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European Commission - Fact Sheet

Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor

Brussels, 6 July 2017

Questions and answers

The EU is a knowledge and creativity intensive economy where the cultural and creative sectors have a special role to play. They are one of the most dynamic branches of our economy, driving innovation, growth and job creation as well as fostering social cohesion. Better support for creativity and creative talent is key to reshaping the EU's approach to growth and innovation in the new digital-sharing economy environment.

This first edition of the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor shows how well 168 selected cities in 30 European countries (EU28, plus Norway and Switzerland) perform on a range of carefully selected measures grouped along nine dimensions describing the ‘Cultural Vibrancy', the ‘Creative Economy' and the ‘Enabling Environment' of a city.

The Monitor supports the European Commission's efforts to put culture at the heart of its policy agenda and promote the social and economic development of cities and regions. The European Capitals of Culture  initiative, one of the most recognised EU projects, is designed to put cities at the heart of cultural life. It is supported by the Commission's Creative Europe programme which also funds successful policy projects in this area, such as Culture for Cities and Regions, the European Creative Hubs Network and the Creative Lenses/Trans Europe Halles network. These are all examples of successfully working with municipalities for whom cultural and creative industries are a very important topic.

The results of the Monitor highlight what cities are good at and where there is room for improvement. They also show that the best performing cities are not necessarily best in everything, but instead rely on key strengths in different areas.

What is the background to EU policy on culture?

Since the adoption of the first ‘European Agenda for Culture in a Globalising World' (2007), culture has taken an increasingly prominent place in European Union policymaking. The transversal dimension of culture and creativity as a contributor to smart, inclusive and sustainable growth and as a catalyst for innovation in a wider economy has been recognised in different EU policy documents, such as the Communication on promoting the cultural and creative sectors of growth and jobs in the EU (2012), the Communication on cultural heritage (2014) or the European Parliament Resolution on a coherent EU policy for cultural and creative industries (2016).

As specified in the EU Work Plan for Culture for 2015–2018, one of the four priority areas concerns the cultural and creative sectors, in particular the role of the creative economy in boosting innovation.

What is the main goal of the Culture and Creative City Monitor?

Mapping cultural and creative assets and measuring their value and impact in a systematic and comparable way across Europe remains a challenge, with no shared definitions or metrics, particularly at city level.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission's in-house science service, has developed the ‘Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor' in order to fill this information gap. It provides a common evidence base on culture and creativity at city level to:

  • Support policy makers in identifying strengths, benchmarking their city against peers and learning from them, and assessing the impact of their policies;
  • Highlight and communicate the importance of culture and creativity in improving socio-economic perspectives and resilience;
  • Inspire new research and approaches to studying the role of culture and creativity in cities.

Overall, the goal of the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor is to engage the public and policy makers alike to fully acknowledge the importance of culture and creativity on today's society and trigger investments in promoting culture and creativity.

What does the Monitor measure?

The first edition of the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor allows monitoring and assessing the performance of 168 ‘Cultural and Creative Cities' in Europecompared totheir peers using both quantitative and qualitative data.

The quantitative information is captured in 29 indicators relevant to nine dimensions reflecting three major facets of cities' cultural, social and economic vitality:

  • Cultural vibrancy measures the cultural ‘pulse' of a city in terms of cultural infrastructure and participation in culture;
  • Creative economy captures how the cultural and creative sectors contribute to a city's employment, job creation and innovative capacity;
  • Enabling environment identifies the tangible and intangible assets that help cities attract creative talent and stimulate cultural engagement.

Figure 1. Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor's conceptual framework and indicators

The qualitative component includes key facts and manifestations of cities' cultural and creative lives, ranging from the main cultural sites, artistic institutions and live events to the development of policy strategies and infrastructure (such as funds, tax incentives, creative incubators, fab labs, i.e. small-scale workshops offering digital fabrication, where the right equipment is there to experiment with digital creation – 3D printing, milling, etc. -, where people come together, in physical reality or virtually through the internet and create together toys, experimental designs, and other tools). These demonstrate a city's commitment to supporting culture and creativity.

Figure 2. The ‘ideal' Cultural and Creative City

The results unveil what cities are good at (to help them strengthen their Smart Specialisation Strategies, for instance) and where they can do better, learning from similar cities. European diversity thus provides a learning platform for cities wishing to further develop a culturally vibrant and creative ecosystem.

How can you say that smaller cities have more culture than bigger cities?

Data checking included a number of steps. The expression of the indicators in per capita terms is one of them. This approach is primarily intended to enable cross-city comparability but also rewards cities which have more cultural and creative assets per inhabitant. This is why smaller cities may score higher than bigger (and often uncontestably rich and vibrant) ones. For example, Limerick, Ireland, scores better on museums than Lisbon or Paris for instance. To avoid misinterpretations, interested users are invited to benchmark similar cities. The online platform offers users the opportunity to explore results based on similar population sizes, employment rates and wealth groups. The polycentric pattern of ‘Cultural Vibrancy', with strong capitals and non-capital cities in many parts of Europe, reveals the power of cities of different sizes, including smaller or less centrally located urban areas of Europe, to attract and retain educated and creative individuals.

How did you select cities?

168 cities have been selected based on three measurable and comparable criteria which can be consistently applied across a wide and diverse pool of cities in Europe (see Annex I in the report):

  1. 93 cities which have been or will be European Capitals of Culture up to 2019, or which have been shortlisted to become European Capitals of Culture up to 2021;
  2. 22 UNESCO Creative Cities (including the most recent winners in 2015) – excluding overlap with the European Capitals of Culture;
  3. 53 cities hosting at least two regular international cultural festivals running until at least 2015.

The selection also includes all the capital cities of the 30 countries covered by the Monitor (EU plus Norway and Switzerland).

Thirteen cities have been included in the Monitor but not in the final rankings because they did not meet the data coverage criterion, meaning at least 45% data coverage at the index level and at least 33% for the ‘Cultural Vibrancy' and ‘Creative Economy' sub-indices.

The rankings and the analysis presented are therefore always based on a total of 155 cities, but qualitative information is provided for the full sample of 168 cities.

However, the chosen group of cities is not intended to be exhaustive nor definitive. Clearly, many other cities can be active in promoting arts, culture and relating creative activities and professions to reach their socio-economic objectives. For instance, cities may have adopted ambitious cultural strategies or initiated culture-led urban regeneration projects.

What is the future of the Monitor?

This tool represents a first step towards creating a better measurement and understanding of how diverse Cultural and Creative Cities behave and perform across Europe, based on a snapshot of the most recent years.

The 2017 edition of the Monitor establishes a sound starting point but it is expected to be updated every two years in order to make sure that it remains both conceptually and statistically sound across countries, cities and time, and that progress can be tracked. The JRC team is in particular already exploring big data sources that would enhance the Monitor's capacity to capture informal cultural venues – such as cultural clubs, for instance. Google Maps and Open Street Map for instance are sources that could offer this kind of information.

In addition, an app will be released in the course of 2018 to complement the Cultural and Creative Cities' profiles with facts and opinions provided by citizens, on cities' ‘hidden treasures'.

Is there scope for adding new cities in the next edition?

Some of the European cities meeting at least one of the three selection criteria have not been included in this 2017 edition of the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor due to poor data coverage. Some of them could be added in future editions as long as more data become available. More generally, the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor is an open instrument: any city is given the opportunity to monitor its performance on culture- and creativity-related aspects. While the three selection criteria represent a pragmatic entry point to select a first city sample to start with, the online platform enables users to input new data or change the weights to the dimensions and sub-indices to better reflect what matters more locally.

For More Information

Press release

MEMO/17/1804

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email


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