Developing 3 Heritage Business Ideas through Heritagelab

Cultural heritage brings significant economic potential, which is also visible in Slovenia. But how to understand it entrepreneurially and at the same time respond to local demographic challenges, such as the outmigration of youth from small and semi-peripheral towns, where there is a lack of sufficiently diverse and attractive jobs for young people? The latter issue stimulated a constructive consideration from which, in 2018, the European award-winning idea named HeritageLab grew in Idrija, Slovenian Unesco World Heritage Site. We present 3 innovative ideas that we support!

Without the strong involvement of the local community - especially the young and educated - small and semi-peripheral towns can not introduce innovative measures to respond to demographic decline, which in some areas is strongly related to the untapped local potentials. And this opens up space for heritage integration coupled with innovative approaches, as well as for new (entrepreneurial) programs that, based on the inclusion of specialized and comprehensive knowledge, operate locally and help young people to strive to improve the local environment by building on local potentials while creating new business and employment opportunities.

In 2018, the team of the Idrija 2020 Association developed the idea of an incubator for business ideas based on local (heritage) specifics within the EUSIC (European Social Innovation Competition), where it was awarded first prize, and last year upgraded the concept with local heritage partners through the project Cultural heritage as a business opportunity. This year, the incubator came to life within the partner network of the Center for Creativity, which is part of the Ljubljana Museum for architecture and design. Heritage needs to be preserved and developed for the future through the interweaving of different approaches, but for that, it is necessary to create an environment suitable for innovation. HeritageLab was therefore designed as a comprehensive incubator that provides mentoring support from heritage experts, insights into the opportunities of the market, enables to test ideas on it, and develops a community of like-minded people who cultivate respect and interest in heritage through highly developmental perspectives.

This year, HeritageLab is moving from idea to action and is currently incorporating 3 different business ideas that put heritage into new perspectives.

Ideas That Put Heritage in New Perspectives

The team of architects and urban planners of the spatial section of the Škofja Loka Students' Club is developing the idea named HeritageBox, which strives to design modular and mobile wooden living units within endangered heritage buildings. The team developed the idea as part of this year's HeritageHack hackathon, where it convinced the jury with the originality of the concept in the field of youth involvement, heritage interpretation, and digital and business feasibility.

"With our idea, we focus mainly on the problems of the youth on the periphery with the challenge of how to keep them staying here. In a survey that we conducted among young people in Škofja Loka, we found out that they are facing poor employment opportunities, lack of creative events and affordable housing in spite of the fact that these places have plenty of empty built heritage that would need renovation and revitalization. That's why we want to connect and upgrade these two problems within the incubator with the HeritageBox solution."

(Iva Lukan, HeritageBox team)

Idrija resident Neža Pavšič is actively upgrading the business aspect of the first private gallery and framing of works of art in Idrija. Art gallery and Framing Workshop Ivanka Nikolaj is reviving the craft of boutique and modern framing and is mainly dedicated to framing a vital part of the cultural heritage - Idrija lace.

"Ivanka Nikolaj combines art crafts and the heritage of framing lace, paintings, and canvases on the one hand, and nurtures and cares for raising awareness of the local population about the importance of art that is embedded in this space. By reviving this kind of activity, Idrija develops new and contemporary artistic content, while serving both young and old with inspirations from the environment and local artistic activities - new exhibitions with the support of young artists."

(Neža Pavšič, Art Gallery and Framing Workshop Ivanka Nikolaj)

Neža Pavšič runs the Ivanka Nikolaj Framework Gallery and Gallery in Idrija. Photo: personal archive

Young creators from Kranjska Kooperativa 22 are developing a digital service, a platform, where a community of craftsmen and people interested in traditional crafts will be built. It will collect and share knowledge about the world's traditional arts skills and at the same time enable the direct transfer of knowledge through the presentation of craftsmen and their work, which interested visitors to the platform will be able to contact and learn their skills.

"The purpose of the idea is to give cultural heritage a chance to live on. Therefore, we are developing an online platform that will offer the availability of a real experience and information that is clearly structured and gathered in one place. in this way, we want to give traditional knowledge the opportunity to be preserved, expanded, and developed in an innovative and modern way."

(Maja Jenko - Traditional Crafting team)

It is easier to enter the future with the knowledge and experience of the generations before us and with respect for its legacy. Our success in the future, however, is more likely if we enrich the heritage, treat it wisely and upgrade it so that it will bear the new fruits of new times. And HeritageLab is one of those spaces where we can also put that vision into practice.


The HeritageLab project is being co-produced with the Center for Creativity at the Museum of Architecture and Design. The project is part of the partner network of the Creativity Center Platform. The project is co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Slovenia.