AHRC and DCMS funding demonstrators to help Creative Clusters grow

Three cheerful young designers working on new project

The £2.6 million of demonstrator projects will explore the Creative Industries Clusters Programme’s (CICP’s) potential to grow, attract investment and deliver impact.

The projects will consolidate learning from the CICP in the context of the forthcoming Government Creative Industries Sector Vision.

It will build firm foundations for the future of investment in creative industries research and development (R&D) from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the UK government, and from both international and UK businesses.

The projects were announced by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer during the Creative Coalition Festival.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:

Our creative industries are booming, with the government giving sizable support to these brilliant, innovative sectors. They are powering economic growth and now worth more than £116 billion to the economy every year.

Today I can confirm another £2.6 million of investment through the Creative Clusters Programme to give a further boost to creative businesses and spread more jobs across the country.

Demonstrator projects

As the demonstrators are designed to build on the work of the existing clusters, each cluster was invited to establish a project testing 1 or more of 3 themes.

The 3 themes are:

  • exploring new areas of creative industries that would benefit from a cluster approach
  • developing new partnership models that can leverage further investment opportunities
  • developing new partnership models that allow clusters to extend their geography to new regions

The 12-month demonstrators will be funded by £1.4 million from UKRI’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and £1.2 million from Department for Digital, Culture, Media (DCMS).

Creative Industries Clusters

The 9 clusters were set up through the CICP, a £56 million programme funded by the UKRI Challenge Fund, delivered by AHRC.

They span the gamut of the creative industries in the UK, from fashion to videogame design, and have supported hundreds of projects and businesses in all areas of the country.

Making innovation possible

AHRC Executive Chair Professor Christopher Smith said:

The 5 years of funding AHRC provided to set up the creative clusters established them as the ultimate case study for sustained investment in the UK’s creative sector.

The innovative projects made possible through the clusters span sustainable fashion, game design and extended reality, and have supported new and exciting businesses. They have helped solve real-world problems and deliver commercial benefits to the UK economy that represent an excellent return on investment.

This investment will boost their impact and demonstrate their sustainability as a model for the future of creative R&D and inform how we continue to support the UK’s creative industries.

Continued creative R&D investment

This is only the latest investment in UKRI and AHRC’s continuing commitment to fund creative industries R&D.

In October it announced the 6-year, £75.6 million Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime programme with the aim of developing new technology to support the convergence of the gaming, screen, performance and wider digital entertainment sectors.

Further information

The demonstrators


Demonstrating wider geographic and sectoral demand for the InGAME Applied Games Lab R&D model. The demonstrator explores the application of game design thinking and game technologies beyond pure entertainment and develops use cases to validate applied games lab opportunities for:

  • climate challenges
  • education
  • healthcare
  • policy design
  • sustainable cities


Three pilot creative clusters in the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) outside Cardiff, which will use the experience and knowledge gained from Clwstwr to help drive investment and opportunity to these areas.

The proposed new clusters will form part of a wider strategy to build on the Creative Economy Unit’s expertise in innovation development, which began with Clwstwr and will be carried on further by Media Cymru. It will create a pipeline of diverse new talent as well as research, development and innovation (RD&I) activity across the region.

Future Screens NI

Bring learning from Future Screens NI’s work in the social applications of virtual reality (VR) technologies to music production. This will be through an exploration of VR tools’ potential to enable and enhance the performative experience for disabled musicians while creating an innovative published product.

This project will involve collaboration with rural communities thus also extending the impact of the Future Screens NI cluster to peripheral areas.


Demonstrating new geography and region demand for StoryFutures through an accelerator model. This would use regional funding to build a co-investment programme for scaling up companies and to deliver an annual cycle of regional or London-based partnerships with local enterprise partnerships and large county councils to co-fund R&D programmes.

Use cases will be developed for both options, with one being fully developed into a demonstrator.

Creative Informatics

A demonstrator focused on ‘creative artificial intelligence (AI)’ and the potential of AI for the creative industries, with a particular domain focus on music and audio production for a programme of pilot activities.

This will be undertaken by Edinburgh-based Creative Informatics and expand their geography across Scotland to Glasgow and Dundee.

The demonstrator encompasses further exploration of creative AI, advising on strategic potential for future investment and support, and developing networks to aid innovation and capacity building.

XR Stories

The XR Stories demonstrator will build on wider sectoral and geographic opportunities that have emerged during the life of the cluster. It will build engagement with new sectors of the creative industries who are interested in exploring the use of XR technologies, specifically:

  • galleries
  • libraries
  • archives and museums
  • music and performance

New partnership models will be tested to leverage further investment, and it will extend XR Stories’ geography towards the north-east of England through a new collaboration with Teesside University who bring a focus on the design and technology of computer games.

Bristol + Bath Creative R&D

A Green Creative programme designed to engage the Bristol + Bath CICP collaboration with new sectors to support behaviour change for a just transition in the face of climate change.

The programme will curate a network that gives a new focus for the clusters’ aspirations for sustainability. It will also support new demonstrator projects exploring the contribution creative industries can make to behaviour change across a spectrum of activities, with a focus on rural and underrepresented voices.

Future Fashion Factory (FFF) and Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT)

A joint fashion demonstrator, connecting FFF (Leeds) and BFTT (London). It will scope and make recommendations for the future development of necessary activity to support UK-wide sustainable and circular fashion and wider textile and apparel research and development capability.

This is to ensure that the UK is leading on related international sector challenge mitigation, with a focus on climate change.

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