With the new Museum Innovation Network, Fraunhofer IAO wants to work together with museums and cultural institutions to develop strategies and propose solutions to promote pioneering innovations in the sector. Members of the network hailing from the worlds of culture, research and business hold interdisciplinary project meetings to discuss the relevant issues, before trying out new concepts and technologies in the field.
The relevance and role of museums and cultural organizations are becoming increasingly complex and coming under the microscope like never before. This is no surprise, since the restrictions brought in as a response to the pandemic, advances in digitalization, a lack of skilled workers, climate change and the energy crisis present the entire industry with a number of multidimensional challenges. How can we employ innovative concepts to counteract these challenges and changes within the cultural sector? How can modern work and organizational models be applied appropriately? What role does digitalization play and how does technology fit in? With a view to finding the answers to these questions (for the cultural institutions, the people who work in them and the people who visit them), forming new strategic partnerships and kicking off transformation processes with a pioneering outlook, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO has launched the Museum Innovation Network. The Network is a science-based hotbed of ideas, working closely with stakeholders within the cultural ecosystem to combine the latest research findings with the expertise, perspectives and questions offered up by its partners, before then translating all that into real-life applications. “Platforms and innovation ecosystems are playing an ever greater role in lots of areas, not just business. In the cultural sector too, we are seeing more and more weight being given to cross-industry partnerships with a view to developing new offerings together and being able to overcome challenges better. The Museum Innovation Network is dedicated to exactly these types of partnership, to setting them up and ensuring they thrive using creative methods,” says Prof. Katharina Hölzle, Institute Director of Fraunhofer IAO and the IAT at the University of Stuttgart.
The benefits of taking a holistic view of the museum ecosystem
“Museums and cultural institutions are some of the pillars underpinning our whole society because their meaning is so varied and their impact so diverse. Working alone, the institutions themselves can no longer come up with holistic solutions and innovations to meet the challenges they are facing now and will face in the future. By exchanging ideas openly within the Network, knowledge that had been kept separate becomes an awareness that is shared,” says Prof. Vanessa Borkmann, head of the Network and of the Smart Urban Environments team at Fraunhofer IAO. These aspects of the Network are especially beneficial:
Diverse network: The partners in the Network hail from various areas of the whole museum operations ecosystem — from different types of museum, agency and gallery, through to insurance companies, city planners and developers, tourism and technology experts, and beyond to the myriad interfaces between these areas, which affect the institutions in question. As a result, by looking at the institution of “the museum” as a whole along with its environment, it is possible to consider transdisciplinary processes and leverage potential synergies.
Technologies of the future: The partners in the Network have access to Fraunhofer’s expertise and its latest research findings, including from other sectors and industries, as well as numerous relevant technologies such as artificial intelligence, XR technology or blockchain technology.
Expertise in smart urban environments, destination development and tourism: Fraunhofer IAO has wide-ranging expertise and experience in managing diverse industry networks and promoting science-based innovations within interdisciplinary groups.
Key topics, from new work to environmental and social responsibility
The research network is set to work on the following key issues over its two-year project run, which began at the kick-off event attended by almost 40 members in November:
- Organizational change and transformation culture: the museum as an agile organization and user of new work concepts. What does a “culture of transformation” look like?
- Multidirectional range and participation: the museum as an open space for meetings and educational events, and as a living laboratory for cultural transformation. How to facilitate outreach, participation and inclusion?
- Social and environmental responsibility and cooperation: the museum as a means of overcoming future challenges within a collaborative ecosystem. How can we act in a way that is socially responsible and sustainable?
The Network considers the potential, trends and innovations seen in digitalization and technology in all the relevant fields, with a view to kicking off transformation processes with a pioneering outlook.
The lifeblood of the project is the active sharing of ideas and knowledge among project partners, who not only bring their expertise to the table but also ensure everything is strongly focused on applications. Research and practice come together in the Network to produce valuable advantages on the knowledge front. That is why the Network is still open to other new members who want to get involved and start exchanging their own ideas. The first project management meeting of the partners in the Network is scheduled for March 2023.