as well as the recognition of IP as an asset. Some companies will need direct support, others help with networking; in any case; funding is needed to create, as content is the key of global competitiveness; and funding is needed to innovate, especially by SMEs.
Mr Nymand Christensen pointed out that the Commission is aware that SMEs in all sectors struggle to get funding from banks, and that this is even more difficult in the cultural and creative sectors, since banks find it hard to understand business models there. That’s why the Commission launched a Guarantee Fund this year, to become operational by end year, to facilitate access to finance in the cultural and creative sectors; also, the Juncker Investment Plan has focused on lending to SMEs.
Giorgia Abeltino, Director of Public Policy of the Google Cultural Institute, stated that cooperation and networking had also been Google’s first idea in launching the Institute: to cooperate with artists, institutions, otherwise they’d go nowhere. The Institute is a partner for R&D projects, it created a digital lab to bring together artists, start-ups and ICT people; engineers influence artists but also the other way around. Google is happy to provide the technology needed for collaboration.
Kati Price, Head of Digital at the Victoria & Albert Museum of London, explained the museum’s multidisciplinary approach to creativity, its mission to inspire creativity by reaching a global audience, and its role as a laboratory museum. She stated that the big picture was about collaboration, connecting people, knowledge, collections and content, and recalled the importance of the cultural and creative industries in the UK, which are worth 10 million GBP per hour.
Mr Fesel said his organisation would be happy to cooperate with Google, as long as the latter did more to respect copyright; Mrs Abeltino replied that Google did pay creators and that the copyright reform proposal was looking into the issue now anyway; and stressed Google’s openness on the subject, stating that it was a technology company but aware of the importance of cultural sector, and that it and the creative industries should be allies.