Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) take an increasing place at the core of economic and societal development. Aiming at combining knowledge and skills specific to the creative sector but also those of other sectors, CCIs generate innovative and intelligent solutions for today’s societal challenges. The Wallonia region in Belgium, partner in the Interreg Europe projects CREADIS3 - Smart Specialisation Creative Districts and RCIA - Regional Creative Industries Alliance – implements such a holistic regional CCI development approach for a decade now. Let’s follow their inspiring journey!

Creative Wallonia – when everything started

2000 - The journey started when Wallonia embarked 'on an offensive strategy designed to restructure, strengthen and modernise its economy, building on its own strengths, its specialisation profile and entrepreneurial dynamism.' (Wallonia European Creative District Guide)

2010 – Complementarily to this industrial policy, Wallonia developed its vision of a creative economy: 'a particular focus has been placed by the Walloon Government on developing creativity and innovation throughout the society as a whole, by launching the Creative Wallonia Framework Programme.' (ibid.) From that point on, Wallonia placed creativity and non-technological innovation at the heart of the region’s development. The Creative Wallonia policy is based on: 1. promotion of a culture of creativity, 2. structuring tools, 3. support to project owners, 4. strong and long-term political support, 5. international dimension.

2012 - Wallonia was soon able to reap the first fruits of its policy when it has been selected as one of the two European Creative Districts funded by the EU 'with the mission to demonstrate the role of the creative economy and the creative industries in the regeneration of the regional economy.' (ibid.) Together, the Creative Wallonia policy and the Wallonia European Creative District can be considered as an open innovation strategy implemented within a policy framework programme at the scale of a whole region.

The Walloon Creative Hubs – the growing seeds

2014 – Following a call for projects launched by the Walloon Government, seven pilot Creative Hubs located in the main Walloon cities were created. Each of them was equipped with a small budget in order to design projects and build partnerships. 

2016 – The seven Creative Hubs   each one strongly anchored in its local territorial, social and cultural ecosystem – entered the expansion phase. Significantly higher budgets (ca. 5 to 10 million Euro, depending on the hubs) co-funded by the ERDF enabled the development of a suitable infrastructure (co-working spaces, offices, FabLabs with technical equipment…) and the building of teams to give live to the Creative Hubs. Two of the seven Walloon Creative Hubs are displayed as good practices on the Interreg Europe database: the Wap’s Hub in Tournai (west part of Wallonia) and the Creative Valley (city of Mons, European Capital of Culture in 2015).

Creative Wallonia – the virtuous policy circle

2017 - Wallonia became partner in two Interreg Europe projects CREADIS3 and RCIA which enabled to exchange ideas and approaches with other European players, to learn from other experiences and reflect on the journey carried out, in order to increase the success and the sustainability of the policy in place.

2019 – Within each the two projects, Wallonia has developed a series of policy measures with the aim to include the lessons learnt from the partners into its creative hubs policy, thus initiating the deepening phase, including new infrastructures. The two sets of policy measures in RCIA and CREADIS3 present significant synergies and  can be combined in the following virtuous policy circle, which shall enable Wallonia to leverage the previous achievements: 

Own depiction - Source: Wallonia, RCIA, CREADIS3

Let’s briefly dive into the measures: 

  • Step 1: Concerns the impact measurement through better evaluation of the creative hubs’ actions in order e.g. to better catch the cross-collaboration dimension and  the ecosystems’ activities.
  • Step 2: Concerns the governance of the creative ecosystems with the goal to better coordinate the public action towards creative ecosystems and companies.
  • Step 3: Propose a new model for the hubs at the Minister of Economy based on what has been learnt during the projects but also thanks to the evaluation and discussions with the stakeholders.
  • Step 4: Prospective and assess the potential of the creative hubs in the future S3 strategy.
  • Step 5: Give support to specific hubs by helping them to build a local ecosystem and a strong CCI-oriented infrastructure or a CCI incubator.

Creative Wallonia – resources, budget and impact

As the Walloon journey makes clear, such a programme can only be realised with significant policy commitment and allocation of resources:

By the end of 2018, 1.815 companies had accessed the hubs’ services in line with the initial target. By 2021, those numbers are expected to rise to 3.300 companies served. Furthermore, different target groups like e.g. start-ups, SMEs, students and administration have been impacted by all these actions, collaborations were born, new jobs have been created; products/services developed (e.g. informing and giving networking opportunities, coaching and training in creative and digital methodologies, supporting enterprises and innovative projects, offering spaces to creative communities to foster unexpected meetings).

And besides all quantitative measures, it’s the Wallonia region and its ecosystem that have benefited from the opportunity of policy learning, from spill-over effects of the different actions launched, from the international recognition, becoming part of international networks, projects and think tanks related to CCIs.

Creative Wallonia in all its facets …

is recognized as a good practice - it is a success. The Walloon model is holistic, replicable and 

… can be an inspiration for policy-makers elsewhere!

Have you become curious?  Do you want to learn more Creative Wallonia, Creative Hubs and CCIs …? Follow Creative Wallonia and the CCIs topic! 

Further information is to be found here

Good Practices in RCIA

Further recommended readings

Good Practices in CREADIS3

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