Money for innovation: how the European Commission promotes growth for creative industries

Once again this year TISP participated in the Frankfurt Book Fair, showing the active commitment of the consortium in creating synergies between the publishing and ICT industries and in enabling sound conditions for such synergies: the workshop “Money for innovation: how the European Commission promotes growth for creative industries” aimed at providing an overview of the Guarantee Facility, a new financial instrument that will be launched in 2016 by the EC in the framework of the Creative Europe programme to facilitate access to finance for Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs), as well as of the new Work Programme of the Horizon 2020 funding programme for research and innovation.

Piero Attanasio, Head of Research and Development at the Italian Publishers Association, introduced the seminar with a brief presentation of the TISP project and an update on its status.

The first presentation was made by Albert Gauthier, from the Creativity Unit in DG CNECT, who stressed the importance of creativity for the European Commission, recalling how President Juncker had made support for the creative industries one of his priorities. Reflecting on the role and meaning of creativity (“the process of having original ideas that have value”, in the words of Sir Ken Robinson, PhD), and its relationship with art and ICT, Mr Gauthier illustrated several questions and the research areas supported by the Commission to find answers to those questions: if creativity is a skill, can anyone learn it? That’s what the Technology Enhanced Learning and Gaming theme is dedicated to. Can we construct a computer capable of human-level creativity? The Future Emerging Technologies is looking into it. Can we develop programs/tools to enhance human creativity? The Creativity in R&I programme is exploring the subject. Mr Gauthier provided a series of examples of the role of creativity in science, technology and engineering, and in particular of design.

Mr Gauthier then proceeded to illustrate the opportunities offered by the upcoming Work Programme 2016-17 of Horizon 2020, to be launched at the ICT Event 2015 in Lisbon. He started with Call 3 of the ICT 21 theme, Support technology transfer to the creative industries, meant to increase the competitiveness of the European creative industries, with a focus on stimulating ICT innovation in SMEs, which represent 85% of actors in the sector and often face difficulties in adopting state of the art technologies. The idea is to facilitate their lives by fostering exchanges between the creative industry SMEs and providers of innovative ICT solutions. Actions under this call should support creative industry SMEs in leveraging emerging ICT technologies for the development of innovative products, tools, applications and services with high commercial potential. Proposals should ensure that SMEs take on a driving role in the action, ensuring that the work responds to a clear market demand; they should include a business plan that demonstrates that the solutions are cost-effective, market-ready and targeted at existing markets with a potential for cross-border extension; and they should explain how impacts will be measured. The call will fund Innovation Actions lasting 12 to 18 months, with 0.5 to 1 million € per project (total funding some 14 million); opening on 20 October 2015, it will close on 12 April 2016.

Another interesting strand is Call 3 of the ICT 36 theme, Boost synergies between artists, creative people and technologists. Mr Gauthier made the example of a university where artists and engineers can get together to illustrate the rationale of this theme, that is to accelerate and widen the exchange of skills of artists and creative people with entrepreneurs and technologists, thus creating a common language and understanding. This is because innovation is as much about novel solutions that technology and design can provide as it is about understanding the needs of society and ensuring wide participation in the process of innovation, so that the arts are gaining prominence as a catalyst of an efficient conversion of scientific and technological knowledge into innovative products, services, and processes. The call will thus fund an Innovation Action establishing a structured dialogue between creative people and technology developers; the project will develop a network with the relevant regional, national and international agencies active in education, research and economic support of the Creative Industries (establishing an EU-wide sustainable structured dialogue and promoting the replication of successful initiatives across other industries and European countries) and organise a yearly Europe-wide competition for the best creative product ideas, promoting the newly selected ideas, ensuring financial support for their realisation and promoting the prototypes resulting from the selection of the previous year to potential investors (while developing a sustainability strategy to ensure the persistence of the experiences gained and the coordination mechanisms beyond the funding period). The ideas will be evaluated according to their originality, feasibility and potential economic and social value; 80% of a total grant of about 3 million € will go to funding some 50 prototypes (at some 50,000 € each). The call will also fund a Coordination and Support Action encouraging artists’ integration into research and innovation projects, providing visibility of good practices and rewarding them. The objective can be reached by providing a brokerage service to fund short-term residencies/fellowships in running H2020 projects or in institutions and sponsor “matchmaking events” for artists and ICT experts to develop common work practices and address concrete problems; to set up an online platform to match partners from the ICT and the arts, identifying concrete R&D&I problems that artistic practices could help address; and to organise an annual high visible STARTS (“Science, Technology and the Arts”) event with international outreach bringing together H2020 projects, industrial players and artists and showcasing successful interactions between industry, technology and the arts. Alternatively, the CSA can consist in implementing a STARTS prize to showcase vision and innovation in technology rooted in links with the arts by giving visibility to the most forward-looking collaborations and rewarding outstanding contributions to innovation resulting from collaborations of technology with the arts. The CSAs will last 4 years; 4 million € are available for the brokerage service and 1 million for the prize. This call also runs from 20 October 2015 to 12 April 2016.

The second presentation came from Maciej Szymanowicz, from the Media Support Programmes Unit of DG CNECT, who provided an overview of the Creative Europe programme, which combines the previous Culture and MEDIA programmes with the general objective to promote cultural and linguistic diversity and cultural heritage and strengthen the competitiveness of the European cultural and creative sectors (CCS), in particular the audio-visual sector. The specific objectives of the programme are to support the capacity of the CCS to operate internationally, to promote transnational circulation of works and reaching out to new audiences, to foster policy development, innovation and new business models and to strengthen the financial capacity of the CCS. The Commission, acknowledging the need for more private funding for the CCS, is preparing to launch a new instrument via the European Investment Fund (EIF) in 2016. Details are still under definition, but the underlying idea (based on research) is that there is a gap in the financing of CCS (possibly of 8 to 13 billion €) due to the fact that financial institutions in Europe usually do not have the in-house expertise to evaluate credit risk in the CCS, despite the latter’s good economic performances; there is a shortage of reliable data and thus lack of critical mass, and the intangible nature of the assets (mainly IPR) implies that a personal collateral is typically requested, which accentuates difficulties for the CCS, which also adopt project-based planning (less focused on business plans) and have quite specific cash flow schemes.

Hence the economic case for implementing this new instrument, a market-driven Guarantee Facility that will share credit risk with banks investing in portfolios of loans to organisations operating in the CCS (covering up to 70% of any individual investment and up to 25% of the overall portfolio), without requiring any personal collateral. The instrument will include capacity building for banks (provision of expertise in aspects such as the intangible nature of collateral assets, the size of the market, prototype nature of products and services; expertise in building portfolios and evaluating risks associated with CCS) and will be managed by the European Investment Fund; it will make available 121 million € in fund raising credits for up to some 700 million € loans to the benefit of SMEs in CCS (broadly defined) from the EU and the EEA, running from 2016 to 2020 (with an initial allocation of 14.8 million € for 2016 and a provision to put the repaid loans back into the pool). Support to SMEs will come indirectly through the financial institutions at national level, and beneficiaries will have to contact those, not the Commission. The Commission will undertake communication and promotion activities for the Guarantee Facility, with financial intermediaries, governments, the network of Creative Europe Desks, umbrella organisations from the CCS and SMEs, and organise information sessions before the programme enters into force; the first calls for the Facility and the capacity building schemes will be published in early 2016.

The agenda of the seminar also included a series of presentations about innovation cases that embody the spirit of the TISP projects in showcasing successful solutions stemming from the integration of ICT and book publishing.

The first case presented, by Cristina Mussinelli (Italian Publishers Association and LIA Foundation), was that of LIA – Libri Italiani Accessibili  (Accessible Italian Books), an initiative started as a public-funded project and currently managed by a dedicated not-for-profit foundation, which aims at enhancing the production of accessible books and embedding accessibility all along the book value chain. The project took a digital approach to accessibility, establishing one workflow for many types of users, instead of the slower and very expensive traditional approach of ad hoc creation of titles case by case; this way, enormous cost savings have been generated, and now 4,000 accessible titles are created every year, at the cost at which 100 were produced previously (and the same funds have also allowed setting up the platform and releasing an initial batch of 10,000 titles). Mrs Mussinelli explained that accessibility is an issue for the whole value chain, as files must be adapted but so do reading solutions and assistive technology, so LIA innovated how all players use technology, raising awareness for producers but also users (the visually impaired), with a full inclusion approach aimed at providing the visually impaired the same inclusive experience as everybody else. LIA’s next steps will include moving beyond trade books, implementing new production tools and applying accessibility metadata in global bookstores. Mrs Mussinelli argued that such an example of globally recognised European excellence should be supported by the EU, in particular to scale up at European level.

Remaining on the accessibility topic, Pierre Danet, Chief Digital Innovator at Hachette Livre, introduced the European Digital Reading Lab, the European headquarter of IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) and the Readium Foundation. Located in Paris within the innovation and business accelerator Cap Digital, EDRlab has been established to promote EPUB and Web standards for publishing in order to improve availability, accessibility and interoperability of digital publications. These goals, explained Mr Danet in his pitch, translate into:

  • open source developments shared by Readium members with the community (e.g. Readium applications source code is available on the social platform Github);
  • key accessibility features to be included in digital publications (e.g. text to speech, diagrams description, math ML integration, customizable rendering: technical characteristics allowing reading to Visually Impaired People);
  • interoperability between file formats, file protection measures and vendor systems (e.g. Readium SDK is DRM agnostic and cross-platform, being available for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OSX).

From technical insights to general objectives, Mr Danet summed up the European Digital Reading Lab’s aim as a high level promotion of EPUB adoption among European stakeholders, carried on by taking actively part in R&D on EPUB tools, gathering market requirements and organizing promotional initiatives in Europe.

The panel moved from two initiatives for accessibility in the book value chain to two experiences in semantic technologies applied to the publishing sector.

Michael Vogelbacher of MVB focused on the “Future of book search” by presenting a semantic search tool for the book publishing market developed on VLB, the German books in print. Considering the exponential growth of available titles (from 1.1 m to 6 m between 2008 and 2015) across different channels (POD, e-books, long tail books back into use etc.), book search tools need to be enhanced in order to give users a better discovery experience: semantic technologies can help by enriching bibliographic metadata analysed by search engines with additional concepts, thus allowing a proper interpretation of topics searched by the user.

The “content interpretation knowledge circle” works by suggesting possible connections with the input keywords, through the extraction of additional content from the ontologies underlying the search engine: needless to say, this approach is based on high quality book metadata, essential to get meaningful semantic search results.

The general goal is to go beyond the current book search tools based only on bibliographic information search functionalities, and – next to the use of static metadata – to produce dynamic associations through ontologies and linked data.

Another example of semantic technologies application was delivered by Frank Salliau, senior researcher at the Flemish digital research and entrepreneurship hub iMinds, who presented the EU project FREME (open Framework of E-services for Multilingual and semantic Enrichment of digital content). FREME is a consortium of industries and research institutions working on an open framework of e-services for semantic enrichment, achieved mostly through machine translation and linked open data. Multilingual enrichment through machine translation builds on a patented technology of domain-focused translation developed by TILDE, a language technology company, while the reuse of linked data available on the Web consists in a plug-in that can be integrated in content creation workflows, connecting to diverse data sources and enriching the text with structured information.

The open source APIs for semantic enrichment based on these services and developed by FREME have been validated in a number of publishing sectors (e.g. academic and trade books, financial press, video publishing), while translation technologies can be applied to books as well as to metadata elements, for instance to add cross-language information about books in bibliographic catalogues.

These applications show how FREME is not strictly an innovation case applied to the research field, but also a test-bed for technology transfer to the industry.

And this is what Piero Attanasio stressed at the end of the seminar, emphasizing the longstanding cooperation between publishing industry and research centres in the use of standards and technologies; a cooperation intended to be even more important in the future.

Cross sector cooperation is thus becoming increasingly important in the digital content industry. In this context, TISP is playing a key role by stimulating synergies between publishing and ICT, as Guenther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy & Society, remarked in his keynote speech at the NEM summit held at the Frankfurt Book Fair the day after the TISP workshop. Commissioner Oettinger highlighted the support of the Commission for projects “whose objective is to help the cross-sector exchange of ideas and technologies”, and mentioned TISP as an example of such initiatives.

One thought on “Money for innovation: how the European Commission promotes growth for creative industries

  1. Excellent article!
    I strongly believe that Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) are a key topic; building and supporting an ecosystem including artists, technologist, creative people, SMEs, etc will benefit not only the CCIs, but also our society and economy as a whole. In particular, publishing has a main role to play. I was very motivated also by the EC commitment with Cultural and Creative Industries.

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