A new age for the creative industries…and the UK

Three female workers meeting in fashion design studio.

This post explores how investment in creative research and development (R&D) will be at the heart of how the UK builds back better.

Back in October last year, Peter Bazalgette, Chair of ITV, made an inspiring speech where he argued that “the Creative Industries has now come of age.”

Seen as a fledgling sector when it was conceived back in 1997, the UK’s creative industries are now not only world-leading, but they are fully established as an R&D sector. On a par with Life Sciences, Fintech, or Green Energy.

Despite the huge challenges presented by the global pandemic, the creative industries have responded with remarkable resilience. The sector has continued to adapt and thrive, bolstered by research and innovation (R&I) investment, to develop new ways of thinking and doing.

As the relatively new Head of Creative Industries at the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), I feel it is a pivotal time to join AHRC.

Along with my team and the wider UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) community our ambition is simple. To utilise the R&I system to help shape the next ‘age’ of the creative industries, ensuring that the sector continues to grow and innovate.

And what’s so exciting is that this growth is not only valuable to the creative sector itself, but to unlock potential across the UK.

In this blog post, I explore at three key areas where AHRC will continue to foster R&I collaboration, to support the new age of the Creative Industries.

Upskilling the UK workforce

Multi-ethnic group of business people testing virtual reality technology.

Credit: pixelfit, Getty Images

Firstly, we will continue to work with the creative sector to ensure the UK has the cutting-edge skills it needs to thrive.

The creative industries equip the workforce with a range of arts and humanities-based skills. From storytelling to cutting edge skills in:

  • extended reality (XR)
  • virtual reality (VR)
  • augmented reality (AR).

These will be vital to ensure the UK workforce thrives in our evolving world.

Our StoryFutures Academy has been making great strides in this area, fusing cutting-edge R&D with real world application in professional training.

Over 1000 people have already gone through StoryFutures Academy training programmes, creating over 170 jobs and unlocking over £3 million in co-investment from the private sector.

Through R&I investments and partnerships, AHRC will continue to support and strengthen this vital flow of skills between research and industry.

Creating opportunities across the UK

A young Asian pro gamer feeling excited while playing an online cyber sport game at home.

Credit: RyanKing999, Getty Images

Secondly, we will continue to focus on investments that drive regional opportunity across the UK.

Three years in, our Creative Industries Clusters Programme is already generating huge impact across all four nations of the UK. From bolstering the gaming industry in Dundee, to creating an  innovative hub for film and television in Wales.

To date, the clusters programme has created and safeguarded more than 3400 jobs, funded more than 900 businesses or industry-led R&D projects, and generated more than £201.571 million in co-investment, powering national and regional resilience.

And it’s not just diversity of regions that we’re focussed on.

AHRC’s creative research and development partnerships are undertaking a substantial amount of work. This is around equality, diversity, social mobility and inclusion (EDI) across their programmes of activity, from tracking the diversity of funding applications made to implementing EDI policies and strategies.

This will continue to be a major priority for AHRC, ensuring that the benefits of creative R&D are felt by all.

Finding solutions to contemporary challenges

Finally, we will continue to support the creative industries in developing the critical solutions we need to imagine a better future.

Our fashion clusters, Future Fashion Factory and Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology, are playing a leading role in sector transformation, re-imagining a future for fashion centred on sustainable innovation.

Meanwhile, our Dundee-based research and development centre, InGAME, is showing how videogame design techniques, tools and technologies can be used to solve real-world problems,  from tackling obesity to managing livestock.

Unlocking potential for sector and society

So, as we enter this new ‘age’ of the creative industries, we should see this as just the start for this innovative, resilient and flourishing sector.

As a result of the rich collaborations between research and business, we have begun to see a glimpse of the true power of what the UK’s creative industries can do. Not just for the sector, but for us all.

This piece was originally published by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) as part of their 2022 spotlight on R&D in the creative industries.

For further information on the investments mentioned in this post, please visit:

Top image:  Credit: Yagi-Studio, Getty Images

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