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Markéta Mentelová: Even creative industries need to innovate

08.01. 2024
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Creative HUB is one of the incubations offered to innovative startups by the CzechInvest Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. What does innovation in the creative industries look like? What are the trends and how do the Czechs stand in this area? We asked the director of Creative HUB Markéta Mentelová.

What does the layman imagine the creative industry to be?

Creative industries are all areas of the economy where – as the name suggests – creativity is found. For simplicity or narrowing down, the most common is e.g. video game industry, music industry, audio industry, marketing (advertising), design in its entirety (product, industrial, graphic, fashion), etc. But this is not the final list – a painter sells his paintings, a theatre artist sells tickets for performances and museums and castles try to create interesting exhibitions and programmes for their visitors. Simply put, creative industries are made up of people and companies that create something new, creative, cultural, and are able to monetise it and provide it to the market.

And what does innovation in the creative industries look like?

These are a bit of a tricky thing in the creative industries, because underneath the word innovation is a novelty, a significant improvement. And the word creativity is associated with creativity, innovation and novelty. So it’s hard to go to people/companies in the creative industries and tell them that they should create something innovative, because by definition they are always creating something new. A game developer will never make exactly the same video game, a designer will never design the same chair, a filmmaker will never make an identical movie.

So from a creative perspective, creative industries are always new and innovative?

Exactly. But at Technology Incubation, we look for the novelty in technologies and processes that combine with creativity.

Innovation in the creative industries can take the form of e.g. a fashion designer using innovative materials to create his new collection (e.g. mushroom material) that is environmentally friendly. In the video game industry, this can be, for example. development of an AI tool that “animates” computer-controlled characters. For example, museums incorporating virtual reality into their services is also innovative. Their visitors can really have the impression of being in Egypt after putting on their glasses. Thanks to virtual reality, you can even learn to play the piano, and augmented reality is finding its place in advertising and sales. The possibilities are almost endless.

Czechs sometimes refer to themselves as the assembly plant of Europe. Where does the creative sector stand within the Czech industry?

Yes, we talk about ourselves as an assembly plant and most of our economy is still based on traditional industry. That mind-set is still there. For a long time we have been set on these industries, and so the conditions for more open and creative minds have not been there, either at the political level or at the social level.

How many parents out of ten would in good conscience tell their child to be a musician/graphic designer/fashion designer, or even a game developer, which most people still think of as just a shooter? It’s been bred into our minds from a young age that you can’t make a living at it.

Fortunately, the Czechs are historically linked to creativity – we have always been great musicians, we were the top in animation for a time, and glassmaking still represents us very well abroad.
At the same time, we also have a lot of IT majors and smart scientists. And although creativity has always been cultivated mainly through hobbies and has not been given enough space and support at a professional level, I think that this is changing little by little. There are smart people out there, and more and more initiatives are being taken to change teaching in schools to lead to more open minds, critical thinking and independent thinking.

These things will automatically lead to people not being satisfied with beeping their arrival in the morning and leaving in the afternoon, but wanting to realize their dreams. And when you think about those dreams, it can be a great business.

We know that guys “from the garage” can create a video game that will become the most popular VR game in the world and will be sold to one of the biggest companies for billions, or that our glass will decorate the most prestigious and luxurious hotels and yachts in the world. I am optimistic in this regard.

Creative Business Cup 2023 – the largest event of its kind dedicated to the creative industries

What are the trends in this area? What is its future?

The trend is mainly interdisciplinary. At the beginning I tried to list some fields that fall under the creative industries, but it is impossible to pigeonhole and give boundaries. It can’t, because it’s a dead end.

Everything is now connecting. Music festivals are no longer just about bands playing a gig in an hour. It’s a whole ecosystem, a machine that incorporates innovation into its program and tries to improve itself. For example. is dealing with what to do with the large amount of waste generated at the festival, and so the music festival is intertwined with waste management, ecology, and the circular economy (since no one wants to deal with the plastic cups lying on the ground anymore).

The topic of ecology is generally intertwined into the creative industries, it is addressed a lot e.g. fashion designers who are trying to use new, eco-friendly materials.

At the same time, creative industries are trying to use advanced technologies (such as virtual or augmented reality) to visualise their products more effectively and creatively or to develop a completely new product.

Artificial intelligence and its impact on creative industries is currently being intensively discussed. Artificial intelligence will certainly play a big role, but I think it can mainly help the creative industries.

In general, I see a bright future for the creative industries as the world and the world economy are changing. Traditional industries are slowly retreating and will have to adapt. That’s when designers, graphic designers, creatives can jump in to help our traditional companies develop, improve and make the product more attractive.

You already mentioned artificial intelligence. Does it really not threaten the creative industry?

I honestly think AI can be both a threat and an asset. It really depends on how individuals and companies take this on. I mentioned that an innovation in the video game industry could be, for example, the use of AI to bring NPCs (non-playable characters) to life. And this upgrade can generate a lot of money as a result, significantly improving the player’s experience.
In the actual creation of scripts and literary works, and even in painting, the added value is always the creative side of things, that piece of the human soul. So I wouldn’t worry about it. Maybe this will somehow re-sort the market at the beginning and leave only those who take the opportunity to incorporate AI into their work and processes to become AI masters, not slaves.

And those who are able to use AI may find that it makes their jobs immeasurably easier, and in turn they can do other things, be more efficient, more creative, or just enjoy more free time.
Anyway, I wouldn’t worry about all creative professions disappearing because of AI. It seems to me that the consumer society is changing in this regard and after the boom of cheap and same-looking and low-quality toys from China, the society is more and more focused on designer, local products that have a story. Maybe that’s how it will be with AI products as well. Moreover, Czechs have such a specific sense of humour that I don’t think any AI will ever learn it.

How many successful startups have you incubated and which ones? How much has already been invested in promising startups and their support?

In total, we have 13 startups in the creative incubator for the first call and hopefully we will support 14 more in the second call. No startup has completed incubation yet, so big successes are yet to come. I would not like to highlight a specific example of incubation now, but I will reveal that a total of CZK 64,208,590 was invested in promising startups.

We have around 100 million allocated for each call. CZK, which will be distributed among the individual incubators proportionally according to the number of startups that go before the committee as part of the evaluation process. As the creative incubator is still in high demand, it is one of the most popular incubators, along with the AI incubator. Let’s see what happens in the third challenge.

What about computer games – the Czech Republic is quite successful in this area – how is this possible? Is it just the present, or do we have potential for the future?

The video game industry is probably my favourite topic. We are great at it, we have several very successful studios and games in the Czech Republic. As I mentioned before, we also have a good background in IT and graphics, and the Czechs are generally an inventive nation, so it’s no wonder the video game industry has taken off here.

Unfortunately, he is currently hitting certain limits of his development and it is not easy for him to take off. There is a shortage of qualified people – gaming has a lot of open positions, they have to recruit foreigners, but the visa process in the Czech Republic is not keeping up. Many EU countries have systematic support for video games, but we have nothing like that in the Czech Republic. This automatically puts our studios at a disadvantage and makes them less competitive from the start.

Yet the growth of the video game industry continues to grow. Elsewhere, they understand better that systematically supporting something that grows steadily and employs educated and creative people pays off. Fortunately, this is slowly changing and hopefully the State Cinematography Fund will be transformed and things will be better. Maybe in time it will reach investors and VC funds, which tend to look for startup unicorns, but you can really make money from video games.

Creative Business Cup 2023

Creative Business Cup

How does the Creative Business Cup benefit the participants?

The Creative Business Cup is, dare I say, one of the biggest events focused on the creative industries, bringing together business, innovation infrastructure, municipalities, public and private institutions. Each time we organize the competition in a different region, and thanks to the organization we bring together local actors in the creative industries, who have the opportunity during the event itself to reflect and discuss how the creative industries are in their region, what to improve, how to be inspired.

It’s a competition for startups that learn to “sell” their product and highlight the most important things in three minutes during the preparation for the competition. At the same time, they will receive valuable feedback on their product not only from the experts on the panel, but also from other participants they meet during the event. They will gain important contacts for the future and inspiration. In addition, the winner will receive the biggest prize of all, participation in the international finals in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Both the winner and the second and third place winners receive valuable prizes from our partners, which are often mentoring hours of business development or legal consulting services.

How many participants were there last year?

Each year we select 10 finalists, last year we selected from over 30 entries, the year before last we had 40 entries, so we’ll see how the entries go this year.

NEBESYS was successful last year – what will winning bring them?

Nebesys was the first ever winner of the Czech round and won the world final. This brought them mainly visibility. Both in the world and especially in our country, where the news of their success went around the media and provided them with really solid PR. Czechs like to be proud of Czech achievements, and I think that has had a lot to do with it. It remains to be seen how and if this will have a significant impact on their business. I personally believe they are at least a lot more well known now.

When is this year’s event taking place and when do I need to register? Any news coming up?

The next edition of the Creative Business Cup 2024 will take place on 14 March in Liberec. Applications are now open until 10. January. So don’t hesitate.

Next year, we decided to expand the event in cooperation with the Innovation Centre, open it to the public and really show the amazing innovative projects to experts, the public and investors. The national final, which takes place in the early evening, is therefore being extended to include an expo zone during the afternoon hours, where not only the competitors will be able to present their projects.

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