Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Supporting creativity

Manager of the UN Industrial Development Organisation Creative Mediterranean Project Gerardo Patacconi spoke to Nesma Nowar about a new Creative Hub for Egypt’s designers



Habitat and leather designers in Egypt can now benefit from a co-working space that was designed specifically to help them formulate their creative ideas. The Creative Hub was inaugurated this week at the Creative Egypt Store, which showcases Egyptian handicrafts products.

The hub is a collaboration between the Trade Ministry’s Industrial Modernisation Centre (IMC), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It comes as part of UNIDO’s regional Creative Mediterranean Project that aims to contribute to inclusive growth by fostering entrepreneurial cooperation in cultural and creative industries through the promotion of promising cluster initiatives.

What is the Creative Mediterranean Project and what are its objectives?
We developed the project five years ago. The idea is to give opportunities to young women and men to express their creativity and talent. The heritage in the Mediterranean region is very rich, but the region is also very individualistic. Everyone wants to do his own thing, but if you want to reach a market you have to work collectively.

The first step was to identify groups with knowledge and skills that can work on different products and give them the tools to work together. The second step was to apply the concept of social design. Design is a way for young and creative people to express their talents and transform traditional products into products that the market wants to buy. Local designers in the seven countries in which the project is working did not have the chance to express their talents, and they had no market, so we created a market for them.

In the case of Egypt, we are working with two clusters of habitat and leather designers. We have been working with them to take what exists and make it beautiful for the market. Tourism was the main market for these designers, not only in Egypt but also elsewhere. However, with the recent drop in tourism, we have to change that strategy to the export market. We realised, and that’s why we’re here, that in order to do so you can’t work in individual groups and that you need to create a space.
If you want to have a family, you need a house; if you need to cure somebody, you need a hospital, and so for creativity, you need to create a space. These spaces exist in major cities like Tokyo and Milan. The same concept is starting here, and that’s why opening the Creative Hub here is so significant and a first in Egypt and the region. Other countries in the region will be able to learn from this.

What will this co-working space offer Egyptian designers?
The concept and the model we adopted here exists in many countries. The idea, first of all, is that you need a space to interact. Second, you need the possibility of access to information and databases on trends, patterns and colours. Third, there is access to know-how, information, coaching, training, and organising events.  
We have developed this concept in many countries, where we sponsor weekly seminars with big private-sector companies that want to develop new product lines and ideas for which they might seek a consultant or come to a place like this where you have a lot of young talent with ideas.  

Our partnership with the IMC and the Trade Ministry is in order to bring the private sector to this space to use its talent. This process has already started here in Egypt. The design cluster is providing services on design to the furniture industry, but on an individual basis, so we have now created this space to do this with a collective approach. The co-working space also contains a laboratory with a 3D printer and laser cutter. What’s still expensive is prototyping. You can have an idea, but before you reach a market, there’s a process that is the most expensive part of any project, and this can be done in the Creative Hub.

The project works with two clusters, habitat and leather designers. Why these two sectors?
This is a regional project with a formal process. In Egypt, 45 clusters applied to be selected. There was a formal process with the ministry and donors through which we selected these two clusters based on a number of criteria, such as good potential, motivation, and the introduction of a business plan.

But there’s also the potential to expand to other clusters. And what’s beautiful here is that we also have Creative Egypt where you can sell what you produce, even locally. I was also at a big fair in Paris recently where we presented Egyptian products and many of them got orders from small and big producers.

How long has the project been running?
It has been running for four years, and because of its success, not only in Egypt, but in all the countries, our funders, the European Union and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, are giving us additional funds to continue for one-and-a-half years more.

We are also raising additional funds from donors as we have very ambitious plans. In Egypt, for example, we want to use the opportunity of the new Egyptian Museum, for which we have been asked to develop new merchandise. We don’t want to buy things from Asia: we want to use local producers to make new products that can be sold in the Egyptian Museum and also in all museums that have Egyptian sections all over the world.

How can supporting creative industries contribute to Egypt’s economic growth?
From a social point of view, you are giving an opportunity to young people who might have the desire to express their talents, but have no chance to do so. From an economic point of view, creative industries are a growing industry, and all major countries are investing heavily in it because you can combine your skills with the culture and heritage you have. You have a strong culture here, and you can transform that into new products.

This does not only create jobs, but also makes people happy. We are working here with a lot of women and young people. When you give them the chance to express their talents, they become very happy and satisfied.

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