On 13 October, as part of the the 14th edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) in Brussels, the workshop, “Culture and creative industries in the Regional Smart Specialisation Strategies (R3S): how are regions handling it?” was held. It fell under the Sustained and sustainable economic growth theme of EWRC.
The workshop analysed how EU regions can support culture and creative industries (CCI) through the use of structural funds. It also discussed, in a broader sense, other EU initiatives that benefit creativity on the regional level, including Creative Europe, European Capitals of Culture, and other projects funded under the INTERREG programme and the EU Investment Plan. The chair was Mr. Walter Zampieri; and the speakers included Mr. Patrick Cocquet, Mr. Carlo Corazza, Mr. Vincent Lepage, Ms. Marta Marin, and Ms. Elena Mengotti. The main, overarching theme was that of CCIs and the way in which they could work alongside digital technologies, as drivers of innovation, for the benefit of the local and regional economy.
According to Ms. Elena Mengotti, Directorate for Culture, Sports and Solidarity of the Fruili Venezia Guilia Autonomous Region, the growth share of the CCI sector in her region has already spilled over into tourism, with the help of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and the digital infrastructure. She underlined that CCI has a very high potential to contribute to the economy of her region.
Mr. Vincent Lepage, Director of the Directorate of Economic Policy of the Wallonia Creative District, echoed his agreement to Ms. Elena Mengotti’s statement, affirming that in order for regions to grow economically in this day and age, the digital and creative sectors must converge and be part of a coherent strategy in the national and regional policy. He developed this further by asserting that CCI should be spread to all sectors of the Walloon society and economy, as they have a very high potential to foster growth in other industries in the economy.
Ms. Marta Marin, Delegate of the Basque Country to the EU, also confirmed the joint value of the CCI and technological sector. She asserted that despite the economic crisis that has affected the region, it still manages to take part in the global economy. In fact, the region does so thanks to the entrepreneurial skills it has acquired from the already-existing network of the technological sector, which provides a comparative advantage for the region, along with the innovation lent from the CCI.
Indeed, it seems that these speakers all agree on the coupling of the CCI sector with the digital/technological sector. However, an audience member, who is a member of the EU Committee of the Regions, raised the matter of pigeon-holing culture into an economic paradigm of accelerated globalisation in the case of linkage with other sectors, which would thereby dilute its value, especially at the local level. In response, Mr. Ray Yeates, a City Arts officer at the Dublin City Council, argued that a silo on culture is almost impossible to maintain on the local level in this day and age, given that the essence and significance of culture on the local level is connected to the national and international level.
In fact, Mr. Walter Zampieri argued that the conflict between culture, industry, and economy is a false one. According to him, since one can only reach excellence in cultural activity through inclusion in other industries that compose a local or regional authority’s economy, it is indispensable to create a strategy for culture and creativity to achieve a more global role. He also mentioned that the role of public authorities, and especially that of local and regional authorities, is to ensure the convergence of cultural and economic activity.
The speakers advocated for the inclusion of cultural activities as part of the traditional industries of the economy, which through smart specialisation, could lead to sustained and sustainable economic growth for the regions that have learned to prioritise culture. They are hopeful that the linkage of culture with other sectors on the part of local and regional authorities could contribute to the revival of the local and regional economy across the European continent.
Culture is an important issue for the regions, and AER has worked on it in the past, especially with a focus on the transversal aspect of it. AER has called for contribution and action in the fields of Culture & inclusion and Migration & culture, respectively. In addition, AER has also published a handbook on Culture & health.