A Brief History of STARTS


Session Title:

  • Summit on New Media Art Archiving: Papers

Presentation Title:

  • A Brief History of STARTS



  • The Science, Technology and the Arts initiative of the Digital Single Market (STARTS) is the result of a number of activities under the umbrella of ICT ART CONNECT. It all started in April 2012, at the first homonymous event. It compromised a large gathering of people working on European Union (EU) funded projects that in any fashion included the arts. The main meeting took place at the Berlaymont in Brussels. There were also an exhibition in a local gallery and workshops at the iMAL – Center for digital cultures and technology, in Molenbeek. A number of actors were mobilized to work on the development of the ideas of that first event and a first small Coordination and Support Action (CSA) was funded to organize that mobilization. It was funded under the Future and Emerging Technologies framework, and it was originally titled FET-ART.

    2013 was a key year for the growth of ICT ART CONNECT. Taking advantage of the then ongoing restructuring period of transition from Framework Programme 7 (FP7) to Horizon 2020 (H2020), right after ICT 2103 in Vilnius, an event took place in Brussels that radically boosted synergies around potential EU policies on the integration of artists in the then forthcoming H2020 framework. ARTSHARE, was responsible for the organization of that event. It included debates in European Parliament (EP) sponsored by 3 Members of Parliament (MEPs) with the participation of about 80 constituents whom were then scouted as the most relevant agents on the ground in the field of the crossings of arts, science and technology. Furthermore and besides a performance and an exhibition in the heart of the city of Brussels, a big exhibition and networking dinner took place at BOZAR, in Brussels. The event hosted a number of highly relevant policy makers, including Director-General of CONNECT, Robert Madelin and the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe Neelie Kroes.

    The next highlight in the history of STARTS was the ICTARTCONNECT.study. It was actually in that study that STARTS was born as a brand, including its first visual identity. The study created the grounds and characterized the emergent field of science, technology and the arts in the EU.

    In May 2015, a major symposium took place organized by the Lituanian presidency of the EU Council in the frame of Mons 2015, European Capital of Culture entitled “Crossovers culture and technology” with more than 500 attendees from the European Commission (DG Connect and DG Education Culture), private/industry sector, cultural sector and stakeholders. It presented best practices in the field of interaction between artists, technology and industry. A white paper to the EU was published by Mons 2015 with recommendations/outputs from the symposium.

    As a consequence of the efforts put in place in 2013, the first H2020 topic dedicated to STARTS was funded. Its was titled ICT-36-2016 – Boost synergies between artists, creative people and technologists. That topic supported the projects: STARTS PRIZE, managing the award of prizes to the STARTS community, VERTIGO, coordinating STARTS in general and implementing the first STARTS Residencies and WEAR SUSTAIN, promoting business ideas resulting from arts and engineering collaborations. BRAINHACK, a FET funded project about community building around brain-computer interfaces and the one off Creative Europe funded STARTS Prize covered the transition in terms of activities between the end of the ICTARTCONNECT.study and the start of ICT-36-2016 funded projects.

    CREATE-IoT, the CSA coordinating the Internet of Things (IoT) Large Scale Pilots of the European Union, has been also a crucial project to STARTS. It has been there that close
    contact with industry has been taking place. It was also in the context of that project that a sound methodology for integrating artistic practices in creation and development cycles of Information and Telecommunication Technologies (ICT) has been developed. The graphic bellow matches activities such as artistic lead hackathons, artistic residencies, exhibitions and discussions with the four periods of the ICT creation cycle: identification, exposure, improvement and co-creation.

    The VERTIGO project also produced and is producing relevant documentation about the co-creation process of the STARTS Residencies. The documents inform a better understanding of what worked and what did not work in the process of implementation of the STARTS Residencies. Such knowledge will allow S2S to better design the proposed seed activities.

    At the ICT 2018 event of DG CONNECT, in Vienna, a number of artworks resulting from the STARTS Residencies, the WEAR SUSTAIN supported projects and others from artists in residence in BOSCH and TELEFONICA were showcased together for the first time. It then became clear that some of the STARTS residencies, not only had the desired effect on the course of the research and innovation processes within which they took place, but as well they produced relevant artistic contributions. Those artistic contributions are sustainable per se as artworks and they might find a place in the global contemporary art context, if properly framed. They could also be showcased with works that are STARTS related but were not funded by the EU. This was when the notion of a STARTS Collection started gaining shape. This is one of the reasons why S2S is coordinated by a renowned contemporary art institution, the Serralves Foundation.

    More recently, a new CSA, entitled STARTS ECOSYSTEM is taking over the global coordination of STARTS, including the webplatform. Furthermore, two STARST lighthouse projects were funded, MINDSPACES and Re- FREAM. They are supposed to create references for others of how research and innovation actions integrating artists could be shapped.

    On the 2nd of May of 2017, at 1500 a highly level meeting took place in the European Parliament in Brussels. It brought together 4 MEPS and about 25 highly-relevant players in STARTS from governance, business, industry, science and the arts. Concrete examples of how the arts can stimulate regional innovation in urban context were discussed. Actions that have happened in the following cities were presented and debated: Braga, North region of Portugal; Cluj-Napoca, Northwest region of Romania; Avignon, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region of France; Barcelona, Catalonia region of Spain and Bologna, Emilia Eomagna region of Italy. This meeting triggered the idea of pilot projects in STARTS for regional innovation.

    The first pilot project, entitled Regional STARTS centres, was kicked of in May 2019. It is coordinated by BOZAR and includes a number of partners with whom the S2S consortium has good links. The good relationship between both consortiums will allow for good cooperation and coordination in order to create synergies and avoid unsynchronized actions.

    STARTS related EU policy overview

    The moment is now. The actual context of the transition between H2020 and Horizon Europe is ideal to increment policy support to STARTS because it is the time when lessons learned from the implementation of H2020 can be communicated and adjustments can take place. S2S aims at creating excellent examples of innovative actions to serve as flagships supporting STARTS policy making at EU, National and Regional levels. More importantly to what concerns the strengthening of innovation at regional level through STARTS activities, the new Digital Europe Programmevii has very strong focus on cities and regional development, not only by the support it aims at bringing to the Digital Innovation Hubs Network (DIHs) but as well by closely interacting with the European Regional Development and Cohesion Funds.