Arts Electronica FutureLab
The Ars Electronica FutureLab is a thriving interdisciplinary research facility located in Linz, Austria. It is part of the Ars Electronica Center (AEC), a cultural institution which for over two decades has been a pioneer in exploring the interface between art, technology, and society and mediating public interaction with new technologies. As a nonprofit organization, the AEC is primarily supported by key public sector partners including local government and the state broadcast company, as well as corporations. This institutional framework, together with university affiliation, has facilitated the FutureLab’s diverse activities from artistic to more commercially oriented projects exhibited in the AEC ‘Museum of the Future’ and at off-site venues. The FutureLab’s team of artists and researchers has forged a unique hybrid research model focused on three core research areas (virtual reality environments, interactive installations, digital surfaces) which allows them to take prototypes developed from artistic projects and apply perfected solutions to industry projects, or vice versa. Increased demand especially from the private sector for the lab’s cutting-edge technology developments and research expertise now threatens to upset the delicate balance of this model. Today, AEC management needs to address the issue of sustainability for both its FutureLab division, in face of heavy workloads, and the institution at large, given decreasing government funding for arts/culture. The AEC is devising a strategy for cultivating industry partnerships based on the FutureLab’s experiments in corporate collaboration to date which have been successful namely because they are focused on mutually beneficial outcomes. Through this strategy, the AEC is eager to supplement corporate sponsorships with longer-term industry partnerships in order to ensure financial stability. FutureLab employees stand to gain additional resources and, therefore, the ability to sustain their current research model and continue doing cutting-edge work. With the AEC and the FutureLab, corporations have access to a dedicated arts community whose expert staff can help them develop and promote interesting projects as well as meet both their business needs and corporate affairs objectives.