Edgar Garcia Casellas spoke about how the Catalan Ministry of Culture’s Catalan Institute for Cultural Companies (ICEC) is helping cultural companies and individuals in the private sector of Catalan become more competitive and successful in the areas of business development, audiences and market access. Essentially, if you have a private Catalan-based company working in AV, music, performing arts, publishing, gaming, visual arts or digital media and you have access to several unique schemes for financing your activities through the ICEC’s business development area.
The ICEC was created in 2001 and began operating in 2002. Although it is a public institution within the Ministry of Culture, it works like a private company and has an executive board and a general board. The ICEC is there for the sector and is connected to the cultural and creative sector, since its board members are representatives of different areas of the CCS.
Say you have a cultural company working in these fields based in Catalan. What kind of business development support could you receive? The ICEC has essentially a five-phase cycle: Consultancy; ICEC-ICF Participation Loans PPD; Grants; Reimbursable Aids (RAs)/Repayable Contributions and ICF Culture Loans.
Consultancy can happen at all phases. The ICEC’s Business Development Service offers conferences, workshops, training; deals with environmental issues in the cultural sector, provides culture consultancy, helps with internationalisation, and digitization and consults for developing strategic plans and/or redefining business models.
Maybe you’re a start-up digital cultural company offering digital products and/or services, or an entrepreneur working with just a team. The ICEC is able to act with public money in a similar way as private venture capitalists, administering ICEC-ICF Participation Loans between 40,000 and 200,000 euros. A successful company pays a higher interest on their loan, it’s not meant to punish them for success, but to offer less financially successful companies a buffer.
Next is a combination of Grants and Repayable Contributions (RC), also referred to as Reimbursable Aid (RA). This level of support is available for project financing for companies with at least 2 years’ experience who seek to undertake market-oriented projects. These companies need money to pay their providers in order to carry out their cultural project or produce their product before it goes to market. This is an innovative mixed financing tool: part CREDIT + part GRANT, in which the Credit part is always to be repaid by the company at 0% interest irrespective of the project’s success. It’s given in advance, a priori, to pay providers. The Grant parts means that the entire amount is repaid if the project is financially successful (breaks even).
Reimbursable Aid is not considered as state aid by the EU. Says Edgar, this is “good news for governments who might want to implement such a scheme”, as it means that the money goes back to the Ministry of Culture to finance new projects for CCS businesses.
Finally, the ICF Culture Loans guarantee funds for more mature organisations ranging from 20,000 euros to 1 mil euros. These loans are guaranteed by the National Bank of Catalunya, collaterals are given to the loan by the ICEC through an endowment of 10 mil euros.
Altogether, the ICEC business development area is striving to “change the philosophy from a grant culture to a culture of financing and return between Catalan cultural companies”. It’s a model worth watching, to see how it can facilitate businesses and projects in the sector which might not otherwise get off the ground.