Reassigning the value of unconnected resources

Creative potential is often revealed when one connects things others see as unrelated. Each element might be small but brought together the whole is large. This is how the creative or cultural industries concept initially developed. The individual music, film, graphics, theatre, dance and visual arts sectors were relatively small and usually assessed in isolation, yet when the interconnections between sectors were identified and their overall scope and scale assessed, it was realized they made up roughly 4 per cent of most developed economies and in major cities like London more than 10 per cent.9 All major cities in the world have now cottoned on to their poten-tial.10 Rather like water, electricity or IT, they are now seen as part of the physiology that makes any economy work. Apart from providing products in their own right, such as music or film, they can add symbolic value to any product or service. Encouraging these industries is one of the most powerful means of enhancing the city's identity and distinctiveness, while simultaneously creating employment and generating social capital. In a world where every place is beginning to feel and look the same, cultural products and activities mark one place from the next. And tangible difference creates competitive advantage.

Debates and insights from within cultural studies and economic theory have played a part in understanding culture's invigorated role in society. Developing a culture is a process of meaning-making and identity-creation, and within that all products play a part because they embody symbolic value and trigger experiences. Increasingly consumers buy products not for their practical purpose or technical qualities but for the experience and meaning they hope they will engender. Thus design and aesthetics take on a completely new and more significant role as the value of styling increasingly predominates. This means that the economy is progressively a cultural one as it is determined and driven by cultural priorities.

The economic transformation has required innovation to reinvent older industries, invent new products and services, and to create completely new economic sectors. Creative professional services in particular, such as design and advertising, have helped create innovative concepts and ideas for other branches of industry, ranging from food and clothing to automotive and telecommunications services, which can add value to functional products. In this way they contribute to product development and the positioning of goods and services in the market by increasing their experiential register.11 Significantly, products and services arising from and geared to popular culture and the media and entertainment industries are themselves drivers of innovation. For instance advances in computer gaming find applications in areas as diverse as mining safety or healthcare.

There are neglected industry sectors, such as healthcare, that can give quiet, unremarkable cities a leading edge. In fact, these more public sectors are not often regarded as industries as such and this can engender a trust often withheld from other sectors. Further, their remit is perceived to extend beyond a particular specialism and they can connect previously disconnected economic endeavours. Exploring health possibilities, for example, we can see how seemingly disparate economic activities can be brought together, such as holiday and convalescing resources, nutrition and organic food, projecting a city as a place to recharge batteries, a capacity to provide medical operations perhaps at a lower cost, or specific medical research strengths. In this way, a calm, seemingly dull city could become a hospital and recovery space. Equally, the discipline of design might map disease processes, of the heart, for example, and thus might lead to medical innovations. Interestingly, in recon-ceiving sectors like health, it is unlikely that such a sector would be invented by the medical profession or health ministry alone, and for it to flourish should probably not be controlled by them. More likely an outsider to the profession would see the potential.

Cities with a narrow resource base and smaller size should be able to focus on smart linkages more easily, since different players are more likely to know each other. An example is Sci-Art.12 Sci-Art brings artists and scientists of all kinds together to work in a structured environment on projects of mutual discovery and benefit. The Sci-Art concept is based on the premise that the most fruitful developments in human thinking frequently take place at points where different lines of creativity meet. Over the years the Sci-Art competition in Britain, funded initially by Glaxo-Wellcome, brought together more than 2000 artists and scientists, breaking down the widespread mutual incomprehension between the disciplines; working in partnership combined insights to solve common problems and generate ideas. Powerful new concepts being developed by artists and scientists working together are potentially as ground-breaking as those that launched the industrial revolution.

Can ideas in themselves become tradable services? Is there a way of reconceiving the value and outcomes of events and conferencing, such as Adelaide's Festival of Ideas, in terms of selling on conclusions or acting as an experimentation zone. This could be for trialing and testing commercial products. The goal would be to drag more out of opportunities. The change in focus suggests moving from creating value chains to creating self-reinforcing value loops.

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