Nordic-Baltic Creative Industries Incubator network meeting and interview with Martin Q Larsson

In the very end of November the first regional Nordic-Baltic Creative Industries Incubator network meeting – workshop was just launched in Helsinki.

The meeting was organised within the project “Creating New Practices of Sustainability- Cross-sectorial creativity in the era of climate change” and the focus was on how Creative Industries incubators in Northern Dimension Area could foster sustainable cooperation within institutions and its members.  Participants from all across the Northern Dimension tried answering on questions like – “which areas of creative industries are the most potential for co-operation and what can Incubators offer to their clients? Another important question to be answered was – if the Incubator hub network is an internationally recognized platform for continuing cooperation, how then does the internationalization match with local measures?  

After the event we had an interesting chat with one of the participants involved in the network project – Martin Q Larsson, director of Creative and Cultural Industries Incubator Klump, Subtopia, Sweden, as well as president of creARTive, the Swedish umbrella organization for culture incubators. The time schedules are hectic now by the end of the year, so we used the Whatsapp services in order to deliver you a short, yet well thought-through express interview that we carried out for almost a week. Here is the transcription of this interview!

NDPC: Greetings, Martin! Can you tell us about the hottest industry sectors or topics in creative industry incubators in Sweden in 2019?

MQL: First of all, it’s the grassroots approach that people try to do, and, I believe, it is equal to all sectors and businesses now (downshifting to local, small communities – ed.). That is why I actually would like to use a term “Creative Business” instead of “Creative Industry”. The word “industries” is referred to mass markets, big facilities, and they are more or less non-existent in our context. Second of all, these are businesses “in between”, say, something between circus and crafts, between music and visual arts were very popular last year.

NDPC: What are your thoughts on the newborn Creative Business Hub? What do you think would be the most important things from what the future participants of the hub would benefit?

MQL: I think the Nordic/Baltic creative network could be a huge possibility to develop international collaborations between the countries in Nordic Dimension. Another important thing would be the direct link to other countries’ markets and their national or local creative hubs. There would always be someone to talk to, the hubs would help as a base for collaborations – between incubators themselves or between participants/entrepreneurs.

NDPC: Does it make it different in Northern Dimension to collaborate in comparison to other parts of the world? What is the biggest challenge to collaborate here if there is one?

MQL: One of the advantages of collaboration in the Northern Dimension is, of course, the geographic vicinity, that you don’t have to cover that many kilometres to meet, and we are all more or less in the same time zones. We all share similar thoughts of important values for citizens and societies; what we feel is important to emphasize. My impression is also that within our region we see many differences between countries and people, but when we meet abroad, in Brussels or New York or Mumbai – we work exactly the same way (and everyone else believes we come from the same place…). Another advantage is that the Nordic collaboration has developed for a long time, so extending it to the other side of the Baltic Sea can build on existing, well-functioning structures: we don’t need to invent the wheel!

Our largest challenge in collaboration right now is to engage and start doing things together equally. It also means that you have to start doing new things that you are not used to (like using Whatsapp… :). Usually, people already have a lot of things to do already, and even if we all have an intention to collaborate, we have to devote time and effort to it. Learning new things takes more energy than you expect.

NDPC: Why do you think Creative Business Incubators have been activated and established right at this moment? What defines this age so much they were necessary more than in other decades?

MQL: Most Swedish creative incubators were established around ten years ago, often due to a regional or municipal focus on creative business and the rise of new business incubators in many sectors. What I understand from many other countries, their incubators started because of the EU funding, but I have too little knowledge of these circumstances, and it differs a lot between countries and regions.

However, it is clear for us all that incubators could play a much bigger role in our societies, both for the culture sector and for society at large, bringing new perspectives and opportunities to both artists, businesses and society. In the late eighties a German study proved that for each DM (Deutsche Mark – ed.) invested in culture, society got 5 DM back. This model is still valid, but largely forgotten, and it is my belief that incubators could not only be instrumental in bringing the knowledge back, but also upshift this ratio to much higher values for each Euro spent.

The network meeting and valuable thoughts by Martin showed there are still a lot of opportunities in 2020 for creative business development and practice sharing, but all the hard work will definitely pay off! We are looking forward to see the Hub as a great tool to improving the exchange of know-how, experiences, market insights, contacts and collaborations next year and forever!

The meeting is funded by Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture.

Project is implemented by Arts Promotion Centre Finland in close collaboration with Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland, Creative Finland and Nordic Culture Point.