HEInnovate webinar summary – Entrepreneurship and innovation in the arts and creative sector

This month’s HEInnovate webinar focused on the role and importance of innovation in the cultural and creative sector. The panel discussion explored the sector’s strengths, its challenges, and also stressed the wider impact of this sector, demonstrated even more by its suspension during the pandemic. Finally, experts discussed what the future holds in store for the sector, and it is all very exciting!

The webinar was moderated by Kleitia Zeqo, a Senior Consultant at Technopolis Group, and it attracted an international audience of 120 people, who provided positive feedback to the relevant and diverse panellists’ presentations.

The panellists.

The first panellist was Barbara Revelli, Head of Membership and Content at ELIA, which is a globally connected European network for exchange and development in higher arts education with over 260 members in 48 countries.

The second panellist was Koenraad Hinnekint, Project Coordinator of FAST45[1] – Future Art School Trends 2045, a Knowledge Alliance project, which started recently. The project will bring together various actors of the cultural and creative sector and industries (CCSI) to actively shape the long-term scenarios for the future of higher arts education institutes.

The final panellist was Kleopatra Sidiropoulou, a Liaison Officer at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), who provided background information and key timelines for the Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) for Europe’s Culture and Creative Sectors and Industries (CCSI) – a new KIC, confirming how the sector is essential to an innovative and sustainable future.

The unseen impact of creativity.

Barbara Revelli opened the discussion by reminding us that creativity has a huge impact on our society, though we tend to forget that. We are used to think of artists in the traditional way, where creativity is finalised to an aesthetic purpose only; however, as Pascal Gielen’s definition of the ‘hybrid artist’ suggests, creativity plays a far more extended role. For example, one wouldn’t link the automotive sector to creativity, but one can imagine how the cars of the future are the result of engineers collaborating with designers. Similarly, we were all reminded of the crucial role that the creative sector plays in our lives when it had to be suspended because of the pandemic.

It is apparent how creativity has an impact on society at large, which is why Barbara advocated the importance of creative skills and their potential to bring innovation, reflecting on how HEIs must take an active role in fostering the skills of the future. An action recognised as well by the European Commission with the new Pact 4 Skills, which supports large-scale skills partnerships for the CCSI ecosystem, in an effort to take advantage of its transversal capacity to strengthen creative and entrepreneurial competences across Europe.

Barbara added that the understanding around the potential of creativity is varied and fragmented across Europe, but she also noticed that policymakers are acknowledging it and taking substantial steps to advance an inclusive discourse and stimulate the whole sector[2]. The New European Bauhaus initiative is a clear example of how Europe has put culture and creativity at the forefront to serve with innovative solutions and tackle the challenges we are facing nowadays. An example of these initiatives for higher arts education is Agents of Transformation.

Barbara concluded by pointing out how policymakers tend to look at the CCSI with a focus on short-term value, while a more long-term perspective on the sector’s impact on society would be more beneficial and accurate[3].  

Symbiosis, or the art of living together.

Koenraad Hinnekint presented the FAST45 project, which aims at addressing precisely the challenge raised by Barbara. Indeed, FAST45 focuses on a longer-term perspective for higher arts education institutes (HAEIs) to anticipate more fundamental changes by going beyond the common strategic timeframe of 4/6 years and looking into the year 2045. Through a futures thinking approach, which seeks to understand what is likely to continue and what would change, FAST45 investigates how HAEIs should develop and be better prepared.

Koenraad explained how this project will actively look at symbiotic relationships across sectors and across disciplines. As a Knowledge Alliance under Erasmus+, the project has cross-sectoral collaboration between higher education and business at its core and aims at strengthening innovation between these two spheres. In practice, FAST45 will bring together key players from the CCSI, higher education and business in five Future Art Labs, where stakeholders will join forces and co-create scenarios for the future of education in HAEIs, leading to the creation of a discussion document and a policy paper.

HAEIs are focused on creativity and imagination; here opportunities arise for developing unique knowledge and communicating in a novel way, and innovation is just around the corner. However, Koenraad recognised how this potential can be fully exercised only if HAEIs will be able to move away from the exclusivity that often characterises them. Indeed, Koenraad envisaged how it would be desirable to rethink HAEIs as open learning and research spaces where students, teachers, artists, researchers and other professionals from different sectors can create, think, discuss and work together in a more symbiotic way.

A European creative ecosystem is on the way.

“Considering the socio-economic challenges and political priorities we are facing (e.g., green and digital transition), it was not an option to set up a new KIC that would have not taken these into consideration”. This is how the final panellist, Kleopatra Sidiropoulou, introduced the audience to the launch of a new knowledge and innovation community (KIC) in the CCSI. A new tool at European level that aims at creating an ecosystem, dedicated to the cultural and creative sector, where education, business and research are brought together to ignite innovation.

Kleopatra echoed the other panellists in stressing the enormous innovation potential of the CCSI and recalled how this sector is also an area of job creation and growth, employing 7.4 million people, and which has been hit really hard as a consequence of the pandemic. In 2020, the European CCSI lost close to 30% of their activity; performing arts and the music industry alone lost up to 90%.

The new KIC comes at a very effective time: it will help the sector recover and unleash its potential even further. Bringing in the extra element of creativity, the new KIC is expected to inspire and foster symbiotic synergies with other KICs. Along with the initiatives already mentioned above, this new KIC is yet another exciting signal of how policymakers are actively investing and taking actions to promote the power of creativity, recognising how the CCSI can be the real catalyst for innovation for a sustainable Europe. Therefore, this new KIC is for those willing to take on this important mission and cannot wait to unlock the many possibilities that cross-collaboration offers.

The call for proposals is now open and Kleopatra encouraged organisations to connect and find partners to create the consortia for the application, which will come to an end in March 2022. Responding to such calls can be demanding, which is why a dedicated website for this call was put together, including a networking platform, a detailed FAQ section, as well as access to a series of webinars/InfoDays that EIT will be hosting to discuss the call, starting on November 9th.


[1] FAST45 Project website will be accessible at https://www.FAST45.eu in December 2021. For those interested, register to the mailing list here: http://eepurl.com/hMr6_z

[2] More on this topic is published by the ELIA Careers in the Arts Platform at: https://elia-artschools.org/page/CCIs

[3] More about ELIA’s Advocacy actions at: https://elia-artschools.org/page/Advocacy

HEInnovate webinar summary – Entrepreneurship and innovation in the arts and creative sector
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HEInnovate Admin
Submitted on:
11 Nov 2021
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