New light on Business Innovation in the Arts by Stephanie Dieckvoss and Jerneja Rebernak

On 13th October 2016, the University of the Arts London is organizing the first of eight Creative Lenses Forums in Europe, bringing together people who want to explore business model innovation in the arts. This forum is part of the Creative Lenses project, funded by the European Union which seeks to make arts and cultural organisations more resilient and sustainable by improving their business models and developing their long-term strategic and innovation capacities. This practical research programme works over 4 years with 13 partners across nine countries, consisting of a range of arts organisations, umbrella networks, and two academic institutions.

It will be extremely invigorating to have as many Knowledge Quarter organisations attending the Forum as possible. Similarly to the Knowledge Quarter, Creative Lenses is committed to supporting small and medium sized, multidisciplinary organisations and to make London, as a creative hub, the ideal place for people to come together and share knowledge and practices aiming to build innovative business and organizational models.  As it becomes clear that models have to be adaptable and specific and that there can’t be a one size fits all approach to innovation, it becomes more urgent than ever that knowledge becomes a shared practice.

The project has become even more relevant in the current times of political and economic uncertainties. All partners across Europe share these concerns. While the root causes might be different, organisations need to work together to support each other and learn from each other to ensure that culture remains at the core of how we make sense of the challenges surrounding us. Lucy Kimbell, Director of the Innovations Insights Hub, University of the Arts London, who leads UAL’s contribution to the project comments:

This is a time of uncertainty about the future directions for Europe. We are all facing questions about belonging, participation and agency. At such times, culture and identity become ever more important as ways for people to understand and negotiate what is shared and what is different. Few people would disagree that arts and cultural organisations play important roles in helping audiences and communities explore such themes. And yet financial pressures and new technologies are reshaping the landscape for the arts. What kinds of business models are possible? What do arts managers need to be thinking about to create resilient organisations? Lucy Kimbell, Director Innovation Insights Hub


CSM_blog_1As part of its contribution to the Creative Lenses project, UAL has commissioned an overview of recent research on business model innovation in the UK performing arts organisations and venues based on non-academic (grey) literature. It has emerged that organisations are already pursuing greater income diversification and cost reduction through a combination of traditional revenue sources, such as fundraising or audience expansion, and innovative practices based on collaborations, new commissioning models or the development of new products and services. Also technology is of course widely debated. It is a cross-cutting resource enabling new approaches in all domains. However, the sector overall is still testing the potential of digital tools and use of digital data. These aspects will also be discussed during the Forum. More experimentation and more investment are needed to identify and spread effective strategies and to develop capabilities to implement them. While public subsidy remains a valued resource enabling experimentation, this option becomes scarcer. What is encouraging is that the wide variety of capital resources, capacities and drivers shaping the futures of arts and cultural organisations means that multiple business models are emerging.

Diversity and the appreciation of multiple views can only be achieved through collaborations and this is where one of the strengths of Creative Lenses lies. It is the working together of partner organisations across Europe who shape the outcome of the project as much as all the stakeholders attending the Forums and participating in the project in any other way.

The Creative Lenses Forum on 13 October will present some of this research and share it with professionals engaged and passionate about the arts. It will furthermore encourage the sharing of experiences in a number of workshops and highlight some of the innovation potential arts organization already own as core capabilities but might not always realize. The full programme will be published early September here. Above all, the aim of the forum as much as the Creative Lenses project as a whole is to help arts organisations to grow in their aim to make a difference. To secure your place please register here.


Stephanie Dieckvoss, is Lecturer at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London and Creative Lenses Forum Producer.

Jerneja Rebernak is EU Research & Enterprise Coordinator at the University of the Arts London and Creative Lenses Project Manager.