Brussels, 11 Mar 2004
Competitiveness is driven by the existence of a 'creative class', according to a paper by Richard Florida and Irene Tinagli, and published by the UK think tank Demos.
But the development of a creative class depends on what are described as the '3Ts of economic development' - technology, talent and tolerance. Tolerance is the crucial factor which is closing the competitiveness gap between the EU and the US, according to the paper, entitled 'Europe in the creative age'.
The creative class is described as those working in science and engineering, research and development, technology-based industries, the arts, music, culture, aesthetic and design industries, and in the knowledge-based professions of health care, finance and law. Between 25 and 30 per cent of workers in industrial nations currently work in these sectors.
The paper argues that firms are increasingly following talent rather than waiting for the right people to move to where investment and technology are concentrated. And the 'right people', those belonging to the creative class, are drawn to places with open, diverse communities, where difference is welcome and cultural creativity is easily accessed. The authors note that the US' current political climate which has made obtaining visas more difficult for foreign scientists, is undermining the country's competitive advantage.
Some European countries, particularly those in the north, are well positioned to benefit from this trend in the US. 'Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium appear to have distinctive assets with which to compete,' write Professor Florida and Ms Tinagli. 'These countries have considerable technological capabilities, have invested and continue to invest in developing creative talent and also appear to have the values and attitudes that are associated with the ability to attract creative talent from the outside.' Ireland is also highlighted as an 'up-and-coming nation', having experienced significant growth of its creative class since 1995.
Putting all of the indicators together, the 'Euro-creativity matrix' created by Professor Florida and Ms Tinagli divides the EU's Member States into four categories: leaders, up and comers, losing ground and laggards. The results show that the countries traditionally considered to be Europe's economic engine, particularly the UK and Germany, can no longer claim this status, having given way to 'leaders' Finland, Sweden and Denmark, as well as he Netherlands and Belgium, which are not far behind. The UK and Germany are described as 'losing ground'. Under the heading 'laggards' are Spain, Austria, Portugal, Greece and France.
The authors conclude that competitiveness in the 'creative age' remains an open game, and that the US will not necessarily remain the epicentre of the creative economy. 'Traditional economic leaders can lose their position in the nascent creative economy as vibrant, new creative centers quickly emerge. We stand at an intriguing inflection point. The United States, which has for years enjoyed an undisputed eminence in attracting the best and brightest [...] seems poised to surrender its lead. Our studies indicate that the United States' advantage seems to be shifting, in part due to the liberalized immigration policies of many European countries, Canada and Australia, which allows those countries to effectively attract and retain global talent.' To access 'Europe in the creative age', please visit: http://www.demos.co.uk/catalogue/creativ eeurope_page370.aspx