The City of Ghent scores high in the field of creativity


The results of the second study confirm the creativity within the City: it turns out that the creative industry in Ghent houses several flourishing sub sectors. In total, the City of Ghent counts more than five hundred creative and innovative companies which all together employ more than six thousand people. Anyway, Ghent should focus to a larger extent on a cross-sectorial co-operation and promotion. The results of both studies are a very interesting breeding ground for new actions and do also contain a number of recommendations for the next term.

Creative City Index Methodology

In its municipal mission, the City of Ghent formulates its ambition to become a ‘creative city’ by the year 2020; a city which ‘owing to a forced through combination of all creative forces wants to play a pioneering role in the development of a sustainable, solidary and open society’. To which extent is the City of Ghent already on its way to become such a creative city? Which are the strengths of the City and where is room left for (possible) improvement? What do insiders and outsiders think about Ghent? How does the City of Ghent relates as a creative city to other comparable cities in Europe and the world?

Ghent is well on its way to become a creative city

The conclusions of the creative screening are preponderantly positive. In the policy areas of liveability, diversity and professionalism Ghent scores rather high. The challenge, however, is located in the same area: Ghent is a liveable city but is now facing a rather critical point, a transitional phase during which an enormous growth has to be adjusted towards something constructive. Ghent does not have the physical room to keep growing and developing and the ground becomes more and more expensive. How long will this be affordable and will Ghent in future be able to create new ‘room’ for creative development? In this respect, the urban renewal projects are a true blessing. In these projects people from different sectors will be able to work together, technology, trade and industry, the students and the government. How does Ghent deal with that new, horizontal way of working? How does the municipal organisation change its own mentality and behaviour? Ghent has to further develop from an industrial economy towards a real knowledge economy, from a ‘top-down’ policy towards a ‘co-creation’ business model. Landry provides us with a number of specific recommendations, going from the more elaborate use of knowledge from existing companies and universities, to the link of science and culture and the support of creative ecology (urban renewal projects), and even the call in of Ghent ‘conversation managers’: in order to put the ‘City of Ghent, so much City’ on the international map (‘Ghent, what a city!’). Ghent must become one of the leaders of the ‘4th clean, lean, green industrial revolution’ (the 4th open, target-oriented, green industrial revolution).

Creative Economy Study

On European level, the City of Ghent is a centre for creative economy. Owing to the presence of the University and the University Colleges in the City, the cultural heritage and the various renowned events and festivals, it is generally known that Ghent is very much appreciated by the innovative and creative companies.

Till now, Ghent did not really have a clear and uniform image as regards the composition of its creative economy. Through this research assignment, the City of Ghent wants throw light on the project and gain a clear insight on the force and the position of the present creative talent. Furthermore, the City wants to know the specific needs of the sector as the City wants to attune its service in the most efficient way. This way, the City of Ghent hopes to be able to develop the Ghent creative economy in a better way.

Results: Creative players in Ghent

The creative economy is composed of six domains: ‘new media’, ‘audiovisual art’, ‘culturally linked activities’, ‘publication and prints’, ‘creative services’ and ‘design, fashion and diamonds’. On Flemish level, Ghent is a biotope for creativity. In comparison with the other Flemish centre cities, the sector is strongly represented both as regards the number of companies as well as with respect to employment.

This way, Ghent and Antwerp represent approximately 50 % of the welfare creation within the creative economy. Ghent boasts more than five hundred creative companies which collectively employ more than 6.000 people. Moreover, approximately 18% of the Ghent self-employed exercises a creative profession. The creative sector is quite varied in Ghent. However, as regards employment there is a concentration in the sub sector ‘new media’ with companies such as Netlog and TomTom and the sub sector ‘culturally linked activities’ with cultural houses such as Vooruit Arty Centre, NTGent but also Capitole. Together, they represent 65% of creative employment. Furthermore, the considerable diversity of small-scale activity is striking. Only a few creative companies employ more than twenty staff members. The Ghent-based creative industry is therefore composed of many self-employed and small organisations. Companies such as In the Pocket and Netlash illustrate however that Ghent boasts an interesting breeding ground to develop as small organisation into a nationally and internationally renowned company.

Strengths and weaknesses for the creative economy in Ghent

Discussions with several actors from various sub sectors of the creative economy revealed that the presence of the Ghent University and various university colleges is a genuine motor of knowledge and creativity for the city.

The 67.000 young, often creative students constitute a significant group of potential talent which attracts a huge number of companies. Moreover, Ghent boasts an excellent score with its policy aimed at supporting all kings of cultural activities and events. In any case, Ghent boasting a considerable number of pubs and restaurants is an agreeable city to live and work in. The increasing interest which is attached to the ‘quality of life’ is most certainly an advantage for Ghent. It is striking, however, that there are relatively few links between the mutual creative industries and the other economic sectors. Furthermore, there is a lack of sufficient high-grade and payable company premises for the creative companies.

Payable space, promotion and networks

The inquiry has demonstrated that Ghent boasts a comprehensive series of assets and sufficient potential as top location for the creative industries. Yet, Ghent can not afford to rest on one’s laurels. If it wishes to keep on assuming a pioneering role in Flanders, it should wage additional means in order to make available suitable and payable space for young, creative enterprises. The discussions with various actors from the creative sector revealed the demand for more promotion. Moreover, they wish to have a meeting place where creative entrepreneurs can get acquainted. Another concrete demand from the sector is the introduction of teaching packages with respect to entrepreneurship within the creative training. This way, young people will be sensitised to start a company and they will have the necessary knowledge from the beginning.

Nutrition for new actions & for the new legislative power

Shortly, the results of the study as regards the creative economy will be presented to the Ghent-based creative entrepreneurs. Together with them we will examine which actions should be elaborated on short or long term in order for Ghent to expand and strengthen its creative economic position. The results of this study and those of the Creative City Index inquiry will be presented to the Ghent Municipality as a basis of inspiration for the long-range plan in the new term of office.

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