Interview to Bernd Fesel, CEO of the European Creative Business Network

Is creativity the Skill for the Future?

Interview to Bernd Fesel, CEO of the European Creative Business Network and representative of the ICE, winning consortium of KIC on Culture & Creativity.

Interview by Roberta Capozucca

Materahub is partner of the KIC consortium, key actor of the working group on competences and in charge of the mapping of all the training opportunities designed for cultural and creative professionals, in line with the experience of the Pact for Skills and Cyanotype. Furthermore Materahub is part of various tables on the role of cultural and creative industries for facing contemporary challenges, to rebrand residual territories and reactivate rural areas.

On 23 June 2022, the Governing Board of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) announced the winners of the new Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) on Culture & Creativity, which sums up to the already existing eight Communities: climate, digital, energy, health, raw materials, food, manufacturing and urban mobility.

The Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC) are the most ambitious project promoted by the European Union to support the innovative capacity of our continent. To better understand the unprecedented emphasis placed on the role of the Cultural and Creative sector and the operative functioning of the program we interviewed Bernd Fesel, CEO of the European Creative Business Network and representative of the ICE – Innovation by Creative Economy, the winning consortium constituted by 52 universities, enterprises, associations and investors from 20 European countries, among which Materahub.

What is the KIC for the ICC about?

EIT Culture & Creativity is the ninth Knowledge and Innovation Community. It is a pan-European partnership, seed-funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) for 15 years to become a sustainable European Innovation Support Agency. It gathers different kind of CCSI companies and organisations, business associations, research centres, and universities around a shared mission: to become a game-changer for unlocking the latent value of the Cultural and Creative Sectors and Industries (CCSI), and driving Europe’s green, digital, and social transformations.

The CCSI are a powerhouse in Europe’s economy and society. With 9 million professionals the CCSI offer more jobs than the automotive industry, and are comparable to other economic sectors. The CCSI are fast growing, and to the point the UN trade & development body (UNCTAD) estimates they reach 10% of global GDP by 2023. Nonetheless, there are several unresolved challenges that hinder European CCSI; on the top of this list being fragmentation and difference between its subsectors -from publishing to videogames, cultural heritage to architecture, fashion to performative arts, for instance. The diversity of the CCSI is grounded in freedom of artistic expression and the heterogeneity of cultures, languages, identities, history, and territories. It is a source of inspiration, but it also drives the creation of sub-sector silos, limits market size, and contributes to the complete fragmentation of funders and funding schemes. Moreover, the different nature and missions of the subsectors bring about differences in values, value chains and industrial structure. For the CCSI these specifics include the diversity and abundance of small players:  of the 9 million CCSI professionals in EU-27, 32% are self-employed, compared to 14% in the overall economy. Diversity is the DNA of CCSI and for us the front door to innovation.

EIT Culture & Creativity will take a fresh perspective to creating a conducive ecosystem for the CCSI through technology transfer, improved cross-sectoral collaboration and their effective integration in production value networks.

 Our approach will be sensitive to the broad range of CCSI micro-companies and professionals, as well as non-profit and impact-driven organisations and initiatives. The KIC will also heavily invest in mainstreaming in academic and lifelong learning education interdisciplinary skills such as creativity, design thinking and entrepreneurship.

How can we define creative-based or creative-driven innovation?

There is no innovation without creativity; even when we are talking about evolving and enriching existing ideas, products, services. Obviously, CCSI generate their own innovations. Music, movies, books, choreographies…thousands of original creations are launched each year and generate value for economy and society. But beyond this, the CCSI are uniquely positioned to generate and support innovation. Think of the hype of the moment: the metaverse. Our current understanding of the metaverse is tightly linked with applications and use cases related to the CCSI: concerts, immersive social experiences, etc. Not only that. The metaverse is now building of decades of CCSI testing XReality applications from videogames to museum guides. The CCSI have been the avant guard in making possible innovation by testing the limits of ideas, products, and services with the users. Cultural and creative professionals can drive innovation not just because they are talented and trained to do so; but because they are specialists in connecting with people, in understanding how to bring them along.

What is the KIC concretely going to do? What do we have to expect?

EIT Culture & Creativity is beginning its journey. In February 2023, we will launch our first open calls for proposals for funding initiatives that will start expectedly in January 2024. These calls will be framed in our 10 Action Programmes, covering activities related to education -including life-long learning and VET-, technological innovation, business creation, and social and policy innovation. High in our priorities are initiatives that contribute to the green, digital and social transformation of Europe.

EIT Culture & Creativity will dedicate tens of million euro  for this first call for proposals, to be coordinated with the EIT early 2023.

These calls are now in preparation, and we will give out more information and details when the time is due. In the meantime, we can advance that as a general principle, any legal entity eligible to participate in Horizon Europe funding could submit applications, provided they comply with any eligibility criteria set in the calls regarding the scope of the project and the consortia.

Will other museum/cultural institutions and enterprises be able to participate in the running? How?

EIT Culture & Creativity ambitions to be an open KIC, one that embraces equally profit and non-profit organisations. Any interested organisations can engage with us in different ways. Firstly, obviously, you may participate in our open calls for proposals provided your idea and consortia fulfils the eligibility criteria.  Secondly, you could apply to you as member as soon as we initiate the partnership growth process; we will have more information about this around mid-2023. Thirdly, if you are an investor interested in CCSI, a CCSI association or policymaker you can express your interest in joining our Investment Club and Policy Club, respectively. As a student you can apply for calls, join the forthcoming Alumni and use the services the EIT Culture & Creativity is currently developing, if for IP management, match-making with funders or first clients and skills management.

An innovation community build on diversity offers different routes and tools – depending on where you stand and what challenge you need to tackle – all tailored and focused to empower each stakeholder and also you to become a game changer for the digital, green and social transitions.