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Imagining Best Practice 7 September Sep 2017 1209 7 September 2017

It is possible to live off culture: how creative and cultural enterprises can create jobs

Not just museums and cinemas, but veritable companies specialising in video games, fashion and design. These companies form one of the key pillars of the Italian economy. Which is why it makes sense to invest in them

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It is possible to live off culture. Suffice it to mention the success stories provided by Italy’s many cultural and creative enterprises. This production sector employs almost 1.5 million people in over 400,000 companies, for a total added value of around €89.9 bn. These include those rewarded last July at the National Conference of Cultural Enterprise, held in L'Aquila. A case in point is Operazione Robin Hood, conceived by Teatro di Bari, a project designed to promote cultural participation among children (around 1000) and families with limited access to culture due to economic, social or geographical reasons. Another is Postmodernissimo, Italy’s first community cinema set up in a historic cinema in the centre of Perugia, which had stood closed since 2000. And then, of course, there’s the Egyptian Museum of Turin, a fully self-funded Italian institution that has recently renovated its spaces, installations and functions. All these success stories stem from a sound underlying business.

What is a cultural and creative enterprise (CCE)? The answer lies in two reference texts. The first is the White Paper on Creativity (2009), according to which a cultural enterprise deals with: historic and artistic heritage; the content, information and communication industry; and the material culture, such as fashion and design. The second definition stems from the Ervet survey conducted in Emilia Romagna in 2012. The document states that, in order to be defined a cultural and creative enterprise, an undertaking must combine three factors: the use of cultural (both new and traditional) and creative knowledge as an input to production; the production of sense and aesthetic value, in addition to products or services; an element of production "craftsmanship”, so as to create a unique end product.

This gives rise to a series of entrepreneurial experiences that exploit Italy’s extraordinary artistic, museum, architectural and landscape resources.

This gives rise to a series of entrepreneurial experiences that exploit Italy’s extraordinary artistic, museum, architectural and landscape resources. Overall, this industry includes 4,158 museums, 282 archaeological sites, 536 monuments, 13,888 libraries, 871 protected natural areas, and 2,500 natural sites. In each case, the setup is always the same: on the one hand, a cultural - and very often public - enterprise that manages the existing heritage; and on the other, a creative undertaking that oversees the market and uses creative inputs to generate complementary products. Together, they form a chain that encompasses everything from foundations that manage villas, to start-ups specialising in gamification, through to theatrical cooperatives and associations that manage cultural assets on behalf of city councils. Together, they attract approximately 115 million visitors per year.

The Director of Federculture, Claudio Bocci, tells us about one of the best examples of a cultural and creative enterprise: “When Paolo Giulierini - one of the twenty museum directors appointed on the strength of the new “Franceschini” statute on cinema and the audio visual sector - landed at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, he promoted a strategic plan aimed primarily at increasing the public of digital natives. To do so, he contacted Fabio Viola, a global institution among gamification designers, for the production of a video game; the first to be produced and distributed directly by a museum." Entitled Father and son, it has been downloaded more than 400,000 times, thus helping to increase the museum’s share of young visitors - if for no other reason than to puzzle out the enigma offered by the video game, that could only be solved with the information provided at the museum.

Pending official recognition by the Culture Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, which is hoping to get a bill through parliament, sector operators are making their voices heard. The main issue is of an economic and fiscal nature; starting with the extension of the Art-Bonus, which currently does not envisage tax breaks on donations granted to private parties for public purposes (which would increase fundraising revenue). The next step concerns a reduced VAT rate of 4-10%, followed by the elimination of the IMU property tax and other local levies, such as the TARI garbage tax. The final step will be to reduce the red tape on sponsorships (which are already fully deductible).