Igniting Europe's creative spark for regional growth
Creative industries, which are often concentrated in highly innovative regional clusters, have real potential to become catalysts for sustainable growth. By identifying possible areas of co-operation between the creative and ICT sectors, an EU-funded project has sought to encourage and develop such potential.
Creative industries represent a growing part of Europe’s economy and provide significant employment. In fact, in 2003, the estimated turnover of these creative industries was €654 billion, compared to €201 billion for the automotive sector.
Many regions across Europe have developed specific expertise in fields such as digital media, gaming or architecture. The region around Lyon in France, for example, has built up a reputation for animation, while Turin is well known for its architecture and film-related skills.
And the sector is still growing. The CReATE project, funded by the FP7 Regions of Knowledge programme, was launched to bring innovative regions together, and to put creative industries in touch with ICT expertise.
“Creative industries are often very regional in character, and the question has always been: How do you bring them together?” explains Martina Groeschel, project coordinator at MFG Baden-Wuerttemberg in Germany. “Every region has its speciality. We also wanted to find out how ICT can help lead to more growth, which was the purpose of the CReATE project; to help us get these people talking.”
Ms Groeschel stresses that this has not been as easy it sounds. These two groups of people – ICT specialists and creative entrepreneurs – often have very different mindsets.
“At the beginning, we organised regional expert workshops and we took very much a regional approach. People from research and technology, and from the creative industries – we brought them all together, so that they could begin talking. But we really had to put a lot of effort into the concept, and make the events interactive, in order for participants to see the potential benefits.”
The end result of these cross-regional, cross-sectoral workshops and seminars was a cross-regional joint research agenda, developed with the purpose of promoting ICT-innovation in the creative industries. This agenda aims to promote innovation potential and provide strategic guidance to all regions, fulfilling CReATE’s objective of acting as a catalyst to growth, linking ICT research with creative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“This was very much a strategic project,” emphasises Groeschel. “Our experiences have also demonstrated the importance of following up with events, workshops and conferences to really get people talking. It was also important to see what is happening with creative industries in other regions: where can we learn? Where can we come together?”
These workshops have resulted in several matches where partners who might not have realised they had anything to offer each other have started to develop things together, or at least made contact. “From this bottom-up approach, there have been lots of follow-ups,” says Groeschel.
Unlocking regional potential
Of course, the joint research agenda is not the end of the project; it is only a milestone. CReATE has also led to the formation of the European Interest Group on Creativity and Innovation, which aims to act as a platform linking local, regional, national and European initiatives that promote the cause of the creative industries and innovation. The group was formed in 2010, when it became clear that project partners wanted to consolidate their relationship beyond the scope and timeline of the CReATE project.
The reach of the project has also extended beyond Europe’s borders. “The Malaysian Ministry recently asked this group if a study visit to Baden-Wuerttemberg could be arranged, to learn about best practice, and we hosted them for a week,” says Groeschel.
Creative industries are key to regional economic success, populated as they are by many small firms and entrepreneurs. Projects such as CReATE are important as they help to set up partnerships that might not otherwise be possible, due to time and budgetary constraints. In addition, showcasing possible co-operation with the ICT sector has given many small firms the opportunity to enter new markets or develop innovative products. As Groeschel acknowledges, the snowball effect of CReATE is only just beginning.