Slovak experts in collaboration with Albanian specialists and academia launched a year-long project with goal of boosting the innovation potential of Albanian creatives. The project began in December 2018 in Shkodra with the first Creative Academy for students in creative fields, engineering or business. Creative Industries – such as advertising, architecture, arts, fashion and design, IT and media - are the hidden gem of the innovation community. The sector doubled its contribution to the European GDP from 2,6% in 2005 to 5,3% by 2015. The project is operated by SOVVA (Slovak Organisation for Research and Development Activities) with support of the Slovak Republic’s agency SlovakAid and in cooperation with Slovak Innovation consultancy Neulogy.
Students from 9 Albanian universities developed their understanding of the creative industries field and their business skills during the 2-day long workshop. Future architects, IT specialists, businessmen and businesswomen, designers, civil engineers and urban planners drew inspiration from the examples of Slovak creative industries ecosystem, represented by Dana Kleinert and Zora Jaurova.
Dana and Zora are well-known creatives based in Slovakia but with an international outreach. Dana Kleinert is a fashion designer with her own eponymous brand, who also helped overcome the atomization of the fashion industry in Slovakia by creating Slovak Fashion Council. This organization helps Slovak designers to help fight for their cause, get support from the government and to more easily present themselves at home and abroad. Thanks to Dana´s project did Slovak designers get a chance to present their work in London, during the International Fashion Showcase. Zora Jaurova is a movie producer and creative policies expert, director of the European Capital of Culture 2013 which was awarded to Kosice, Slovakia.
During the workshop, Zora introduced the students to the world of creative industry, its potential and history. Afterwards, students reflected on the similarities and differences between Slovakia and Albania and identified the lessons to be learned and potentially implemented in Albania. The second day of the workshop was devoted to an all-day bootcamp of ideation, validation and business creation. Diverse teams of students got to pitch their ideas and proto-businesses in front of a Slovak-Albanian jury, motivated by the possibility to win a trip to Slovakia. The winning team consisted of Polis University students Esmerina Hidri, Rei Çollaku, Kristi Janku and Xhoi Plesati. Their idea of creating a platform for creatives to showcase their portfolios, in a manner similar to that of LinkedIn provides for professionals, convinced the jury. As a reward, the team will get the opportunity to travel to Bratislava in March 2019 alongside with representatives of the project’s partners from Centre for Competitiveness Promotion, Polis University and others. In Slovakia, they will meet with the local creative industry actors, its filmmakers, fashion designers, architects and other creators.
Experiences from Slovakia show that the first step towards creating an innovative start-up ecosystem is a free and open reflection on issues to solve and skills to utilize. The Shkodra workshop succeeded in transposing this lesson into Albanian context and enabled opening of new lines of thinking about business. The students built upon the traditional Albanian products such as textiles or olive oil and proposed daring ventures, in the likes of investment and consulting for new businesses or disrupting production processes within fashion industry. Daniel Straka, the director of SOVVA praised that the students “have a lot of energy and ideas to change their country via creation of new creative ecosystem in Albania”.
Building on the success of the first Creative Academy, the format will return in Autumn 2019. SOVVA and its partners will also host an Academy for support organizations (private, public and academic sector) in May 2019, where the stakeholders will improve their capacities and expertise in supporting with creative industries. In Autumn 2019, start-us, SMEs from creative industries and their supporters will meet at a regional conference in Tirana. The aim is to create a space for a meaningful exchange of know-how and best practices. If you cannot attend any of the events, the lessons from the Academies will be incorporated in the Virtual Incubator for Creative Industries, intended to be created at the Polis University.