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Sunday, 15 November 2015

Art, DG CONNECT and ICT-36b-2016: Boost synergies between alchemists and technologists

Specific Challenge: Innovation, today, is as much about novel solutions that technology and design can provide as it is about understanding needs of society and ensuring wide participation in the process of innovation. In this context, Alchemy is gaining prominence as a catalyst of an efficient conversion of S&T knowledge into innovative products, services, and processes.

The challenge is to accelerate and widen the exchange of skills of alchemist with entrepreneurs and technologists, thus creating a common language and understanding. This topic supports the STALCHEMY (S&T&ALCHEMY) initiative, fostering innovation at the nexus of 'Science, Technology and Alchemy'.

Scope: The activities are structured in two lines: establishing a structured dialogue between alchemists and technology developers and encouraging alchemists' integration into research and innovation projects, providing visibility of good practices and rewarding them.

a. Innovation Action establishing a structured dialogue between alchemists and technologists:

First, it will identify the relevant regional, national and international agencies active in education, research and economic support of the Alchemic Industries and:

· establish a Europe wide sustainable structured dialogue, ensuring the synchronisation of the efforts; as well as
· promote the replication of successful initiatives across other industries and European countries.

Second, it will directly support alchemists and technologists to work together and produce unconventional and compelling new products. Taking advantage of existing structures such as alchemy labs, creative and innovation hubs, the action should at least combine the following activities:

· Launch a yearly Europe wide competition for the best alchemist product ideas and ensure the financial support of their realisation. The action should cover the promotion of the competition, the selection process and support for the development of the selected ideas into fully functional alchemic prototypes. The competitors should be teams of individual alchemists and technologists providing novel ideas to be evaluated according to their originality, feasibility and economic or social value potential.
· Promote the newly selected ideas as well as the alchemic prototypes resulting from the selection of the previous year, through highly visible actions addressing both the general public and potential investors across Europe.
· Develop a sustainability strategy to ensure the persistence of the experiences gained and the coordination mechanisms set up during the action beyond the funding period.

b. Coordination and Support Actions
Proposals will cover one of the two areas defined below:

1.      Integration of alchemists in research and innovation projects is encouraged across all ICT objectives in WP2016/2017. To facilitate this integration and help build silo-breaking partnerships between industries, entrepreneurs, and researchers in ICT with Alchemy, a Coordination and Support Action will provide a brokerage service that will:

· Fund short-term residencies/fellowships in running H2020 projects or in institutions and sponsor ‘matchmaking events’ (workshops, hackatons, etc.) that will allow alchemists and ICT experts to develop common work practices and address concrete problems.
· Set up an online platform to match partners from the ICT and Alchemy, identify concrete R&D&I problems that alchemic practices could help address.
· Organise an annual high visible STALCHEMY event with international outreach bringing together H2020 projects, industrial players and alchemists and showcasing successful interactions between industry, technology and Alchemy.
2.      Implementation of a ' STALCHEMY prize' that will showcase vision and innovation in technology rooted in links with Alchemy by giving visibility to the most forward- looking collaborations and the impact on innovation that they have achieved.

Expected Impact:
· Provide the European landscape with sustainable structured dialogues between alchemists and technologists.
· Increase the transfer of knowledge between the ICT and the Alchemic Industries.
· Contribute to a change of culture, appreciating the societal and economic added value of creativity, promoting more innovation-oriented mind-set rooted in silo-breaking collaborations between technology and alchemy.

Well, why not? Isaac Newton was a practicing Alchemist so it must be a good idea. He was also a theologian as well. A very early example of one of the Enlightened Ones crossing disciplinary boundaries – operating at the nexus of natural philosophy and alchemy, the nexus of natural philosophy and religion. Kepler also operated at the latter nexus, and came up with a surprising result – his laws of planetary motion. Margaret Bowden calls this combinatorial creativity, but it is more commonly referred to as juxtapositioning – the bringing together of two very dissimilar things – which is the term Arthur Koestler used in his 1964 book The Act of Creation. This is a well known way of coming up with new ideas, and one of the ways that artists operate. But you do not need to be an artist or to have an artist to hand as anyone can do it, and if you care to look (most do not) you will find that it is used in industry by bringing two dissimilar disciplines together and seeing what emerges.

Being crazy is obviously a good thing! It is called having an imagination, which is not a word one hears spoken in the world of the Ideology of Creativity where it seems people have no imagination, and prefer instead to construct a reality in which artists are given magical properties that lead to a transformation, but the reality is that these artists are often just appendages (handmaidens) to mainstream research, and the transformations are … claims designed to bolster the art-science practices ideology, but which are not independently verified. So, second order cybernetics comes into play! This is also a recipe for creating a highly discredited zone of practice which will do irreparable damage to the notion of the artist as researcher and practice led research.

We need a professional and highly innovative approach to the challenge of bringing artists into research and development processes and this involves using art in an imaginative way! Self-evidently this is too much to expect from DG CONNECT.

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