All entries for Thursday 19 February 2015

February 19, 2015

Spillover Effects in Europe

Tuesday I was at the British Council, where we used their Board Room (with a great view of Whitehall !) for the second meeting of the European spillover research group. The first meeting was at the Forum D’Avignon Ruhr last year, where I chaired an exploratory meeting on putting together a large research project. My paper was published from that, see here: [It has become the first of a series of papers called ‘To be Debated’, hence the slightly cryptic cover].

This Tuesday’s meeting – called ‘Preliminary Evidence of Spillover Effects in Europe – Interim meeting – was organized by the group’s current funders, the European centre for creative economy Dortmund, with Arts Council England; other partners include the Irish Arts Council, Creative England, and the European Creative Business Network (based at Brussels). At the meeting were representatives from the British Council, Nesta, the Norwegian Arts Council and the European Cultural Foundation.


‘Spillover’ (a bad name in my opinion, but unfortunately established now it’s in the sights of EU policy makers) doesn’t involve spilling your coffee over the person you’re sitting next to. Oh No. It’s serious business – well, we hope it will be. In involves the development, dynamics and outcomes that have been previously referred to as ‘externalities’, ‘crossovers’ or that awful term ‘knowledge transfer’. To my mind, it should involve the most compelling dimensions of the creative and cultural industries – their ability to shape places, spaces, subjectivities and our social horizon of imagination. And that includes enterprise and industry as much as social groups or communities. The new EU ‘Creative Europe’ (2014-20) programme has unfortunately ditched the ‘citizenship’ aims of traditional European cultural policy, but also opened up a new front in enterprise, the creative industries and other SME activity (particularly in the context of EU urban policy). In that sense it is attempting to dovetail culture with with the Europe 2020 Strategy of ‘Innovation Union’, where ‘innovation’ is defined as any process or strategic use of cultural, social and urban resources (not just technological or manufacturing development). This policy thinking has a provenance of course: for example, ‘An integrated industrial policy for the globalisation era’ (COM(2010)614), cited cultural and creative industries as sources and providers of innovation (not just social benefits). Altogether, there is a push for new policy models of an expanded and engaged cultural sector, but where cultural policy is not so good at engagement beyond the older paradigms of ‘benefits’ or impacts.

Tom Fleming Associates have been appointed as research leaders, and are building an evidence library devised a preliminary methodology. For me, the preliminary task is twofold: first in differentiating the study of ‘spillover’ from the previous discourses of benefit, impact, transference and value (along with all their economic theory references points); and second, understanding how spillover is both intentional and unintentional (as well as both positive and negative), and not simply an ‘object’ of analysis, but a policy construct. As defined by Fleming, we will be concentrating on knowledge, production, and network spillovers – but raises a question. I don’t know about you, but when we get spills, they are not so easily categorized.. they are a bit of a mess. In the study of the creative industries, we have had complexity theory (e.g. Nesta’s ‘dynamic mapping’: (Bakhshi ‎2013)). When is someone going to come up with ‘mess theory’?

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