Skåne has over 70 creative spaces in a diverse ecosystem that responds to many different needs and target groups, from amateurs to creative professionals and researchers. However, many of these spaces struggle with inadequate resources, outreach, and lack coordinating efforts between them. Through increased collaboration, as well as by pooling resources and expertise, the infrastructure for the creative sector in Skåne may be strengthened. These are some of the findings of the Make Space for Verkstad project, which was carried out by Lund University during 2021–2022. Anneli Xie is project manager and has with assistans of Birgitta Persson put Skåne's creative places on the map. Here some of the project's conclusions!
The starting point of the project “Make space for verkstad” is that all sectors, including the cultural and creative sector and industries (CCSI), have a need for an infrastructure that helps them develop, innovate and be more entrepreneurial. This includes everything from physical spaces, tools, and machinery to skills and networks, as well as having access to entrepreneurial support, finance, and scaling support.
Makerspaces, FabLabs, studios, recreation centers, research labs, etc make up the infrastructure of the vibrant CCSI-sector. Access to these spaces, their equipment, and their expertise is fundamental for creative professionals to successfully innovate, create, build, and take the first steps of production. In a research report conducted by Kulturnavet Österlen in the south of Sweden, 69% of creatives in the region listed creative spaces as one of the top things they need and currently lack access to.
The project Make Space for Verkstad (Make Space for Verkstad is a REACT-EU project led by Lund University and funded by Tillväxtverket) has mapped and researched the needs of various spaces and labs in the region of Skåne, Sweden during 2021 through desktop research, online surveys, and interviews. More than 70 creative spaces, ranging from recreation centres to FabLabs as well as 38 test beds (out of which 14 are directly linked to cultural and creative industries) have been identified in Skåne. Most of these can be found in the three biggest cities in Skåne: Malmö, Lund, and Helsingborg, but it is notable that some of the very active creative spaces are also found in towns and rural areas outside of the main urban centres.
The main findings of the mapping and initial research on the typology can be summarized as follows:
● There are many different types of creative spaces and labs, all with their own way of describing themselves. The typology of creative spaces is therefore extensive, ranging from recreational centres, artists’ collectives, and creative hubs to fablabs and prototype spaces.
● Together they make up a diverse ecosystem that serves various needs and target groups, from amateurs to creative professionals and researchers. Depending on their mission and focus, they have different types of equipment, resources, service, and accessibility.
● The creative spaces are to a large extent organised as not-for-profit organisations. Many spaces are managed by educational institutions or municipalities. While educational institutions target researchers and students, the municipalities are to a large extent focused on providing creative spaces and activities for youth.
When it comes to the needs, challenges and opportunities expressed by the managers of creative spaces, they are quite similar:
● Finances and business models are limited which makes operations vulnerable and long-term planning difficult. Many organisations are dependent on insecure project funding from their local municipality and users are not able to pay market price for using the equipment being offered.
● The creative spaces do not know each other and are not networked or even coordinated. There is a network organisation on the national level, Makers of Sweden, with the aim to connect all makers and makerspaces in Sweden but with a limited scope of outreach and activities.
Initial analysis and conclusions
The projects conclusion is that the existing ecosystem and vast infrastructure of creative spaces is fragmented and heavily dependent on the perseverance of dedicated individuals. It is also evident that the different creative spaces and labs belong to different types of institutions and organisations within education, culture, industry, science etc. There is a lack of cross-cutting, transversal policy such as a regional CCSI-strategy that would open for a much more dynamic and effective use and development of the infrastructure.
In a situation when cross-disciplinary innovation and development is in high demand, a higher degree of coordination between the spaces has the potential to make a big difference. If each lab and creative space would be aware of the available equipment and expertise in their region, they could better recommend creative professionals where to go. This would probably also lead to more cooperation and sharing of resources as well as to new ideas, projects, and business opportunities.
There is also a need for business development and advice for many of the organisations so that they can become more sustainable. They also need support on how to become more visible and accessible. This type of capacity building and training is also needed in a wider sense among creative professionals across the sector.
On an international level there are several strong networks that support the exchange of knowledge, skills, and foster cooperation projects among its membership and beyond. Examples of these are the FabLab network, European Creative Hubs and Trans Europe Halles. There is a great potential to tap into their mobility programmes, capacity building offers etc.
For the regional innovation ecosystem within CCSI to flourish, one needs to work much more transversally and connect all resources within the ecosystem. For example, the existing support structures for innovation and entrepreneurship are seldom linked to make spaces and creative spacess, only to co-working spaces.
Furthermore, new technologies paired with new types of consumption patterns can initiate a re-industrialisation of Europe, Industry 4.0, and build local production. This is one of the keys to creating sustainability.