Creative clusters / clustering

Result of the CreativeCH workshop at MFG Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart, Germany) on the 18th of April 2012. The experts explored the usefulness of the cluster concept for creative cooperation of cultural heritage, science & technology, and cultural and creative organisations and businesses.

Workshop highlights

Types and levels of creative clusters:
Such clusters comprise different types and levels of connecting organisations that include: Cultural quarters and other shared creative spaces (local level), digital technology & content clusters (typically linking several centres on the regional/national level), cultural routes (regional to European level) and international networks of institutions (European level and beyond).

Wide range of involved actors: In creative cluster initiatives a wide range of actors is involved in various combinations. Two main groupings of actors can be distinguished: One group that connects regional development agencies, science & technology centres, innovation, technology transfer and business development organisations, and industrial players, including leading creative industry companies. The second group brings together users of new knowledge and technologies such as municipalities, creative SMEs and other professionals, content holders (e.g. cultural institutions) and cultural and tourism operators.

Functions of creative clusters: Creative clusters can play an important role in local/regional development through producing and marketing of novel products and services based on cultural assets of regions and towns. Vital functions of such clusters are promoting a culture of creativity and innovation, providing technological expertise and services, and supporting business development.

Growing a culture of creativity and innovation: Creative clusters on the local level generate an environment that attracts and generates synergies among talented people and entrepreneurs (e.g. business incubators). Often they are also used to stimulate the development of new living and working spaces (e.g. revitalization of historic centres and buildings). Moreover creative cluster strategies allow for involving educational institutions (universities, vocational training centres, schools) to offer creativity and business development programmes as well as specialised knowledge (e.g. historic background for cultural tourism).

Stimulating cooperation in regional development: Regional development policies based on creative economy strategies have shown to promote a stronger cooperation of municipalities as they require cross-community networking and involvement of actors from different domains. For example a network of small historic towns may involve municipalities, tourism operators, cultural heritage institutions and academics (who provide knowledge on heritage objects and sites), and content and technical application producers.

Issue of sustainability of creative clusters: There are many difficult issues in establishing creative clusters and networks, especially when the goal is regular cooperation of actors from different sectors and long-term sustainability. This usually requires sustained public funding at least for a base level of regular activities. Creative clustering is a long-term process that starts with bringing partners from different sectors together, making them understand each other, and stimulating joint projects. To achieve a wide impact of a creative economy programme such projects need to be integrated through a common framework as well as communicated to the wider public.

Key role of shared interests / values and trust among the participants: Shared interests / values and trust among the participants play a core role in successful creative cooperation. They allow for developing mutual understanding and learning among participants, growing networks into communities, and turning loose forms of cooperation in strong and sustained collaboration.

Creative cross-fertilization between technology and content organisations: Digital technologies can be applied in all industry sectors, including the cultural sector. For example, novel technologies such as virtual and augmented reality have been applied for the communication of cultural heritage. In such cases technologists often were inspired to develop new ways of using the technology and, in turn, the technology allowed for enhancing the understanding and appreciation of cultural history and heritage.

Rapid development and take-up of digital technologies: There is a rapid development of digital tools that become less costly and more easy to use by content and application developers, thereby decreasing the costs of new productions. In this context creativity becomes the core success factor in the production of cultural and other creative products and services.

Exploitation of cultural heritage assets: Attempts to exploit cultural heritage assets need a clear business case that should not, as is quite often the case, count too much on public funding. Creative SMEs that consider cultural heritage as an interesting niche market should be aware that heritage institutions, due to their typically academic and public sector background, often are not the type of risk takers needed for commercial ventures.

Increasing the relevance and impact of arts & humanities knowledge: Knowledge in arts & humanities is important to understand and appreciate cultural heritage, however, often does not find a wider diffusion. Bringing scholars together with actors of the cultural and creative sector can help achieving a wider spread of the knowledge, for example, through linking it with themes and events that appeal to a wider audience. Use of digital media applications for communicating the knowledge can allow for triggering interest by new and young audiences.

Summary by Guntram Geser (Salzburg Research)

Workshop content:

Full report of the workshop, presentations, videos, additional content and links at:

Includes presentations by

  • Guntram Geser (Salzburg Research): Clustering Cooperation in Culture Heritage;
  • Joaquim Carvalho (University of Coimbra): Regional Creative Clusters - An example from Portugal;
  • Valentina Grillea (MFG Baden-Württemberg): European Interest Group on Ceativity and Innovation E.V.

Selected material and links: