AHRC Creative Industries Clusters Programme

AHRC Creative Industries Clusters Investment


Bath and Bristol to lead the way in inclusive innovation and growth

Monday, 10 September, 2018

A collaboration between universities in the West of England – including Bath Spa – and businesses in the creative technology sector is to receive a multi-million pound investment from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Creative Industries Clusters Programme, to support, connect and amplify the brilliant work that takes place in the region.

The collaboration known as the Bristol and Bath Creative Research and Development (R&D) Programme, combines research from Bath Spa University, the University of Bath, the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol. Businesses involved in the programme include Bristol-based Watershed, and companies working across design, broadcast, performance, technology, publishing, and other sectors.

Reflecting on the investment, which supports the Government’s Industrial Strategy, Professor Kate Pullinger, Director of the Centre for Culture and Creative Industries at Bath Spa University, said: "We are delighted to be a part of this exciting collaboration. Bath has a long history of cultural innovation and this programme will enable us to continue to spread that work across the region. This partnership between Bristol and Bath’s four Universities, together with Watershed and key business partners, will create the conditions for a real step-change in activity, enabling the use of creative technologies to be better harnessed alongside the region’s burgeoning creative and cultural sector."

Following an independent review, Bristol and Bath was identified by the Bazalgette Report as one of three regions outside London to have international growth potential. Through a mix of development labs, fellowship schemes and large project funding, the Bristol and Bath Creative (R&D) Programme will build on existing strengths in the region including immersive experiences (XR), live performance and 5G. Every programme will include new talent fellows who will be supported to think about innovation in a digitally-minded way.

Business partners involved in designing and delivering the programme include BBC, BDH, Crack Magazine, Creative Bath, Open Bionics, YellowDog, TLT, Drummer TV, Silverback Films, Audible, Aardman, Xmos, RSC, Yogscast, Sensible Object, Strange Thoughts, Mayk, Knowle West Media Centre, and Creative Youth Network.

Researchers involved in the programme will connect partners with research that meets their needs. Andy Conroy, Controller of BBC Research and Development, said: “Through this R&D partnership, we are particularly keen to understand more about the impact of AR and VR technologies on young audiences. One of the questions we will look at, among others, is whether the BBC can create new engaging experiences that bring youngsters together through collaboration in new ways.

“Work through the partnership could also give the BBC better insight into how immersed audiences feel at live events. Our BBC South West colleagues are helping to drive our live agenda.”

The Bristol and Bath Creative R&D Programme builds upon the success of the AHRC supported REACT, a four-year programme of Industry and academic collaboration which has generated over £7.5m of economic activity.

Talking about Bristol & Bath Creative R&D, Professor Jon Dovey, who is Director of the programme and based at UWE Bristol, said: “I’m delighted to be leading this collaboration, we have a genuine opportunity to create something remarkable across Bath and Bristol, a creative network that produces opportunities and jobs that reflect the diversity of our communities. The projects that we invest in with our partners will use the best research to build prototypes for the creative industries that put us on the world map as leaders in innovation for inclusive growth.”

Clare Reddington, Industry Co-director and CEO of Watershed said: “By forefronting inclusive innovation models, we are excited about the difference this funding will enable us to make. You only need to look to Silicon Valley to see how innovation clusters can produce social inequality and monocultural products. By forefronting the value and dividend of connectivity over output we will challenge and change the way our cluster’s success is shared.”

Bristol and Bath Creative R&D is one of nine research and development partnerships across the country in the AHRC Creative Industries Cluster Programme.

A new Policy and Evidence Centre for the sector led by global innovation foundation Nesta, with partners across the UK, will also connect organisations in the creative industries, research communities, and policy-makers to develop independent evidence and analysis that can inform decision-making across the industry and underpin future policy decisions.


Kate Pullinger

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