C2C presenting cases from small and medium sized cities at the final conference of the Urban Creative Poles project

The Conference Venue

The Conference Venue

On November 7, the INTERREG project Urban Creative Poles held its final conference in the lead partner’s city of Cottbus, based in the region of Brandenburg for which we develop our creative industries toolkit. The organizers had chosen the fantastic, post-modern setting of the information, communication and media centre (IKMZ) of the Brandenburg Technical University of Cottbus.

The keynote from Prof. Joan Ganau from the University of Lleida in Spain highlighted some of the weaknesses of intermediate cities with respect to creative industries development:

  • less dynamism
  • lack of opportunities for qualified jobs
  • difficulties to attract and retain talents
  • no economies of agglomeration
  • bad international accessibility.

From his perspective, the strengths of intermediate cities lie in

  • housing prices
  • more possibility of social cohesion
  • richer “social capital”
  • no formal social relation networks (more dense and fluid)
  • quality of life and sustainability
  • place identity, ensue of community.

The second keynote speaker, Ralf Ebert (urban planner and CEO of Stadtart) made an attempt to answer the question why CCI can be important for medium-sized cities:

  • for the marketing of the city
  • job creation
  • necessary part of business oriented service industries
  • sector as part of the regional innovation system
  • locational factor for companies from other sectors and for households
  • spill-over effects on city development.

Tom Fleming from the British creative consultancy TFConsultancy gave an inspiring speech and stressed the necessity of talent development and the need to invest in experimentation, convergence and disruption. From a governance perspective, he called for joined-up approaches to creative industries development including culture, tourism, innovation and wider “creative” spill-over effects. His considerations also confirmed another observation we discussed a lot recently: the observation that the role of business support for the creative industries seems to change the overall rationale of business support in the sense that facilitation, moderation, building of local, national and international networks and the enabling of collaborative practices becomes central to supporting an industry and therefore fundamentally challenges the self-understanding of business support as it has been practiced before. This implies that the discourse about creative industries may not take the shape of a “dolphin” (in the sense that it is a nice topic that makes everyone smile and evokes good feelings) as Tom Fleming pictured and highlighted. Rather, it is discourse that calls for action and  that should not be separated from other societal and economic transformation processes.

Although the small and medium sized cities have not been the sole focus point of our project, we of course identified and looked at creative industries support schemes in these contexts. Therefore, we were invited by the organizers to present some findings from this part of our research. From Sweden, we explained how the region’s initiatives were initially triggered by support from the national level. We presented the cases from Skåne of the consulting project Selfmade, the creative industries development approach of KELA as part of a wider urban development strategy in Landskrona as well as the incubator Creative Plot in the university city of Lund.

IMG_20131107_104340From our research in Italy we showed how the audience development initiative of the cultural department of the city of Bolzano managed to not only increase cultural
participation within the city but also from among the surrounding villages. This example raised for us the question how the smart use of (guerilla) marketing methods could also integrate the local creative industries. In the close to the city of Milan located Vigevano, the business department builds on the work of Leonardo da Vinci to redevelop the castle in the heart of the city that has been empty for decades. The plan is to establish a permanent exhibition but also to attract creative entrepreneurs from the field of digital media through offering coworking spaces.

The challenges of the adoptation of a support scheme initially designed for a city as big as Bologna became obvious in the case IncrediBol! This programme is being extended to the province now where stakeholders are dissipated and the needs of the entrepreneurs and public administration seem to be different from the ones in Bologna. Finally, we presented which challenges the introduction of the typically very urban infrastructure and networking concept “The HUB” brings with it when established in a city as small as Rovereto. Here it seems that more communication efforts are necessary to gain acceptance by the local population compared to a more urban environment and to provide an understanding of the work and life situation of entrepreneurs.

An overview about the actions and results of the Urban Creative Poles project can be found here:
http://www.creativepoles.eu/ucp-documents