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In 2006, the Flemish government approved a new policy toolbox for companies in the culture industries sector: CultuurInvest.

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Belgium/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.3 Cultural/creative industries: policies and programmes

Flemish Community

Culture industries are defined as producers or distributors of cultural products or services, the cultural content being of utmost importance for the economic value of the products and / or services; where the actors intend to market the output and to realise a return.

Cultural industry organisations are seen as a major partner in the realisation of certain objectives of Flemish cultural policy. In certain sectors they are responsible for, as an example, the distribution or production of cultural products. Various initiatives have been taken to support these actors within the cultural domain.

The Arts Decree and the Cultural Heritage Decree (see chapter 5.2) both offer legal bodies with a commercial character the possibility of requesting project support or support for publications. Specifically with regard to the audiovisual arts, production investors can lay claim to a tax shelter and the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF) offers production support for audiovisual creations. The management agreement between the government and the public broadcaster (VRT) states that the VRT must also participate in independent Flemish audio-visual productions, e.g., feature films, TV drama and documentaries.

On 31 March 2006, the Flemish government approved a new policy toolbox for companies in the culture industries sector: CultuurInvest. The sectors covered include: new media and computer games, the audiovisual sector and digital design, the music industry and concert scene, design and fashion design, printed media and graphic design, publishing and the book trade, music and performing arts, and distribution companies within the visual arts sector.

CultuurInvest had three methods of support:

  • project financing: short term and bridge financing for specific projects;
  • growth capital: capital participation in more mature growth companies; and
  • subordinated loans: quasi-capital as long-term investment in the companies belonging to the target sector.

CultuurInvest also intended to provide management support and coaching to cultural entrepreneurs. CultuurInvest was subsumed under the Participatie Maatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV, Flanders Participation Company) from its initiation. After a start-up period, the first projects were presented in mid-2007. In 2011 and 2015, the effectiveness of the instrument was evaluated. Based on the second evaluation, policy has been changed and a new tailor made initiative will be launched in 2018: ‘Cultuurbank’.

Also in other policy domains, initiatives have been taken by different bodies to stimulate innovation and creativity in Flanders.

Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship is a government agency. It helps Flemish companies and research centres to realise their research and development projects by providing funding, advice and a network of potential partners in Flanders and abroad. It also supports the Flemish Government in its innovation policy. IMEC is an independent research institute founded by the Flemish government to stimulate innovation in science and technology.

The Social Innovation Factory is a networking organization that promotes, guides and supports social and societal innovative concepts.

Flanders DC, short for Flanders District of Creativity, is a Flemish governmental organisation that promotes entrepreneurial creativity throughout the region through network development, research and events. In 2011, Flanders DC coordinated the Overleg Creatieve Industrie (Creative Industries Consultation), consisting of representatives of 12 sectors, drafting a vision statement with recommendations to achieve an optimal development of the creative industries in Flanders. Also in 2011, Flanders DC's knowledge centre – together with Antwerp Management School –  conducted a study on the economic impact of the creative industries in Flanders.

French-speaking Community of Belgium

The aim of cultural policies is to take better account of the entrepreneurial character of certain cultural operators, for example jobs linked to building sets and sewing costumes, publishing, or the provision of cultural services. One way to factor in this specific character lies in facilitating their insertion into the economic framework, in terms of tax burdens, employment charges and investment.

The French-speaking Community of Belgium believes that these cultural and creative sectors need to be recognised on two scores: on the one hand, for their intrinsic cultural value and their contribution to the welfare of the citizens, social cohesion and integration, and the reinforcement of cultural diversity, and on the other, for their contribution to the economy, in terms of growth and jobs.

In that context, several initiatives have been set up to support and develop the cultural and creative industries, and in particular:

  • Wallimage: Created in 2001 by Wallonia, SA Wallimage was a pioneer in the field as her economic mission has clearly been oriented to the development of the audiovisual industry, and this since its inception. Wallimage has two subsidiaries with explicit names: Wallimage Coproductions and Wallimage Entreprises. What the first invests in movies or series, fiction, animation and documentary, must be spent in Wallonia and Brussels by the beneficiary producer. Regarding the competition between projects, Wallimage Coproductions generates today 400% of local audiovisual benefits (Source: Ernst & Youg certified study). This financial windfall (over € 100 M in 13 years!) has attracted dozens of regional providers in digital industry. Wallimage Entreprises intervenes to support them for their installation and / or development in Wallonia, proceeding by subordinated loans or participation in their capital.
  • TWIST: This cluster with ‘dancing initials’ (Walloon Technologies for Image, Sound and Text) is logically coming as an added project to the dynamics initiated by Wallimage. Its aim and ambition are to build a network for the various companies related to the world of image and sound whose number is growing in Wallonia. Recent developments in this sector which converges increasingly to that of computer led to a rapprochement with the ICT Cluster, notably via the creation of a common web platform: Twistic. Recently, the model has been included in Brussels under the name Screen.Brussels
  • St’art: The St’art investment fund is a financial instrument that is unique in Brussels and in Wallonia. It dates back to the end of 2009 and is the fruit of a shared determination by the Walloon Region and the French-speaking Community of Belgium to support the development of the creative economy. St’art is designed for small and medium-sized enterprises, including non-profits. The fund contributes towards the creation of enterprises or the development of existing structures, for example, to carry out a new project, create a product or conquer new markets. The fund’s involvement takes the form of loans and holdings. The objective is to create a lever effect with the banks and private investors. St’art works in close collaboration with the public bodies and regional investment funds. This means that St’art’s intervention complements the other existing financial mechanisms and any public aid packages.
  • Creative Wallonia: the Walloon Region has set up this framework programme to restructure, reinforce and modernise its economic fabric, by placing creativity and innovation at the heart of the Walloon project. By creating links between business dynamism, the quality of the academic and scientific resources, workers’ skills and the various initiatives taken over recent years, the results are remarkable for every citizen. Several studies or indicators highlight the excellent results achieved by Wallonia. This policy of innovation is based on society as a whole, a creative society. The issue today is to ensure the survival of this enterprising and systematic approach in the area in order to maintain and accentuate this favourable trend.

Furthermore, the French-speaking Community of Belgium provides support, via the Cinema and Audio-visual Centre (CCA), for the audio-visual production sector. Accordingly, the whole chain of parties actively involved in the process of creating audio-visual works are enabled to benefit from this support. It notably takes the form of aid to creation, aid to promotion and aid to training.

Public service TV and radio, a cultural industry in itself, is invited to collaborate with independent audio-visual producers. To do this, it earmarks part of its resources for the creation of creative works, such as fiction or animated shorts or feature films (including those for young people), televised works of fiction, TV films, series, collections and documentaries, shorts and web documentaries or web fiction.

Chapter published: 16-01-2018

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