15th & 16th of May
Maribor, Slovenia
Thursday, May 10, 2018

Money is rarely the main motivation behind cultural and creative startups that enrich the whole society!

While many European countries are already carrying out the second or third generation of national policies and are actively establishing a support environment for the development of cultural and creative industries (CCI), Slovenia and its Centre for Creativity (Center za kreativnost or CzK) along with other projects, envisaged within the Smart Specialization Strategy, has only in the recent years begun to recognize cultural and creative industries as an important polygon for innovation development. Because the main problems of creators include a lack of access to public sources of funding for projects created at the intersection of culture, creativity and entrepreneurship, the planned financial support of CzK in the amount of 5.29 million EUR is more than welcome. We talked to CzK leader, Anja Zorko, about all other activities and goals of CzK, working within the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO). She is also warning that for cultural and creative startups, money is rarely the main motivation, it’s more the desire of founders to express their ideas and creativity, which can ensure high economic value for the entire society.
 
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For starters, can you briefly describe the state of cultural and creative industries (CCI) in Slovenia, and the main problems that creators face – individuals as well as institutions?

The main problems definitely include a lack of access to sources of funding and a lack of public sources of funding for projects that are created at the intersection of art, culture, experiments, market and entrepreneurs, and that aren’t recognized in the existing co-financing schemes for business projects or aren’t public fund beneficiaries. There is also the problem of a lack of business and other specialized knowledge in CCI, lack of focus on long-term development, commercialization and growth, and predominant focus on the Slovenian market. Many creative individuals and organizations depend on public funds and work as projects, which often prevents them from having a long-term vision of a “company” and relying on firm business models with clearly defined market opportunities.
 
But most creative startups probably don’t come to existence only because founders recognize a good market opportunity …

True. Money is rarely the main motivation. Most creative startups are actually founded because creators wish to express their ideas, their creativity. Due to the specifics of fields such as architecture and design, developing products, brands and market success require a lot more time and money than IT. Additionally, when creators are entering the market, they are relying mostly or too much on their own creative talent and their own work, but there is too little testing of market needs, which isn’t sufficient for more complex company and product development and its market breakthrough.
 
In light of the above-mentioned problems, what are the key activities with which MAO and CzK are ensuring support to cultural and creative industries in Slovenia?

CzK represents, promotes and supports CCI activities in Slovenia. It actually supports the development of the potentials of the sector’s societal and economic values, and actively connects it to the economy, science, education, and other sectors. Our tasks, which also stem from the Operational Programme for the Implementation of the EU Cohesion Policy in the period 2014 – 2020, are to connect entrepreneurs and creators from the creative industries with manufacturing, service and other companies, all with the purpose of developing innovations, new products, services and experiences, and consequently also social progress. We wish to encourage entrepreneurship in specific and new fields, while simultaneously encourage the use of traditional craft and skills, and the development of new technologies and materials.
 
What are the key goals of your activities?

The goals of the operation are to develop business knowledge and other skills for the growth of cultural and creative industries, and to transfer creativity into the economy and other sectors. We wish to increase the presence and visibility of companies from CCI on the Slovenian and international market, connect them with comparable expert initiatives at home and abroad, and expand their opportunities for breakthrough to new markets. What’s also important are the intertwinement of knowledge and best practice exchange in various sectors, implementation of suitable policies in CCI … The project is supposed to reach its goals by 2022, it’s co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund and by the Republic of Slovenia, and it’s carried out within the Operational Programme for the Implementation of the EU Cohesion Policy in the period 2014 – 2020.
 
Can you describe the concrete elements of your support in a bit more detail?

The contract value of the project entitled “Center for Creativity Platform”, carried out by MAO until 2022, amounts to a little over 5.6 million euros. All funds are devoted to carrying out support activities for creators and entrepreneurs with projects in creative industries, but otherwise the activities with which we plan to achieve set goals encompass six key pillars. The first is establishing connections in order to develop new products and services, where we will, among other things, also complement Slovene Enterprise Fund’s financial instruments and carry out the pre-selection and support programmes for tender applicants, establish multi-disciplinary groups for the development of innovative services and products, and connect various sectors through programmes such as Biennal of Design.
 
You will also be active in education and mentorship?

That’s correct. The second pillar will thus ensure knowledge upgrades with specialized business and creative modules and educational courses, by carrying out mentorship on a specific project or specific field where programme participants will show the need for additional support. The third pillar of our support includes networking and promotion in Slovenia and abroad through activities such as showrooms, participation at exhibitions, fairs and other events with the purpose of opening up opportunities for new projects, sales channels, employments and similar …
 
What about concrete activities in the field of sales, which is problematic with tech startups as well?

In digitalization and online sales, we will establish a unified online platform intended for presenting CCI and exchanging supply and demand. The platform will connect individual creators and companies, projects, activities and offer or sales of CCI in Slovenia, and present them to Slovenian and international publics. We will also ensure analyses and research, intended to measure success of CzK activities, activities in CCI, and contribution of CCI to the social and economic development. When communicating and presenting project results to the general public, we will ensure promotion in the media and the pubic at home and abroad, organize study visits to media abroad … All mentioned project goals will be upgraded by CzK’s financial support in the joint amount of 5,290,000 EUR, namely in the form of public grants for encouraging entrepreneurship and establishing stronger collaboration between the economy and CCI. The authorized contractor of these public tenders will probably be the Slovene Enterprise Fund. This part of the project is still under preparation, led by the Ministry of Culture.
 
Culture and creativity are broad concepts. Can you explain in more detail which fields are interesting for you?

The center will support projects that occur at the intersection of art, culture, experiments, market, entrepreneurship and the economy, and that combine creativity, manufacture and distribution of goods and services that include or express cultural and creative content. At the end, the results of these projects are viable as a business and measurable, increase value added or are oriented towards solving particular social problems and contributing to social progress and public welfare. These are fields and intersections of architecture, design and visual art, cultural heritage, archives and libraries, books and print, cultural education, advertising, music, performance art and artistic creation, radio and television, software, games, video and film, and other CCI fields. Our support will be dedicated to authors or those self-employed in culture, sole proprietors, SMEs, associations, private institutes, social companies that are developing projects or business ideas with potential for success on the market, those that wish to establish their own company and need support, education, promotion, mentorship …
 
When exactly did you start supporting innovations and CCI in Slovenia? What are the first concrete results? Are you happy with them?

It’s a complex project and a very diverse sector that didn’t see investments for a long time, which is why we realize that we can’t expect results overnight. The project was administratively and organizationally launched in autumn 2017, which is why we are starting to more actively implement the programme this year, but we are expecting the true initial results at the end of this year. And then upgrade them next year. We are very satisfied with the response from creators as well as from companies and the economy, all of which reflect the collective desire to start intentionally encouraging creativity, entrepreneurship, collaboration with the economy and cross-sectoral collaboration, and the development of innovations.
 
Can you describe a project, programme, best practice example whose influence and success especially stand out?

The creative scene in Slovenia is more than active, very high-quality, also recognized abroad, and there is no lack of enthusiasm for creativity despite the modest public funding where, if we don’t count the planned CzK activities, there is currently a complete absence of funding for the projects that move in the intersection of culture, creativity and entrepreneurship. When it comes to new initiatives and breakthrough authors, Slovenia isn’t lagging behind global trends. That is why it would be difficult to highlight only a couple of successful cases. The CCI microcosm in Slovenia is very diverse, which we also showed at the introductory conference of the Center for Creativity in November 2017, when we presented more than 35 active speakers from the fields of film and video, design, music, architecture, visual and applied arts, digital and computer culture, tourism, entrepreneurs, representatives from associations, institutes, startups, cooperatives …
 
What are your expectations for this year’s PODIM?

We are coming to PODIM with a wish for stronger connections between the cultural and creative industries and the startup environment, investors, company representatives, individuals, and other important stakeholders from the region who are coming to this year’s conference.
 
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If you wish to collaborate with the MAO team and the Centre for Creativity, and meet them at this year’s PODIM Conference, send an email to Urška Krivograd at urska.krivograd@mao.si.