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‘Over the past year, we have certainly been trying to reach out to talent that has been developing outside the usual channels,’ adds Groeneveld, ‘for example, makers who wouldn’t normally apply to the fund of their own accord, but who would benefit greatly from support in the form of a work grant. We’re brainstorming about how we can reach them, and researching how we can come into contact with progressive designers within urban networks. This year, we’re going to appoint two scouts to help us with this. It’s one way to ensure the design field is more broadly represented.’

Marian Duff is one of the scouts,’ says Ladru, ‘She has established{run} a project with the Tropenmuseum over the past ten years, in which young makers from South-East Amsterdam design a fashion collection that is inspired by material from the museum’s archive. The results are presented in a spectacular display in the museum. This recurring project has developed into a talent incubator for makers from a wide range of backgrounds, some of whom progress on to professional art education.’

‘The great thing about the talent development scheme is that it gives the designer the space and freedom to start working on something that may not be successful immediately, but yet turns out to be of value later on. This room for experimentation is invaluable,’ Ladru emphasises. The Stimuleringsfonds has approximately 30 talent development work grants to allocate each year, while 200 designers and creators submit their portfolios. The committee selects 60 of these applicants who are invited to write a proposal for a work grant. Of these 60, eight were scouted this year and are entering this second round, in order to make the group of applicants more diverse. ‘The committee members look at how the creator positions him/herself, what the motivation behind the research question is and whether it falls in line with the portfolio,’ says Ladru. ‘It’s primarily about being distinctive,’ adds Groeneveld.

‘You see in the design field that young creators are less and less rooted in their discipline,’ says Ladru, ‘but if they start working in a more interdisciplinary way, then how they position themselves in the design field becomes even more important: should their practice be focused on autonomous creativity or practical application.’ ‘As a designer, you have to make your mark quickly,’ Groeneveld notes. ‘Even internationally, these time spans are getting shorter and shorter. Designers and creators can apply to us for  an endorsement to participate in international trade fairs such as the Salone di Mobile in Milan for design, or South by Southwest in the US for digital culture. It’s an important way for them to expand their international perspective and network. This is particularly relevant for established talent, who are already successful in the Netherlands: we can further promote them internationally by supporting collaborations with foreign partners.’

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In addition to the work grants for starting designers and creators, the Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie has developed a sequence of schemes to support designers at various stages of their careers. ‘What you see is that people who have received a talent development grant subsequently often work on their first larger-scale project together with others, via an open call or one of the other shared/collaboration schemes,’ continues Groeneveld. ‘Sometimes we approach designers whose work we are familiar with because they have already submitted an application for a specific assignment within the scope of the fund’s programme.’

For a number of years now, the Stimuleringsfonds has been organising an open call aimed specifically at professionalisation. Designers in particular are in need of this. Architects already acquire this knowledge during their two-year apprenticeship at an office before they are allowed to register as an architect. In digital culture, the practice differs even more. ‘The question as to why these practices vary so much from one discipline to another is still worth investigating,’ notes Groeneveld.

‘We started the Ruimte voor Talent (Room for Talent) scheme because we realised that that many artist-in-residence places in the Netherlands have disappeared over the past eight years as a result of the cutbacks. We therefore thought it would be a good idea to foster the contacts between designers and manufacturers, research labs, companies, hospitals, the water board or special initiatives in the city. There is a great need for such collaborations and it is an important step in the development of talent.’

For the open call Fresh Perspectives, designers are encouraged to look for a partner outside their own discipline and then work on a social issue. ‘In this scenario, designers must relate directly to the market and, for example, make agreements about intellectual property.’ That, too, is good experience, Groeneveld believes. ‘It is also clear that starting designers know very little about this.’

‘What is special about this arrangement is that the designer and partner submit a joint application,’ says Ladru. ‘This is done in two stages: in the first stage, a project plan and a cooperation agreement are drawn up, and in the second stage, the designer and partner present the plan together to the committee. This adds yet another dynamic to the application process. In fact, we’re always looking for ways to ensure that the applications run smoothly and are as accessible as possible.’

Interview: Lotte Haagsma