Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation

Logo of the European Year of Creativity and InnovationThe 27 ambassadors of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 published the result of their collective efforts, the Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation, on Friday November 13.

The Manifesto is one of the key outcomes of the European Year and comes with the ambition to shape the European Union’s strategy for promoting creativity and innovation during the next decade. At the handing over ceremony, Commission President Barroso reconfirmed that the Manifesto will inform and feed into the coming EU2020 strategy.

At the time of writing, the Manifesto was available as a pdf-document only, so we wanted to make it fully available online — also out of curiosity what reactions you might have to the ideas outlined in the document.

Some of the guiding questions, as phrased by the European Commisson, were:

How can Europe be at the forefront of the new, globalised, intensely competitive and knowl­edge-based world of the 21st century? How can the creative and innovative potential of Europe be better used in education, research, culture, design, business and the work­place? How can public policy at the European and national levels foster creativity and inno­vation in these fields?

Below is the entire Manifesto preceded by an overview of the 27 ambassadors, a group of “leading European personalities from the fields of culture, science, business, education and design” – hover over the image to see who is who, or click on the image to read the profiles at the website of the European Year.

Update: A little bit of additional context: “The manifesto is largely the product of six debates in Brussels this year on key topics surrounding creativity and innovation.” (Source)

Ferran Adrià Acosta (Spain), Creative Chef Esko Tapani Aho (Finland), Vice-President Nokia Karlheinz Brandenburg (Germany), Professor Information and Communication Technology Jean-Philippe Courtois (France), President Microsoft International Edward de Bono (Malta), Author and speaker on creativity and lateral thinking Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (Belgium), Dance choreographer Ján ÄŽurovčík (Slovakia), Dance choreographer Richard Florida (United States and Canada), Author, professor, economist Jack Martin Händler (Slovakia); Conductor Antonín Holý (Czech Republic), Professor, chemist Remment Lucas Koolhaas (Netherlands), Professor, architect, urban planner Daminu Kumar (Ireland), Designer and inventor Dominique Langevin (France), Professor, physicist Rita Levi-Montalcini (Italy), Nobel laureate professor, neurologist Áron Losonczi (Hungary), Architect and inventor Bengt-Ã Lundvall (Denmark), Professor, researcher on innovation Javier Mariscal (Spain), Designer Radu Mihăileanu (France and Romania), Film director Leonel Moura (Portugal), Conceptual artist Blanka Říhová (Czech Republic), Professor, microbiologist Ken Robinson (United Kingdom), Professor, author on creativity and innovation ErnÅ' Rubik (Hungary), Professor, architect, designer Jordi Savall i Bernadet (Spain), Musician, professor Erik Spiekermann (Germany), Professor, typography designer Philippe Starck (France), Creator, artistic director, designer Christine van Broeckhoven (Belgium), Professor, molecular neuroscientist Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson (Sweden), Professor and President of Karolinska Institutet

European Ambassadors for Creativity and Innovation

Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation [pdf]

The world is moving to a new rhythm. To be at the forefront of this new world, Europe needs to become more creative and innovative. To be creative means to imagine something that didn’t exist before and to look for new solutions and forms. To be innovative means to introduce change in society and in the economy. Design activities transform ideas into value and link creativity to innovation.

In order to progress, Europe needs increased investment — both private and public — in knowledge. Moving ahead with wisdom requires respect for history and the cultural heritage. New knowledge builds upon historical knowledge, and most innovations are new combinations of what is already there. Culture, with its respect for individual and collective memory, is important to maintaining a sense of direction in the current context of restless change.

Creativity is a fundamental dimension of human activity. It thrives where there is dialogue between cultures, in a free, open and diverse environment with social and gender equality. It requires respect and legal protection for the outcomes of creative and intellectual work. Creativity is at the heart of culture, design and innovation, but everyone has the right to utilise their creative talent. More than ever, Europe’s future depends on the imagination and creativity of its people.

The economic, environmental and social crises challenge us to find new ways of thinking and acting. Creativity and innovation can move society forward toward prosperity, but society needs to take responsibility for how they are used. Today, they must be mobilised in favour of a fair and green society, based upon intercultural dialogue and with respect for nature and for the health and well-being of people worldwide.

To create a more creative and innovative Europe, open to the rest of the world and respectful of human values, we present the following manifesto, which sets out our priorities and our recommendations for action. The need for change and a new initiative is urgent. Europe and its Member States must give full attention to creativity and innovation now in order to find a way out of the current stalemate.


  1. Nurture creativity in a lifelong learning process where theory and practice go hand in hand.
  2. Make schools and universities places where students and teachers engage in creative thinking and learning by doing.
  3. Transform workplaces into learning sites.
  4. Promote a strong, independent and diverse cultural sector that can sustain intercultural dialogue.
  5. Promote scientific research to understand the world, improve people’s lives and stimulate innovation.
  6. Promote design processes, thinking and tools, understanding the needs, emotions, aspirations and abilities of users.
  7. Support business innovation that contributes to prosperity and sustainability.

Lines of action

The following lines of action require a new understanding of public policy. The European Commission and national Governments need to engage in change together with social partners and grass-root movements. Shared visions and initiatives that cross traditional policy areas are needed in order to deal with current ecological, social, cultural, security and democratic deficits. Focusing upon creativity and innovation is a key to opening dialogues that cross historical political divides.

Action 1: Invest in knowledge
In order to strengthen the competitiveness of Europe, new budgetary principles that give high priority to investments in people and knowledge are necessary. In the short term, unemployed workers should be offered a chance to upgrade their skills. Business, trade unions and governments should work together in organising the upgrading of workers’ skills through public and private funding. The scale and ambition of the European Structural Funds must be expanded, be focused upon investment in research and knowledge and linked to building institutional frameworks that support learning in working life.

Action 2: Reinvent education
Schools and universities need to be reinvented in partnership with teachers and students so that education prepares people for the learning society. Retrain teachers and engage parents so that they can contribute to an education system that develops the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes for intercultural dialogue, critical thinking, problem-solving and creative projects. Give a strong emphasis to design in education at different levels. Establish a major European-wide research and development effort on education to improve quality and creativity at all levels.

Action 3: Reward initiative
People that take new initiatives in business, the public sector and civic society should be rewarded. Social policies can contribute to innovation by sharing risks with citizens who engage in change. Artists, designers, scientists and entrepreneurs who contribute with new ideas should be rewarded. Prizes for excellence should be combined with legal protection of intellectual property rights and strike a balance between creating fair rewards and promoting knowledge-sharing.

Action 4: Sustain culture
Capacity-building in the cultural sector should be supported through national and European programmes and mechanisms in order to sustain cultural diversity, independence and intercultural dialogue. Creative industries should be promoted by building new bridges between art, philosophy, science and business. The development and use of new media should be stimulated through raising the quality of the content. New economic models must be developed to finance free, diverse, independent and high-quality digital news media.

Action 5: Promote innovation
There is a need for a more ambitious and broad-based innovation policy. Increased investment in science, technology and design should be combined with efforts to increase the demand for knowledge. Firms should be stimulated to combine scientific knowledge with experience-based knowledge. They should be encouraged to increase diversity among employees in terms of gender, education and nationality. The education of engineers, managers and designers should mix theoretical education with practical experience. Innovation policy as well as labour market and education policy should aim at mobilising users and employees in processes of change. Developing and implementing broad innovation policy strategies must be a major concern for political leaders.

Action 6: Think globally
Europe should be at the world-wide forefront in terms of science, culture and competitiveness. Collaboration within Europe in science, technology, education, design and culture needs to be further opened up to the rest of the world. A competitive Europe should develop economic collaboration both with the strong new emerging economies and with the poor countries most in need of support. Promoting innovation in poor countries is a moral obligation and it reduces the pressure of immigration. Europe should contribute to the establishment of fair rules regarding the protection and sharing of knowledge at the global level.

Action 7: Green the economy
Europe must mobilise creativity and innovation to transform itself into a post-carbon society. A key element is eco-innovation and the establishment of a ‘new techno- economic trajectory’ starting from ‘end of pipe’ solutions, moving through ‘clean technologies’ and ending with ‘system innovations’ that radically transform production, distribution and consumption. Investments need to be combined with new institutions, new regulation and new habits. Creativity is the major tool to find solutions that combine sustainability with prosperity.

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What do you think?





8 responses to “Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation”

  1. Pippa Avatar

    The new template looks awesome Andreas! It organises the threads of Nonformality perfectly!

    Another declaration that is on a similar theme to this manifesto is the Declaration of Cultural Revolutionaries. Have you read it already?

    1. Andreas Karsten Avatar

      Thanks, Pippa – for the praise and the link!

      My five favourites:

      _live, act, work with and not against nature
      _know that life is too complex to understand it intellectually
      _value and safe-guard diversity of all kind
      _value and integrate the wisdom of women
      _are aware of change as one of the core principles of evolution

      What has become of the Cultural Revolutionaries?

  2. Andreas Karsten Avatar

    I find the silence around this Manifesto – a silence across Europe – in both traditional and new media quite intriguing, I have to admit. And in particular the online silence surprises me: the Euroblogosphere picks up almost anything, really, from rumour to whisper to news…

    But nope, my feedreader is as quiet as Google Blog Search and good ol’ Technorati confirm.

    On Twitter my brother remarked that the whole thing is stereotypically banal and, quite simply, very boring. While I see his point, I am not sure I entirely agree.

    After all, we speak about the European Institutions that tend to live in the 50s and 60s and have trouble imagining to allow women into their ranks in any meaningful numbers.

    If the European Union Leviathan took only two or three of these actions onboard instead of clinging to its ridiculous agrarian past, wouldn’t Europe become a better place?

  3. Kristin Avatar

    “The Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation” written by the ambassadors of the European Year for Creativity and Innovation, people like Richard Florida, who wrote an entire book about how creativity is the leading force of your economies and societies, and Edward de Bono, who is trying to promote a new way of thinking, saying that we think wrong.

    I read the title and thought that I have to read it. I was sure it’s going to be great, full of creative and innovative ideas. I expected something different, refreshing.

    But it wasn’t. I’m really disappointed. Not because it is boring, but because it only includes ideas and arguments we already know. There is nothing new.

    Andreas, I do agree with you that Europe would be a better place if only 2 or 3 of these actions would be implemented. But is this the benchmark for a Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation? Do we have to be satisfied with the things that might be possible and realistic? Shouldn’t it be the task of these ambassadors to think ahead of everybody else, to think something new?

  4. Andreas Karsten Avatar

    Kristin, you have a point: it’s not boring, it is known. And yes, such a manifesto should much rather look into the future than re-confirm what we know already!

    You know, I think I might go and chase some of these ambassadors to see what they think about their own manifesto.

    Update: Contacted all ambassadors, so let’s see what that gives (if anything).

  5. Andreas Karsten Avatar

    While waiting for responses from the ambassadors, I stumbled over this:

    “To know how good you are at something requires the same skills as it does to be good at that thing. Which means if you’re absolutely hopeless at something, you lack exactly the skills that you need to know that you’re absolutely hopeless.”

    John Cleese on creativity

  6. Kristin Avatar

    Okay, my brain hurts while thinking about this. Maybe I should try again tomorrow morning.

  7. Goran Avatar

    Thanks Andreas, I was not aware about this Manifesto. it seems the authors were not innovative in getting the word out (as you point in your own reflection)
    This brings me to thew main challenge here: Being innovative in promoting innovation is a very being challenge. I am afraid that the text and the core messages – irrespective of their relevance and appropriateness- are a boring read. If only each of the 7 core actions was accompanied by a small touch of communication innovation .