Culture is future »


Op-ed: Reconnect culture and the economy (Influencia - July/September 2015)

« Talent must be considered as a resource» Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, underlines the need for a double awareness: the necessity to reaffirm the links between culture and industrial policy for example, but also between culture and education, tourism or urban and regional development. And that we must encourage, with appropriate measures, the emergence of cultural entrepreneurs.


Creativity is just connecting things” (Steve Jobs). A cultural entrepreneur’s creativity is now recognized as a catalyst for innovation due to its economic impact as well as for its positive effects in territories and social cohesion, all the while making up a strong reservoir of talents and creative skills. One should read again report from June 2014 “On the development of the cultural sector in France” by Steven Hearn, the founder of Scintillo, a holiding group that owns amongst others the Gaîté Lyrique in Paris. The report, too often overlooked, has nevertheless tried to shift the debate: “The times in which the cultural sector exempted itself from the rules of entrepreneurship are long gone”. Its goal was clear: “France - pioneering in territorial density of its equipment and cultural actors – could be a laboratory conducive to the flourishing development of cultural entrepreneurship”. Before deciding on its jurisdictions – and obstacles -, the report insisted on how to consider cultural entrepreneurs as “economic actors” in their own right, whose initiatives galvanize creation, create jobs, generate revenues and are part of a strategy for economic and sustainable development”.

Thus it becomes primordial for our society to facilitate their economic emergence. “It is not about imposing a simple accounting rationality and a necessarily immediate profitability, continues the Hearn report. Nevertheless, the fundamentals in management and the investment processes must be applied to the companies within the cultural sectors. […] In order for it to last in a virtuous manner, cultural exception must not ignore the economics of culture”. Creation can no longer be disassociated from technical and economic conditions of its production. From the bodega to the atelier, from the studio to the factory, the artist-enterprises have never stopped integrating all the possibilities, questioning them, challenging them or going beyond them.[1] The shock between two cultures have never been so fecund and the dialogue isn’t that recent.


In order to lift this obstacle blocking the development of cultural entrepreneurship, the Hearn report brought to the table concrete recommendations, and primarily the need to recognize cultural entrepreneurs as “economic actors in their own right, while they are often neither taken seriously, nor supported by public authorities and actors of the economic life”. Their accompaniment was proposed along three perspectives:

“First, like any other economic entity, their company must be inserted in existing programs to stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation, and notably, if applicable, for those working in social economy.

“Next, the public authority must accompany the structuring of the sector by creating accompaniment tools and funding before the private sector take the relay. The regions and Bpifrance could be the public operators of this support, which could take the form of a fund dedicated to the initial seeding in the cultural sector at a sum around 200 million euros for five years, by reallocating the funds of the social economy, those of innovation and also from our savings accounts.

“Last, it’s about committing to – each time whenever possible – to change the mentalities and the paradigm by supporting the communication and the debates on the entrepreneur’s role to promote culture, in particular by fostering a better representation of cultural entrepreneurs and a by centralizing resources specific to a sector on a website.


One year after the report, Steven Hearn might consider it a long time…The change in mentalities is indeed quite slow. If digital start-ups are now in the spotlight, cultural entrepreneurs – while it has been established that their economic models are almost identical – always suffer from a lack of recognition from investors, apart from Bpifrance’s implication. More than ever creativity is needed to develop new models to finance culture in order to: nurture the debate and the emergence of complementary sources of financing for culture; reinforce asset evaluation (notably, immaterial assets) and seeding abilities; ameliorate our understanding on their contribution, in particular their qualitative and quantitative contributions to innovation and to growth, with the goal of measuring their cultural footprint.


On these questions, a double rise of awareness in Europe brings reasons to hope: the STARTS program (in elaboration at the time of publication, note to the reader) aims to reinforce the integration of artists within companies to boost innovation. The ECBN (European Creative Business Network) network’s ambition is to support the demands of cultural entrepreneurs at a European level. Its manifesto, presented as a call for contributions, proposes to implement three integrated strategies:

  • Innovation transfer – the 1% rule (for a 300 billion euros budget for infrastructure projects) to facilitate the diffusion of innovation, its ins-and-outs and why to promote it, as well as the effects of transversal nature of creativity;
  • The networks behind the fabric – the 50 billion investment rule starting 2016-2020 – in order to invest in cultural production capabilities not only at regional and national levels, but to contribute to the development of cultural diversity in Europe;
  • Last, developing digital skills (in the form of 5% tax discounts of their net sales), a key issue to achieve a true data culture for cultural entrepreneurs both in terms of initiatives, production and distribution to allow them to manage their interaction with the public.                             

 The objective of the STARTS program, as designated in its name, is to boost innovation by stimulating the virtues in Sciences, in Technology and in the ARTS…at the core of companies. Launched in 2015, under the impulse of the Lithuanian Presidency and richly endowed by the European Commission, STARTS, according to Ralph Dum (Senior Expert, DG Connect), will facilitate the integration of artists inside companies by betting on three added values: multidisciplinary , creative and tertiary. A nice bet, placed at the right level.


How to place creativity as the key stimulus in society? We call for the virtues of taking risks in favor of cultural entrepreneurs: the economy has much to gain from creatives. Many prospects can transversally develop: the acculturation between creators and entrepreneurs to concretely allow the evolutions of mentalities (notably in study and training curriculums), the mix of profiles inside companies and in the administration to allow a global and prospective approach of the the economy and the world. Lastly, interdisciplinary cooperation to bring to spark new imaginaries.


The end of silos, all companies – from start-ups to big companies – that achieved great performance have understood this. When will such a global awareness arise, that will benefit the combined interests of companies and their employees? Such cross fertilization is more than ever necessary to image and build the world of tomorrow. Let us accept this harbinger.

[1] « Les artistes ont toujours aimé l'argent : d’Albrecht Dürer à Damien Hirst», Judith Benhamou-Huet, Grasset, 2012. « Vues d’atelier », Bernard Tillier, Citadelles & Mazenod, 2014.