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CICERONE is an ambitious, interdisciplinary international research project. Its main goal is to provide  an innovative way of understanding how of cultural and creative industries or CCIs function and, thus, providing a new foundation for effective policies at EU, national and local levels targeted at these economic activities.

Cultural and creative industries bring us, for example, the books we read, the films we watch and design the buildings we use and the clothes we wear. They produce a vast amount and wide variety of goods and services for which their symbolic value is an essential aspect. Next to making our lives more pleasant, convenient and, arguably, also richer in aesthetic sense, cultural and creative industries are also important as drivers of local economic development while often also contributing to the strengthening of local and regional identities. They can, hence,  be seen as vital economic activities for a vibrant and resilient European economy.


CICERONE, the acronym for ‘Creative Industries Cultural Economy Production Network’, is a collaborative research project, which got funded under the call for proposals from the European Commission. This call was based upon the European Commission’s observation that these CCIs do not yet benefit from the support of a comprehensive sectoral policy scheme in many of the EU member states and at EU level itself. To improve the effectiveness of policies vis-à-vis CCIs, the Commission invited research proposals that were able to support the formulation of recommendations for regional, national and European policies in the field of cultural and creative industries.


The CICERONE project entails a four-year research program on the cultural and creative industries with the aim to offer a comprehensive understanding of how the cultural and creative industries operate. It will analyse these industries on the basis of the Global Production Network approach which has been developed by, among others, Neil Coe. This analytical framework highlights not just the role of the local conditions for different stages of production and consumption, but also that of cross-border linkages while emphasising the importance of forms of embeddedness and that of power structures within these networks. Using this lens for CCIs enables us to uncover webs of interdependence for phases of production and exploring the impact of CCIs on local economic development and identity formation in a more comprehensive way and to identify relevant data gaps.


Looking at CCIs in this innovative way, the CICERONE project aims to:


    1. Improve our understanding of CCIs
    2. Formulate building blocks for policy making in collaboration with various stakeholders
    3. Facilitate a better cross-sectoral mobilization and connections between stakeholders
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Europe’s diverse cultural and creative business ecosystems


Europe has a unique diverse tapestry of creative and cultural industries or CCIs (cf. Sassoon, 2006; European Commission, 2017). It draws on a legacy of political (even city states), social (both landed aristocracy and urban-based bourgeoisie), economic (craft production), religious (different forms of Christianity, Jewish minorities as well as Muslim and other influences), and cultural fragmentation (along linguistic lines , but also urban vs rural and inter- and intra-urban). European CCIs do not only produce a wide variety of goods and services whose main selling point is their symbolic meaning, but they also drive (especially local and regional) economic growth and, in addition, provide cognitive markers for often deeply rooted local heritages thus contributing to social cohesion (Seghezzo, 2009; Dessein et al., 2015). These CCIs consist of both large firms such as, for instance, Endemol, Axel Springer, and LMVH, as well as a plethora of smaller and medium-sized firms and institutions. They, in addition, thrive on a broad set of specialised skills from traditional craftsmanship to sophisticated digital skills and from conceptual design to management and marketing expertise (Friel and Santagata, 2008; Banks, 2015). European CCIs are, then, very well positioned to benefit from a more general trend of aesthetisation of consumer goods and services in developed economies, which according to the French sociologists Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serroy (2013) even amounts to a new phase in capitalism: “capitalisme artiste”.


According to The First Global Map of Cultural Industries (EY, 2015), Europe’s strength as a global cultural powerhouse is rooted in its associated legacy of a unique concentration of heritage and arts institutions. The CCIs – those economic activities which produce goods and services for which their symbolic or aesthetic value is their main selling point – can draw on an extensive multifaceted ecosystems of firms and related institutions in the European Union to create and reproduce the various skills of those involved in making creative commodities and the skills or discerning tastes of the public enjoying and buying them. These intricate ecosystems underpin the production of a wide range of creative commodities from fashion to architectural design and medieval music to modern dance. The CICERONE project builds on the idea that it is through understanding Europe’s diverse cultural and creative business ecosystems that we will be better able to devise policies to enhance the competiveness of CCIs, while at the same time contributing to both and cultural goals.


The local and global integration of cultural and creative industries


The CICERONE project will investigate how CCIs in the EU contribute to (local) economic development, sustainability, social cohesion and identity. Nearly two decades ago, CCIs were first identified as significant drivers of especially contemporary urban economies. These early inquiries started with discussions on how to conceptualise, operationalise and measure these cultural and creative industries (cf. Pratt, 1997; Scott, 2000; Ilczuk and Wieczorek, 2000; Florida, 2002; Power, 2003; Kloosterman, 2004; Power and Scott, 2005). These initial, more general studies, were followed by a large number of much more focused case studies which looked at, for instance, architecture (Kloosterman, 2008), fashion (d’Ovidio, 2015), music (Power and Hallencreutz, 2002), publishing (Sarikakis et al., 2016), performing arts (Tomova, 2004), film (Scott, 2004a; Coe, 2015) and artistic craft (Leslie and Reimer, 2003). These studies typically departed from a cluster perspective in which firms were the main actor said to benefit from proximity and the ensuing agglomeration economies. Early research, then tended to treat the firm as a black box and self-evident basic building block of economic activities, and furthermore privileged local ties over larger spatial scales.


Such an approach, although valuable in its own right, tends to neglect or underestimate changing organisational formats of production (e.g. project-based networks) as well as the supra-local ties which are becoming ever more important as production processes are increasingly carved up into several phases, each of which can take place in separate locations benefiting from specific local conditions (notably the presence of a specialised labour pool or a particular regulatory context). This carving up or ‘second unbundling’ (Baldwin, 2016) is a key characteristic of the current phase of globalisation. The unbundling of CCIs has been shown in Mapping the Creative Value Chains; A Study on the Economy of Culture in the Digital Age (European Commission, 2017). In short, cultural and creative businesses of all sizes thrive on ever quicker and expanding knowledge and business connections across and beyond Europe.


A meaningful understanding of the EU-wide, national, regional and local issues regarding CCIs, then, is only possible if we explicitly take into account how these dispersed, multi-format activities are simultaneously embedded in local contexts and inserted in larger global networks. Consequently, effective policies should be based on a thorough understanding of the evolving multi-scalar spatial division of labour in CCIs involving not just traditional firms but also other actors such as the (often part-time) self-employed (cf. d’Ovidio, 2010; Watson, 2013).


Applying the Global Production Network Approach


To capture CCIs’ simultaneously local and global integration, the CICERONE project will apply the Global Production Network (GPN) approach. The GPN approach departs from the view that contemporary production processes are confined to one place and posits instead that production processes are integrated in complex networks which often comprise locations in a number of countries (Coe, 2015). Such an approach goes beyond traditional value-chain analyses by considering the organisational and spatial patterns of production networks as well as investigating the embeddedness of the various components in multi-scalar institutional regulatory contexts. It entails – among other things – examining the historical roots of local assets (notably the reproduction of specific skills); the power relationships between different actors; and the broader institutional and political setting on various spatial scales. To grasp the multifaceted nature of global production networks of EU-based CCIs, a multi-disciplinary framework which encompasses approaches using insights and methods from geography, sociological, economics, business studies, history and political science is needed.


GPN approaches have often been applied to networks producing tangible, material goods – e.g. cars or electronic devices – as their production processes were among the first products to be unbundled (Henderson et al., 2002; Coe et al., 2008; Coe and Yeung, 2015). Services have only quite recently been analysed from a GPN perspective (Lambregts et al., 2016; Kleibert and Horner, 2018). There have been a few studies applying the GPN perspective to selected CCIs using secondary data (cf. EY, 2015; Coe, 2015; Kloosterman and Koetsenruijter, 2016, 2018). So far, however, no systematic, comprehensive, international comparative analysis of CCIs based on original empirical research from a GPN perspective has taken place. This project will provide cross-border comparative case studies of selected CCIs to unpack their production networks, their embeddedness, and their impact on a local, national and EU-level. This project, then, will be a highly innovative departure from analyses to date and will open a new window on how best to understand the dynamics and impact of CCIs in the EU in an age of hyper-globalisation. The GPN approach will not only structure the research questions, but also reveal gaps in the existing data sets, thereby helping us to address policy-oriented questions in a novel way.


CICERONE’s overall objectives


The overall objectives of this research project are as follows:


A) Improve our understanding of CCIs

Unpack, map and compare the production networks and related flows of select CCI sectors at different spatial scales in order to explore where, how and by whom initial value in the production network is created and where, how and by whom value is captured. Relate these processes of value creation and capture to existing power relationships in select CCI sectors;

Assess which specific skills (more traditional craft as well as digital) are essential to producing creative commodities and investigate how these crucial skills are reproduced and which institutions (state, market and commons) at which spatial scale (local, regional, national and EU-wide) are essential to reproducing them in select CCI sectors;

Explore the labour conditions (wage, working hours, job certainty/precariousness, mobility) and the relationship with social division of labour in terms of age, gender, and ethnicity in select CCI sectors.


B) Policy implications/recommendations

Propose new ways of gathering of data on CCIs based on gaps in the existing data, as identified according to a GPN perspective;

Improve statistical data and quantitative and qualitative methods by setting up a European Observatory, in close cooperation with relevant stakeholder organizations, to aggregate knowledge, address high fragmentation and share strategic intelligence for each region to draw upon;

Analyse the relationship between the institutional regulatory context at different spatial scales and the functioning of CCIs (focusing on entry barriers, financing models, tax incentives, trade agreements, and IPR protection across sectors) in select CCI sectors;

Develop a framework for targeted policies to enhance the contribution of CCI activity to competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainability based on coherent sets of indicators on the national and EU–level.


C) Better mobilization and connections between stakeholders

Develop a practitioners’ platform to identify strategic connections, forms of collective action, and set up intermediaries, substantiated by a “living example” of what we hope to develop over time;

Examine how CCIs, through their direct economic effects, involvement of citizens and symbolic content, can contribute to the social cohesion and identity of social groups.

Establishing sector-specific, country-specific as well as stakeholder-group/focus groups, which will also comprise practitioners and users of data already in the early phases of the project.

Involving non-academic entities including policy makers (on different levels: local, regional, national, EU), entrepreneurs in CCIs (both individual and collective as in associations), workers in CCIs, and intermediaries/tastemakers/critics.


These overall objectives have been translated into more specific objectives in the various work packages of the project. Click here to learn more about these work packages as well as CICERONE’s methodological approach.