On 6-7 May 2019, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce hosted a Staff Exchange with Austria Wirtschaftsservice (Austria) and the Joint Stock Company “Development Finance Institution Altum” (Latvia).

The core topics and activities of the Staff Exchange were:

• Creative Industries (Financing, Services, Network)

• Innovation in the Creative Industries (Funding, Hubs, Coworking, Strategies)

• Repayable contributions for cultural companies

• Financial products and instruments for cultural companies


What are the main challenges in your region (you were hoping to address with the staff  exchange)? 

According to the representatives of the Altum Region, the two main challenges the Creative and Cultural Industries face in the region are the following:

 The embedded belief of companies that the most valid and useful kind of support that can be provided is in form of grants. Altum aims to create attractive financial instruments in order to encourage companies to use repayable contributions, promoted by the ICEC, rather than grants.

 The lack of experience and tools necessary to evaluate and deal with new kind of businesses, such as creative industries, startups and other innovative businesses. As a result of this lack of flexibility, the Region has ended up rejecting several good and promising business projects.

On the other hand, in Austria there is a strong need of a new funding strategy based both on repayable and non-repayable funds, which will benefit not only technological innovation, but also creative and impact innovation. The second main challenge of the Region is the lack of a cross-sectorial cooperation model between the Cultural and Creative Industries and the rest of the economy.

What are the learnings you take home from this Staff Exchange?

The representatives of Altum Region believe that cooperation between all stakeholders is crucial in order create a thriving creative ecosystem and every institution in Barcelona was a great example of this, such as 3D Factory Incubator and Barcelona Tech City.

Also, as mentioned above, Latvia aims to implement a repayable contributions system.

Finally, Altum intends to further cooperate with ICF on even broader scope than just financial schemes for creative companies.

On the contrary, Austria boast an excellent financial system, but it lacks a strong innovation ecosystem which can boost startups and creative industries. Therefore, the Staff Exchange was a great opportunity for the members of Austria Wirtschaftsservice to compare the two ecosystems and action plans and find new ideas which could be implemented in their region.

Which of the learnings could also be applied/transferred to you Region?

Cooperation between stakeholders is definitely the learning than can and should be applied also in Latvia, as well as the implementation of repayable contributions instead of other financial instruments, such as grants and loans. Altum also lacks flexible schemes able to grasp the notion that new businesses, in many cases, are unique, dynamic.  

The first learning that could be exported to Austria is the combination of non-refundable and refundable grants in the creative sector. All the actors of the creative sector (Government, companies, audiences) should collaborate in order to strengthen and boost the impact innovation ecosystem in combination with technology.

Another learning was the specialization in specific technological areas in the creative industries, such as 3D printing.

What are barriers in your Region?

The creative sector in Austria is extremely fragmented and some industries lack of a clear organizational structure. Also, the country still does not exploit the potential of the crossover effects of the creative industries on the rest of the economy and society. This means that the Austrian creative industries’ transformational impact on other sectors of the economy need to be strengthened in order to become more competitive.