Chapter 1 Setting the scene
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This chapter aims at introducing the whole book, highlighting its main novelties. The existing debate on culture, creativity and local development is presented. The research question on the mediating role of creativity between cultural heritage and development and the general conceptual framework are also thoroughly explained. Finally, the structure and the organization of the overall work is described.


The importance of culture and creativity for local socioeconomic development is at the core of an extremely topical debate. In particular, the European Commission itself (2012) stressed how culture nourishes souls and unites communities, while creativity helps in finding new answers to the challenges our societies and economies face every day. These elements may therefore be seen as devices with which to also generate an economic effect, especially when they become relevant and visible components of the character of communities and of specific spatial contexts. In this sense, they are likely to stimulate economic growth, diversity and citizens’ well-being. As a consequence, culture should be at the centre of policy design at the European, national and local levels in terms of protection of cultural heritage and incentives for cultural and creative industries.1 This attention to such topics goes hand in hand with the fact that 2018, the time of writing this book, was the European Year of Cultural Heritage2 and the recent release of the first edition of The Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor3 and the New European Agenda for Culture.4

More generally, the role that cultural heritage and creativity can play in regional development has been increasingly recognized in the existing literature by scholars and international institutions (e.g., European Council, 1999; Florida, 2002a; Faro Convention, 2005;5 European Commission, 2007, 2012; Lazzeretti, 2007; UNCTAD, 2008, 2010; Council of the European Union, 2014; Greffe, 2016). In fact, the many links between culture, creativity and economic practice have become major topics of interdisciplinary debates in recent years and the importance of culture and creativity permeates the global economy. Culture is not limited to artistic practice/performance or heritage, nor is creativity confined to networks of creative workers and entrepreneurs: culture and creativity are put into practice by workers and individuals in a range of occupational, institutional and geographical settings. This underlines the importance of paying critical academic attention to the peculiarities of the different social, political, technological and cultural models that enable, hinder or favour the creative and cultural economy.

In this sense, the territorial dimension has been recognized as significant and the importance of local history and cultural heritage – as well as the role of communities, residents and consumers – in shaping the features of local systems and in affecting their economic outcomes has been strongly emphasized (see, for instance, JPI, 2014; Symbola and Unioncamere, 2017). Culture and creativity are produced in particular places and at particular times; thus, history very significantly contributes to places’ current shape (Santagata, 2002a). Context is important in social, cultural and economic fields (Pratt, 2008) and place, culture and economy are symbiotic elements (Sacco and Segre, 2009). The distinctive cultural resources of a given area indeed express a unique identity and heritage that provide the basis for reimagining and reinventing the future (Bradford, 2004). Related to this, the critical role that creative and cultural activities can play in enhancing innovation and urban competitiveness has generated wide interest (Baycan, 2011). The new role of culture and creativity in the physical and economic revitalization of local areas has been stressed, according to a perspective that sees today’s economy as a mix of leisure, culture and creativity (Mommaas, 2004). Indeed, the success of a territorial system not only depends on the quantity and quality of the material resources it is endowed with; it also, and fundamentally, depends on the abundance of its cognitive elements, or the way individuals think and behave (Capello, Caragliu and Nijkamp, 2011). The intangible elements connected with culture and innovative capacity indeed accumulate through slow processes of individual and collective learning. Therefore, they are, by their very nature, localized and cumulative, embedded in human capital and in the relational networks of the local context.

In terms of economic policy, cultural heritage has generally been considered in the past as a cost to society, a financial burden mainly borne as a moral duty. Museums, ancient monuments and historic buildings have been maintained at public expense, as places that have not – with a few exceptions – directly generated measurable economic gain. However, cultural heritage is currently being recognized by both governments and citizens as a means of improving economic performance, people’s lives and living environments (European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, 2015) – a significant change in focus from cultural activities being traditionally regarded as a cost to society to being valued as a positive contributor to economic performance. According to UNCTAD (2010, p.8), cultural heritage is the origin of all forms of art and the soul of cultural and creative industries. In addition, it is also increasingly being looked at as an economic asset (local comparative advantage) in terms of a precious resource for economic growth, employment and social cohesion, but also as a basis for sustainable development and quality of life (European Council, 2014). It is also seen as a catalyser of cooperation and personal development (CHCfE, 2015). According to the European Commission (2014), regions hosting heritage sites become drivers of economic activity, centres of knowledge, principal points of creativity and culture, and places of community interaction and social integration. In this sense, they generate innovation and contribute to ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (European Commission, n.d.). Greater use of the economic potential of cultural heritage is thus encouraged at the European and international institutional levels (see also UNESCO, 2013). Hence, culture is no longer something to be ‘watched’; it has been transformed into something to be ‘lived’.

As for creativity, research in this field has long been the domain of psychologists, mainly due to the fact that creativity is seen as a personality trait (Fritsch and Sorgner, 2013). Relatively recently, however, scholars from other research fields (philosophy, psychometrics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, history, design, economics, business and management) have provided significant contributions to this topic and creativity currently represents an emerging paradigm, being at the centre of a lively scientific debate involving scholars from different fields. In particular, it has been recognized that creativity is a major driver of innovation,6 and it is thus of crucial importance for economic growth7 (Andersson et al., 1993; Florida, 2002a; UNCTAD, 2008, 2010; European Commission, 2010). Therefore, the nature and the scope of the relationship between creativity and economics and how they interact to generate value and wealth have emerged as an interesting area of study (Howkins, 2007). Creativity has also become an important objective for development policies, which are paying particular attention to the territorial dimension of innovative processes (Lazzeretti, 2007, p.169). There is indeed a growing consensus that innovation does not simply occur in the domain of scientific discovery, but across all sectors of the economy (Vinodrai and Gertler, 2006). Hence, innovation is not limited to the high-technology sector, and the critical role that creative and cultural activities can play in fostering innovation and urban competitiveness is becoming increasingly recognized (Baycan, 2011). In addition, creativity has recently been extensively discussed in urban and regional studies, which have offered the literature some new and extremely interesting concepts such as ‘creative class’ (Florida, 2002a), ‘creative industries’ (e.g., UK-DCMS, 1998, 2001), ‘creative milieu’ (see, among others, Landry, 2008; Baycan, 2011) and ‘creative city’ (Landry, 2008, 2011). The international debate in the past few years has been dominated by these popular approaches. In fact, there has been a shift from a system in which most value arose from a set of physical inputs – labour, machines, raw materials – to a system in which most of the value produced comes from immaterial inputs related to human knowledge, intelligence and creativity. These are fundamental conditions for generating innovation and development. Indeed, today, it is the capability to innovate, to continuously create – rather than to produce or reproduce mechanically – that build specific and durable advantages (Tinagli, 2008).

The existing literature has also suggested that there is a relation between cultural heritage and creativity. Back in 2005, the Faro Convention already stressed how these elements are linked, the promotion of cultural heritage protection being a central factor in the mutually supporting objectives of sustainable development and creativity. Later, the European Commission (2014) considered the contribution of cultural heritage through its direct and indirect economic potential, including the capacity to strengthen cultural and creative industries and to inspire creators and thinkers.

However, the evidence on the link between cultural heritage and economic performance on the one hand and creativity and economic performance on the other, is still inconclusive. The positive impact of cultural heritage on economic performance, for instance, is often just assumed, according to the idea that, cultural heritage being an economic asset, it must have a positive effect on economic development. When a transmission channel is considered, this is typically (and almost exclusively) cultural tourism (see, among others, Carr, 1994; Snowball, 2013), according to a linear and mechanical ‘tourism → demand → income multiplier effect → production → development’ model.

With regard to creativity, the relevant effect of this factor on economic development has often been hyped, but rigorous empirical evidence on this is mixed. This is mainly due to the objective difficulties in defining and measuring creativity, since the concept is blurred, intangible and multidimensional and definitions and measures are usually adjusted to fit the specific issues to be analysed.

Clarifying the channels through which the cultural and creative features of a local area can positively affect its economic development is therefore extremely relevant to designing appropriate policies that are able to effectively trigger and push economic performance, taking advantage of (and incentivizing) the peculiar cultural and creative features of local areas. In particular, although the literature has largely taken into account cultural heritage and creativity as leverages of local economic development, and has also mildly suggested a linkage between the two assets, a clear identification of the intersections of the two spheres has never been studied in depth. Indeed, interestingly, within the famous Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe report (CHCfE, 2015, p.58) creativity and innovation, sense of place, cultural landscape and social cohesion have not been specifically taken into account among the potential areas of cultural heritage impact in economic terms. In this book, the aim is to overcome such limitations, in particular by creating a conceptual framework that highlights the channels through which creativity affects the linkage between cultural heritage and local development. Cultural heritage could indeed influence local development in an indirect way, by guaranteeing that a creative environment is developed. In greater detail, the endeavour in this book is to highlight the mediating role that creativity plays in linking cultural heritage and local development, according to the belief that – apart from mere input–output mechanisms strictly related to purely economic activities (e.g., tourism) – there could be other (more sophisticated and intangible) channels through which cultural heritage can positively affect local development.

Thus, the main idea explored within this book is that cultural heritage can generate creativity, which in turn works as a trigger of local development. This study develops this idea and pursues the aim of exploring this mediated relationship through carefully taking into account both conceptual and methodological aspects.


In the existing literature, the positive relation between cultural heritage and economic development is often hypothesized but rarely justified, cultural tourism usually being the only mechanism considered. Although undeniably relevant, the impression is that such a mechanism is quite simplistic and superficial and does not reflect the deeper and immense meaning of historical cultural assets and their role in shaping personalities, attitudes and capabilities of people and the behaviour of economic actors: there should be other – more complex – channels through which cultural heritage could lead to economic development. To identify such mechanisms, this book starts from the idea that one possible mediator between cultural heritage and regional economic performance is creativity, expressed according to different patterns. In this sense, the main research question of this study then is: does creativity mediate the effect of cultural heritage on economic development?

Figure 1.1 Cultural heritage and development: direct and indirect effects

Figure 1.1 graphically represents the overall reasoning. Link ‘A’ represents the (potential) direct relation between cultural heritage and economic development that is usually assumed in the existing literature. Link ‘B’ represents instead the direct relation between cultural heritage and creativity, according to the idea that cultural heritage – through its aesthetic and emotional values, and thus exerting an inspirational role – can contribute to the shaping of the peculiar creativity of a local area. In particular, the focus of the book is on the ‘creative environment’, thus on how cultural heritage affects the specific creative features of local systems and the way in which these eventually play a role in economic development. Finally, link ‘C’ shows the direct relation between creativity and economic development; such relation is expected to be positive since creativity is supposed to trigger the generation of new and original ideas and – through this mechanism – to lead to economic development. The overall reasoning is thus based on the mediating role of creativity between cultural heritage and economic development (indirect effect represented by links ‘B’ 1 ‘C’ in Figure 1.1).

Given the plethora of existing approaches to these topics and to be able to work on the conceptual framework presented above, however, what is meant by cultural heritage and creativity needs to be clearly identified and defined. As for cultural heritage, what will be considered within the present study is a tangible and common element. Cultural heritage will thus be tangible according to the idea that it is the physical representation of the history of a given place and people. Hence, immovable units of heritage are also concrete representations of intangible meanings and feelings. Moreover, cultural heritage will be considered here as a public good, thus characterized by non-excludability (no one can be excluded from its consumption) and by a low level of rivalry (consumption by one individual does not preclude consumption by others), according to a collective perspective that takes into account accessibility to cultural heritage and its effect in terms of potential positive externalities on economic development.

As for creativity, defining it is in fact very difficult. This is due to its intangible and multifaceted nature. This issue will be addressed in this book and an innovative conceptual framework will be proposed. It will allow the identification and measurement of different types of creativity in terms of artistic, scientific and economic creative talents. In addition, the possible synergies between such different types of creativity will be taken into account through the precise identification of all their possible interactions, according to the belief that it is the synergetic combination – more specifically, the ‘mental cross-fertilization’ – between different creative talents that stimulates innovative thinking and generates new and breakthrough ideas and, through this channel, pushes economic development. Creativity will thus be defined as ideation based on talents of different types, that is, stemming from different domains.


To analyse the role played by creativity as a potential mediator between cultural heritage and economic development, the book is organized around the logical scheme proposed in Figure 1.1.

To approach the research question, it is necessary to start with an analysis of cultural heritage and of its different values. This is done in Chapter 2, which discusses the different types of values that can be associated with cultural heritage, presents the perspective of the present book on its definition (a tangible and common cultural heritage) and reviews the existing literature on the linkage between cultural heritage and local development. In addition, a related empirical analysis is proposed, taking into account traditional approaches based on the role of tourism. At the end of the chapter, some different – more sophisticated – perspectives on the link between cultural heritage and economic performance are considered and the hypothesis on the potential role played by cultural heritage – through its aesthetic and emotional values – on local creativity and consequently on regional development is put forward. A first block of the reasoning is therefore presented in this second chapter. However, before progressing with the overall logic, some in-depth reflections on creativity are needed.

Given the focus of the overall work, having a clear picture of the existing definitions and measures of creativity is of paramount importance for the development of the general argument. Hence, the whole of Chapter 3 is devoted to this purpose. It critically discusses the main available definitions and measurement methods, also highlighting their limitations and drawbacks.

The complexity of the topic calls for specific choices. Thus, providing a logical and operational framework for studying creativity in its different forms is of critical relevance. For this reason, Chapter 4 is dedicated to explaining the book’s approach to differentiated and synergic creative talents and to stating clearly and critically the territorial importance of the creative environment. After identifying artistic, scientific and economic creative talents as the main modes in which creativity can be expressed, and after stressing the relevance of their synergic action, creativity is defined as ideation based on different talents, that is, stemming from different domains. Finally, a new conceptual framework is presented. Such a framework takes into account the multidimensional nature of creativity and the importance of combining elements stemming from different fields, according to the idea of ‘mental cross-fertilization’ among different mind-sets that may be quite far apart but can synergistically and potentially very fruitfully interact.

After presenting the existing debate on creativity and after setting out clearly the perspective of the present book on the topic, Chapter 5 returns to the main reasoning and moves on by investigating the direct relation between cultural heritage and creativity. The potential inspirational role of cultural heritage on different creative talents is conceptually and empirically discussed, while other socioeconomic local characteristics are also taken into account as determinants of specific types of creativity.

Subsequently, a further block of the overall reasoning is explored. Chapter 6 is devoted to studying the direct relation between creativity and economic development. After discussing the existing literature on such a relationship, the synergic effect of different creative talents on regional economic development is conceptually identified and empirically tested.

Having discussed the role of cultural heritage in determining local creativity and the effects of synergic creative talents on regional development, the initial block (the impact of cultural heritage on economic development) can be taken up again and reconsidered, focusing on the possible mediating role of creativity. Stating that an intangible element such as inspiration can translate into local economic development is in fact not completely straightforward and cannot automatically descend from the two steps of the analysis carried out in Chapters 5 and 6. Thus, a further effort is required to clearly understand whether and how the significant presence of cultural heritage does in fact reinforce the impact of creativity on local development. Therefore, Chapter 7 analyses the overall reasoning – the indirect link from cultural heritage to development through creativity – discussing the actual role of creativity as a mediator between cultural heritage and regional economic development and testing this role empirically.

Finally, Chapter 8 concludes, resuming the logic of the whole work and reconstructing the general reasoning. The implications of the role of cultural heritage and creativity in policy design are highlighted and some further perspectives to be explored by future research are put forward to suggest how an even broader perspective can open up in this particular field.

Figure 1.2 Structure of the book

Figure 1.2 displays the structure of the book according to its overall reasoning.

1 Navracsics, T. (2017), ‘Città italiane sotto “Osservatorio”’ [‘Observatory’ on Italian cities], Il Sole 24 Ore, 9 July 2017, accessed 3 May 2018 at fromSearch.

2 European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018), ‘Our heritage: where the past meets the future’, accessed 3 May 2018 at

3 EU Science Hub – The European Commission’s Science and Knowledge Service (2018),The Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor: 2017 Edition, accessed 14 September 2018 at

4 European Commission, COM(2018) 267, accessed 28 May 2018 at

5 Other important references for the Council of Europe are the European Cultural Convention (1954), the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (1985), the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (1992, revised) and the European Landscape Convention (2000).

6 Innovative firms perform better at the expense of their less able competitors and innovative countries and regions show higher levels of productivity and income. Therefore, fostering innovation is desirable from an economic development perspective (for a comprehensive review on the role played by innovation in economic growth see Fagerberg, Mowery and Nelson, 2005).

7 The European Commission (e.g., EC, 2010) also recognizes the relevance of the topic, which is the main subject of many funded research projects (see, among others, ‘Creative Europe’, accessed 3 May 2018 at