Creative Clusters Programme

The Creative Industries Clusters Programme will invest £80m in eight new creative research & development partnerships bringing together the UK’s renowned creative industries with our world-leading university sector.

Stage 1 Shortlist

The 22 shortlisted proposals – which are bidding to become one of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme – cover a variety of industries, from Wales’s dynamic audio-visual sector to Dundee’s video games industry and Leeds’ energetic fashion sector. One research partnership did not wish to announce its involvement at this time.

For further information about the Creative Industries Clusters programme, see the details on the main programme page.

Clwstwr Creadigol: Research and Development for a high performing creative cluster in Wales

Cardiff University
Lead: Justin Lewis

Creativity is intrinsic to Welsh identity, culture, and nationhood. In a post-industrial Cardiff region, creative industries are seen as strategically pivotal: the coal and steel of the future.

Cardiff is recognised as a high growth creative cluster – one of the UK’s top ten cities for growth in creative business. The Bazalgette Review and Nesta’s latest Creative Nation report confirm Cardiff’s place as one of the UK’s largest media production centres outside London.

Its rapidly growing digital economy is home to several national creative institutions with international reach. Wales is also home to the UK’s most significant centre of bilingual creative production.

Creative Cardiff’s mapping research has identified the audio-visual sector (film, TV, radio, video games, animation and post-production) at the heart of the Cardiff region’s creative growth. Its success has been the catalyst for a growing, increasingly ambitious creative ecosystem in South Wales, which is seen as critical to the City region’s economy.

Our key challenge is to move the cluster’s audio-visual sector from strength to leadership, thereby ensuring the creative cluster’s economic and cultural sustainability.

In close collaboration with industry partners we have identified six key areas for R&D interventions designed to meet this challenge:

  1. More consistent embedding of IP retention in creative production
  2. Innovation which is disseminated in a way which adds value to screen products to boost other digital creative sectors
  3. Innovation to develop new models of high quality and economically sustainable information services and distribution channels e.g. news
  4. Steps to develop Wales’s potential to exploit its expertise in bilingual production across international markets
  5.  Attention to screen industry supply chains, with particular focus on skills, networks and connectivity
  6. Application of voice recognition technology to screen industry products and services

Clwstwr Creadigol is a partnership between Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, the University of South Wales (all with centres of creative excellence that bring complementary expertise), BBC Wales (whose new studios in Central Square, Cardiff will enable innovation and collaboration with commercial partners), Welsh Government, the Arts Council of Wales, Cardiff City Council and over 50 creative industry and strategic organisations.

Celtic Creative Cluster

Falmouth University

The Celtic Creative Cluster (CCC) will deliver an industry focused, multi-disciplinary RD&I programme that addresses industry challenges and harnesses opportunities facing the creative industries. Our vision is to position ourselves as the leading rural creative industries cluster. We will achieve this by using immersive technologies to create extraordinary experiences. We will transport people to new planets, sit them in the front row of an intimate live performance on the other side of the world, engage with ancient civilisations and visualise microscopic compounds and organisms. We will enable intercontinental co-creation and augment the human experience by bringing people together.

The CCC – harnessing this opportunity for the Creative Industries 

Our Cluster has been centuries in the making. Cornwall and South Wales’ shared industrial heritage, forged through the exchange of ideas, materials, people and skills has shaped the landscapes of our clusters. Our partnership shares a clear vision to deploy our collective creative, entrepreneurial and technological talents to shape the future. Cornwall and South Wales support a density of creative businesses usually found in cities. There were 1,250 creative enterprises in Cornwall in 2015, representing an increase of 26% between 2011 and 2015. The Creative Industries in Wales provide employment for almost 50,000 people in over 4,500 active businesses and generate around £1 billion annual turnover.

The HEI partners, Falmouth University and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) have extensive expertise and research capacity in the area of M-UIEs, with Falmouth specialising in software development (Virtual, Mixed and Augmented Realty) and the UWTSD providing expertise in Artificial Intelligence, manufacturing and product design.  The CCC proposal will bring our Creative Industries SMEs together with our academic expertise to maximise the potential of our creative assets. 

What are Multi-User Immersive Environments (M-UIE)? 

With 360-degree virtual video production, audiences can be anywhere – in the best seats at Wimbledon, or in the international space station. This technology is not just disrupting the entertainment industry; it is transforming traditional sectors such as healthcare (remote diagnostics), construction and architecture (space visualisation) retail (experiential advertising), engineering (disruption of computer-aided design). M-UIEs enable people in different locations to interact within a Mixed Reality (MR) or virtual space. As an emerging disruptive medium, this technology is revolutionising the way we consume and distribute information. 

The global market opportunity

This technology places us at a pivotal point in the creation and distribution of screen based content. The take-up of faster fixed and mobile data services is extending consumers’ choice over how, when and where they participate in the digital world. This, combined with advances in Mixed Reality is revolutionising how we all engage with digital media. The Digital Catapult predicts that the UK MR market will be worth £1.2bn by 2020 and PWC estimate annual growth of 76% over the next 5 years, with over 257m MR headsets in use. 

How will this be achieved?  

Industry Partners will identify a new commercial opportunity or challenge related to M-UIEs. Businesses operating with the CI’s across the Cluster will then be tasked with responding to these challenges. This will lead to the development of new prototypes, new products, new processes and new experiences in the high-value Mixed Reality market place.  The HEI partners will provide the RD&I capacity, specialist technical knowledge and an exchange infrastructure to encourage cross-fertilisation between solutions. This will be supported by a Creative Industries Graduate Placement Scheme and Challenge Fund to provide creative skills and finance to support our businesses to develop new digital content, new products and new experiences in the high-value M-UIE market place.  We will support the Creative Industries directly through our ‘Creative-Tech’ applied research programme and position the sector in the supply chain of other high growth sectors through our ‘Creative-Bridge’ approach, which will boost the wider creative economy.

Mixed Reality Marketplace

King’s College London
Lead: Evelyn Welch

The intersection between the physical and digital environment is an emerging component of the 4th Industrial Revolution and is expected to develop into a sector with a $120 billion global turn-over.

There has been an exponential growth in affiliated creative businesses such as game-based Extended Reality (XR) products or cultural experiences where, for example, visitors can bring dinosaurs to life on their mobiles as they enter the Natural History Museum.

There is a group of growing businesses developing these initiatives based in two parts of the UK – London, where Tech Nation has provided important incubation spaces – and Bournemouth where the Local Enterprise Partnership and Borough Council have come together to offer extensive support and facilities for tech start-ups and growth businesses.

Our project has been created in conjunction with these two business clusters and is designed to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of the emerging immersive technology needed to increase the number of micro-businesses and SMEs capable of scaling up to meet the consumer and business to business demand for a Mixed Reality Marketplace for creators, investors, and consumers.

R&D for Screen and Stage Futures

London South Bank University
Lead: Lizzie Jackson

Our consortium includes world-leading screen and stage organisations and associated freelancers and micro, SME, and larger businesses.

We will facilitate industry adaptation to ‘big data’, the fourth data-driven industrial revolution (4IR), and develop data-driven products and services within a highly sophisticated R&D Support framework.

The framework aims to become progressively self-sustaining through a blend of value creation, commercialisation and revenue-generating initiatives.

The partners are nested along the Thames Corridor and include Pinewood Studios, Globe Education, RSC Education, the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, Quartermaster Studios, Creative and Cultural Skills and The Production Guild.

The Higher Education partners are London South Bank University (Entrepreneurial University of the Year, 2016), Ravensbourne (centre of excellence in broadcast & design), and Ryerson University, Toronto the third largest university-based incubator in the world rated No.1 in North America by UBI Global.

Creative North West

Manchester Metropolitan University
Lead: Martyn Evans

The Creative North West Research and Development (R&D) Partnership focuses on the cluster of companies working at the intersection of creative and digital services in the North West of England.

Consultation within our region has established that companies have difficulty focussing on anything that is not in the ‘here and now’ revealing a significant challenge of how to embed creative and innovation R&D skillsets to think beyond short-term issues to exploit the growth opportunities of emerging technologies, markets and behaviours.

Its ambition is to drive the future of this creative and digital cluster to become trailblazing innovators by collectively thinking beyond near-term concerns, embracing digital disruption and harnessing the transformative potential of the creative applications of data-driven technologies. We seek to ensure that companies of all sizes are able to embrace new technologies and see the value of R&D-led innovation alongside academic institutions and business peers with the eventual aim of stimulating the development of new products, services and experiences.

The ambition of Creative North West will be enabled through engagements that provide a testbed for exploration and development of new products, services and experiences.

R&D activities will be undertaken through supporting and delivering cross-cutting actions to support companies to become more innovative by embracing digital disruption in technology and to then deliver creative and digital expertise to their clients. This ‘horizontal’ integration between the creative and digital cluster and other industrial sectors will provide opportunities for new business models to emerge.

Our approach aims to broker an enhanced relationship between industry and the academic knowledge base to transform the productivity of the creative and digital economy in the North West through the delivery of new products, services and experiences now and improving skills planning and delivery and talent supply for future innovation.

Creative Fuse+ R&D Partnership

Newcastle University
Lead: Jonathan Sapsed

The Creative Fuse+ R&D Partnership will help creative industries across the North East of England to improve their connectivity within and across major clusters, stimulating the development of new products, services and experiences. Creative Fuse+ will focus on 4 creative industry sectors that are well prepared to deliver innovation and growth in the North East:

  1. IT, Software and Computer Services (with a particular focus on the North East’s vibrant clusters of immersive technologies and games SMEs and microbusinesses)
  2. Music, Performing Arts and Visual Arts (many of whose practitioners work closely with the region’s rich array of cultural institutions and festivals, as well as its universities and other sectors)
  3. Museums, Galleries, and Libraries (many of which have experience of collaborating with digital SMEs, practitioners, universities, and other public, private, and third sector organisations)
  4. Crafts, also known as designer-makers (many of whom are sole-traders and are involved in the region’s ‘maker movement’ characterised by sector working)

Recent research ( has shown that these growing clusters face 4 challenges that Creative Fuse+’s 5 universities and its industry partners have co-designed R&D activities to meet:


  1. CONNECTIVITY: The region has a range of outstanding bridging organisations that enable links within and across creative industry sectors. However, businesses still need their skill, products, services, and the richness of the experiences they provide to be more widely known regionally, nationally, and internationally. Whether they are based in urban creative industry clusters, or clustered in a more geographically scattered manner across the region’s rural areas, improved connectivity would help enable growth
  2. SCALE: Despite the North East’s strengths across the 4 clusters, the scale of employment and activity remains relatively low in comparison to other regions. By growing, all clusters would benefit from network effects that would enable reinvestment and further growth
  3. VALUE: Many businesses within the 4 foci clusters operate primarily on a work-for-hire basis and rarely capture the value of their work for themselves, limiting reinvestment opportunities and, therefore, growth
  4. R&D CAPACITY: Businesses from the 4 foci sectors often lack dedicated R&D capacity and the resources needed to engage in research and early-stage development of new products, services, and experiences. Furthermore, they lack the time to horizon scan in ways that could allow them access to new technologies, modes of working, markets and, therefore, growth.

Craft Work: Innovation, Diversity, and Routes to Growth

Queen Mary University of London
Lead: Morag Shiach

This R&D partnership will support innovation, generate routes to enhanced growth, and promote the business and social benefits of diversity, working closely with the creative industries cluster of East London and the Thames Estuary.

Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Islington are currently home to the largest concentrations of creative economic activity in the United Kingdom, and in early 2017 the Mayor of London ‘unveiled a bold vision to transform the Thames Estuary into a hub for the creative and cultural industries, and bring jobs and growth to benefit London and the wider South East’.

The sub-sector of the creative industries this partnership will work with is the Crafts sector. ‘Craft’ is defined broadly to include: artisanal work with glass and ceramics, weaving and knitting, digital crafts; craft food and drink; fashion-related crafts; furniture making and woodwork; theatrical crafts; jewellery making and other forms of metal and ceramic work; bookbinding; musical instrument making, plastic crafts; and other emerging hand-craft businesses.

The Craft sector is also understood as including the vibrant and growing maker technology movement, which is particularly active in East London.

The challenges for the Craft sector that will be addressed by the partnership are:

  1. Fragmentation, which makes collaboration between businesses more difficult
  2. Lack of visibility, making access to finance more challenging
  3. Disconnection between craft-driven thinking and the organisational structure and culture of large tech companies, impeding innovation
  4. Incomplete understanding of the potential contributions of makerspace-produced tech to innovation across the economy
  5. Patchy knowledge of IP issues in Craft SMEs and microbusinesses
  6. Limited international networks and international trade opportunities in the sector
  7. Insufficient provision of marketplaces
  8. The precarity of many Craft businesses.

This R&D Partnership involves large and small-scale companies, sector bodies, local government, cultural hubs in East London and five universities working in East London. The partnership has organised its programme of activities in the light of the findings of a Crafts Council Commissioned report: ‘Innovation Through Craft: Routes to Growth’ (2016). This describes the dynamic growth of craft innovation in the UK as a move from ‘happy accidents; via strategic development to ‘innovation culture’.

Activities will be organised under the rubrics of

  1. ‘Craft and Fusion’
  2. ‘Sectors, Open Innovation and Collaboration’
  3. ‘Barriers and Opportunities’
  4. ‘New Markets and Improved Products and Services’.

The Partnership will be hosted by QMUL, which led Creativeworks London and Creativeworks London/São Paulo, and was a partner in London Creative and Digital Fusion.


Royal Holloway, Univ of London
Lead: James Bennett

Led by Royal Holloway, University of London, the StoryFutures Cluster brings together a unique UK region of world-leading audiovisual and creative technology partners to build a base for exploration and innovation in Next Generation storytelling.

StoryFutures brokers collaboration across sectors to innovate in story form and process, creating enthralling content, products and experiences for emergent creative technologies.

Our partners include BBC Worldwide, NFTS, Punchdrunk, nDreams, HTC Vive, Sky VR, Immerse UK, Sony Interactive Entertainment, BFI, Endemol Shine UK, Heathrow, Pinewood-Shepperton Studios, Double Negative, Brunel and UCA.

Our approach marries new story experiences with ground-breaking audience engagement research, fusing psychology, neuroscience and ethnography to understand tomorrow’s audiences.

InGAME – Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise

University of Abertay Dundee
Lead: Gregor White

As cultural artefacts, video games are complex, multi-faceted products that encompass multiple creative practices from character and narrative; interaction and gameplay design, architecture, product and environment design to sound design and composition.

Technically they bring together software engineering with maths and physics, AI with networks and user data. Bring these factors together with a dynamic and competitive commercial environment; a disrupted technology environment and a growing cultural significance and you can begin to appreciate the challenges faced by this industry.

SMEs operating in the video games sector are subject to technological, market and platform disruption; platform access and ‘discoverability’ are significant challenges to product viability. These factors are exerting a downward pressure on innovation and the creation of original content in the Dundee cluster.

The InGame creative R&D partnership will pursue a highly collaborative, embedded approach to R&D by establishing a dedicated centre at the heart of the city’s games cluster where artists, designers and creative writers will be co-located with technologists and business specialists to offer a dynamic and responsive resource to engage with three significant, high-level challenges where combined collaborative R&D could lead to significant growth, sustainability and intensification for the computer games cluster in Dundee.

Creative Risk: Over the last decade the dominant business model in the Dundee games cluster has shifted from a publishing model, where development costs are borne by the publisher in advance of sales income; to a platform model where individual games companies carry the cost of development in return for as larger proportion of the sales revenue. As a consequence the risk attendant with the development of original content for the games market is, more often than not, fatal for start-up and micro-SME studios.

Technological Innovation: Working practices in this cluster are characteristically solution focused and iterative, and often inventive and ingenious. However, technology innovations are not systematically captured or tested for generalization or re-use value. Downward pressure on value chains has inhibited SMEs from taking on the risk of high-value innovation activity resulting in lost economic opportunity and inhibited cluster growth.

Organisational Development: The games cluster in Dundee is characterized by a high number of dynamic micro-SMEs creating content for mobile, tablet and PC gaming platforms. The city is also home to a smaller number of mid-sized SME’s with established product portfolios ranging from original franchises, sub-contracted development for established franchises and triple A (AAA) studios developing games for console release. There is a growing professional services sector (accountancy, legal) and cultural scene (galleries and events). R&D in organisational development in this context relates to start-up at company level through to cluster and ecosystem development.

The education sector is foundational to the cluster; Abertay University’s National Center for Excellence in Computer Games Education is characterised by active and mature collaboration between businesses, universities, and agencies across every scale of economic development.

The University’s longstanding relationship with national and multi-national games companies offers a unique opportunity to catalyse the value chain in the Dundee cluster. The academic partnership with Dundee University in Design for Business, and St Andrews School of Management’s expertise in Creative Industries offers a world-leading research base for the R&D partnership. The InGAME R&D Center and cohort of Creative R&D Fellows will establish a new mode of engagement for industry and universities to work effectively and responsively to meet the challenge of cross-sector collaborative R&D in the Creative Industries.

Creative Informatics: Data Driven Innovation for the Creative Industries

University of Edinburgh
Lead: Chris Speed

Data Driven Innovation (DDI) is transforming society and the economy. DDI is defined as the challenge to make effective use of data to shape, develop and deliver innovative products and services to consumers and citizens.

The Creative Industries are defined by change and fueled by the imaginations of artists, designers, curators, entrepreneurs and programmers who foresee the opportunities of new technologies to change the ways in which we live, work and engage with society. Equipping these communities with the access to cutting edge technologies, novel data sets and new ways of understanding value creation will provide Creative Industries with the comparative advantage to offer transformative social, economic and environmental futures.

The Creative Informatics Research & Development Partnership will grow the Creative Industries Cluster in the Edinburgh city region, by meeting the demand for increasing data literacy and the ability to design with data. Awarded the British Entrepreneurial City of the year in 2016, Edinburgh is the cluster outside of London with the highest current activity and potential for growth across key technology sectors such as VR, AI and data, and third for creative tech. It is among the 10 strongest clusters of Museum, Galleries and Libraries in the UK, and has the highest concentration of employment and businesses in the Creative Industries combined in Scotland.

It hosts 11 major festivals through the year, which with an audience of more than 4.5 Million, supporting 4000 jobs, generates £280m in Edinburgh and hosts the world’s largest market place for performing arts in the month of August. With a £1bn City Region Deal agreed in principle that specifically addresses the challenges and opportunities of DDI, Creative Informatics has a robust infrastructure to support a transformative trajectory for the Edinburgh Creative Industries Cluster.

The Partnership has the following objectives:

  1. To make Edinburgh a world class centre for creative industries talent who can design and research with data
  2. To achieve a step change in the use of Data Driven Innovation to develop new products, services and experiences through R&D
  3. To foster an ecosystem for Data Driven Innovation that creates new startups and scaleups and transforms existing creative industries.

The R&D will be focussed on four Innovation challenges identified by the Partnership to be addressed through the lense of Data Driven Innovation:

  1. Developing access to and engagement with new audiences and markets
  2. Developing new modalities of experience
  3. Unlocking value in archives and data sets
  4. Revealing new business models for the Creative Industries

The growth will be delivered through a programme of six initiatives: Challenge and Horizon R&D projects; Creative Informatics lab and workshops; Resident Entrepreneurs; Creative Bridge, a dedicated data driven business innovation programme; and a programme to support T-Shaped people (individuals with the capacity to span several disciplines needed to succeed in the creative industries) to develop R&D and leadership in the Creative Industries in Edinburgh.

The R&D Partnership will not only drive innovation in data-focused businesses (software, IT, web etc) that see opportunities to provide new products and services for the creative industries, it will also foster data driven innovation in existing cultural and creative businesses, increasing their productivity and growth.

Furthermore, it will encourage creative entrepreneurs to found new businesses to capitalise on opportunities arising from the deeper understanding of data gained through their involvement in the R&D partnership.

Enabling freelance and micro business productivity through digital connectivity

University of Essex
Lead: Rosemary Klich

This partnership will apply innovation in digital connectivity to enable freelancers and microbusiness in the creative industries to overcome barriers to productivity, scalability and economic growth.

In Essex and Kent, distributed networks of small-scale professionals and businesses will benefit from access to innovative technologies and techniques that extend their digital skills and capabilities, increasing capacity to collaborate on ambitious projects, reach new audiences and create new revenue streams.

The R&D innovation project is anchored in the strong, existing partnerships of the South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN), and aligns with SE LEP and GLA ambitions for the Thames Estuary Production Corridor. Our collective understanding of regional sector challenges and our shared vision for creative industries growth in our region has enabled us to bring together a consortium of partner organisations including private, public and third sector support, local, regional, national and international organisations, large industry partners, and microbusinesses.

The Universities of Essex and Kent have extensive experience in delivering major infrastructure investments, and the partnership will draw on the HEIs’ knowledge base in 5G connectivity and digital communications, intelligent technologies, network convergence, immersive technologies, human/digital interface and the psychology of immersive environments, and creative arts practices in performing arts, heritage and architecture, sound and music technology and visual arts.

Two initial R&D Innovation Challenges will address core sector demand, with a programme of facilitated workshops to identify responsive-mode R&D projects. The first Innovation Challenge addresses Remote Collaboration and Virtual Workspace, with the aim of better enabling creative professionals to work fluidly and productively across local, regional and global networks. R&D projects will develop and test prototype technologies and new techniques for remote collaboration, supporting productive, real-time creative exchange and enabling international creative collaborations.

R&D will also develop and test platforms for virtual working that will allow freelancers and microbusinesses remote access to the resources of clustering (peer-networks, access to facilities, equipment, innovation and skills, visibility to supply chains), and test techniques for replicating the authentic human interactions that underpin effective creative collaboration.

The second Innovation Challenge focuses on Commercialising Creative Content for Digital Export. The development of exportable digital products that effectively replicate real-world experiences of space, place and sound opens up new opportunities to capitalise on the UK’s domestic strengths in performing and visual arts, museums, galleries and heritage, through export to global markets.

R&D will take a three-pronged approach to this challenge, addressing:

  1. digital spectatorship for galleries and exhibitions
  2. remote access to live performance events
  3. digital spectatorship for heritage sites.

Alongside these innovation challenges, the partnership will deliver a programme of training and capacity building, developing a pro bono digital resource for business and legal advice for creative industry partners, and providing opportunities for knowledge exchange and response-mode innovation through residencies, challenge-led workshops, webinars, summer schools, and rotational apprenticeships.

Creative SW: iHeritage

University of Exeter
Leads: Mark Goodwin & Jay Gascoigne

The Creative SW: iHeritage R&D Partnership will deliver a step change in the use, adoption and exploitation of emergent and immersive digital technologies in our internationally renowned heritage sub-sector, bringing histories to life and providing unforgettable heritage experiences to national and international audiences.

Our five year R&D programme is designed to overcome the key cultural, business and technological barriers to widespread and sustainable adoption of digital media and technology as a mechanism for improving audience experience, audience reach and personalised audience engagement with tangible and intangible heritage.

Our R&D Partnership is built on the South West’s extensive share of the UK’s heritage assets, from designated monuments, historic buildings, World Heritage Sites, museums, heritage environments and our rich maritime cultural history. It also builds on one of the UK’s fastest growing digital media and technology business clusters, located along the UK’s beautiful SW coast. With membership from major national organisations, global companies, local SMEs and world class universities, our collaborative R&D Partnership is ideally placed to develop an internationally recognised test-bed for new and innovative products, services and experiences that engage with the UK’s rich history and culture.

In parallel, our Innovator Challenge Fund will provide competitive grants that encourage partners from within the heritage and digital media sub-sectors to create smaller R&D partnerships to conceive, develop, test and introduce to market innovative new products, services and experiences for the heritage sub-sector, in line with the core R&D Programme.

Our R&D programme will provide a test bed for new ideas and concepts to be developed in emergent and immersive digital media and technology, its application in the heritage sector, and the further development of the user experience in these environments, defining the South West UK as a global leader and innovator in this field.

Glasgow: Global City

University of Glasgow
Lead: Philip Schlesinger & Martin Kretschmer

University of Glasgow (CREATe, CCPR, Kelvinhall partnership), Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and Glasgow City Government

Chair: Prof. Philip Schlesinger
Executive Director (PI): Prof. Martin Kretschmer

Future Fashion Factory: Digitally Enabled Design & Manufacture of Designer Products for Circular Economies

University of Leeds
Lead: Stephen Russell

The fashion design industry contributes £28bn or £50bn including indirect contributions, to the UK economy with a growing workforce of nearly 900,000 making it one of the largest creative industries in the country.

This is an industry-led challenge in which designers will lead a highly creative process of applying, co-developing and implementing new textile and industrial digital technologies (IDTs) in collaboration with supply chain manufacturers and other technology experts, in the high value luxury textile and fashion sector.

The R&D cluster will deliver exciting new creative innovation opportunities, new products, shorter product development lead times, reduced costs, and substantially increase global industrial competitiveness and productivity.

The research focuses on developing new creative design processes, products, service and business models, linked to two key themes:

  1. Digitally Connected and Sustainable Processes
  2. Digital Communication Systems

The R&D in both themes will also feed in to the creation of new fashion design programmes for undergraduates, postgraduates and industrial apprenticeship programmes to address a skills gap in the industry for multidisciplinary designers, that possess a unique combination of art, design, science and technology competencies.

Creative Canal: Activating Architecture for the Creative Industries

University of Reading
Lead: Flora Samuel

The Creative Canal brings together the Creative Industries and Construction, two sectors that rarely work together, to develop new products services and tools for the enhancement of the Built Environment as well a model for new sustainable, affordable and distributed ways of working in which quality of life and connection to place are drivers of creativity and wellbeing.

This will be achieved through the reactivation of the recently restored Kennet and Avon Canal that connects Reading and Bath as a conduit for 21st century industry. Architecture (architects, planners, urban and landscape designers) play a pivotal role in mediating between the Creative Industries and the Construction Industry but – because of their project based finance system, low fees, & lack of business & research skills – they are largely failing in this role.

The Canal will support the development of R & D activity within architecture to enable it to achieve its potential as boundary spanner giving the Creative Industries much improved access to Construction and its considerable markets.

The Canal, a collaboration between industry and academic partners and the Independent Research Organisation Historic England, brings together 3 adjoining ‘creative clusters’, a series of mature but discrete R & D relationships, 2 contrasting ‘small cities’, Reading and Bath, 2 highly ranked schools of architecture, 2 broad-based universities as well as the rich vein of rural and urban SME/startup creative industries and under-utilized heritage infrastructure dispersed between them along the 87 mile long K & A Canal including the historic market town of Newbury.

These towns (named ‘Creative Clusters’ 31, 32 & 33 by NESTA), have a very strong digital capability with architecture also being very well represented particularly in Bath. Despite this the attraction and retention of talent, connectivity (internally, externally and with universities) and the development of international presence are very real threats to its continued success.

The three workstreams of the Creative Canal are:

  1. A Research and Development Pipeline; – Placemaking; – Evaluation
  2. These offer a challenge led opportunity for collaboration between the Creative Industries
  3. Construction mediated by architecture.

They have been conceived in response to a local need for connectivity and infrastructure.

Workstream 1, the R & D pipeline, will bring together interdisciplinary teams to develop new products, services and tools with considerable economic potential – an example might be an App for the delivery of architectural design services.

The development of teams encompassing architecture, other creative industries and academics will be incentivized through a carefully crafted Knowledge Exchange competitions set to address key industry challenges. Outputs emerging from the competitions will be coaxed to market through business incubation and training in creative entrepreneurship.

Workstream 2, Creative Placemaking, will provide a challenge-based opportunity for the Creative Industries to work together to provide an attractive, affordable, connected and visible working environment for startups and SMEs within the many underused and at risk heritage buildings along the Canal.

The Creative Canal will be developed, initiated and publicized in a participatory way through events, exhibitions and pop up interventions, culminating in a festival along the Canal which will play an important role in its retooling for 21st century industry.

Workstream 3, Evaluation, will provide an evaluation of the first two workstreams in terms of both qualitative and quantitative data. A model will be developed to visualize the complex social and economic impacts of the Canal and will itself provide a new service. This final workstream will shed light on the complex but underexplored relationship between the creative industries.

Future – Making

University of Sheffield
Lead: Vanessa Toulmin

Future – Making is the vision that unites our Creative Cluster and scaling up the businesses that make up our sector is our challenge. Research and development will engage with making on many levels including content, objects, ideas, events, knowledge, networks.

Future – Making here refers to our cluster and programme of work; it forms a hub around which we will collectively invest in the future creative economy of Sheffield and Sheffield City Region (SCR).

We suggest that for an effective scaling of provision to take place within our identified cluster, new networks will emerge, digital infrastructures advanced and a new approach to physical and intellectual resources will enable significant future growth. Partners will be drawn to this new hub as it offers a potential to build bigger and better and tap into a wider network of skills and expertise.

Future – making identifies Music & Performance, Publishing and Design as key areas of potential future growth and will focus on Sheffield based micros and SMES operating within these 3 themes. Sheffield is nationally recognised as an innovator in HE collaboration and creative innovation.

Our current cluster comprises 5 leading commercial creative businesses, the HEIs and Local Authority and 4 from public/commercial arts sectors. Future – Making has developed through partnerships with the city’s business organisations and HE Is drawing on the idea of Sheffield as a city of makers. All cluster partners have a history of eclectic, economically beneficial co-produced programmes.

We anticipate that through an innovative approach to digital networking, providing access to focused business support and capital investment in a creative makers hub, the impact of this programme of work will extend into the wider city creative economy.

Future – Making consists of small co-producing innovative micro clusters, agencies, festivals, venues, studios mirroring the national picture where firms of one or sole traders make up 92% of the arts and culture sector (Arts Council England, 2017).

It is underpinned by strong industry networks and intermediaries such as the Culture Consortium, Studio One and the Creative Guild. It is largely defined by place – its infrastructure and networks are within the city both in its physical landscape and awareness of a long standing making tradition.

This bottom up approach is seen as city strength as cited by Peter Bazelgette (2016) who notes that companies have a firmer grasp of their growth potential and needs than governmental bodies.

Our Creative Cluster includes micro-business and our research suggests limited access to skills resources and new networks can restrict growth and development. Lack of time for research and development of new material on a scale beyond the micro and lack of opportunity to access new creation spaces is losing the city revenue.

Within Design, Publishing, Music & Performance, Future – Making will offer a point of convergence and collaboration between media, technology and other creative art forms encouraging innovation and growth. Digital networks and hubs are emerging citywide and regionally largely from our thriving digital and gaming sector. Through developing an overarching digital framework Future – Making will enable greater engagement with digital technologies as a tool for commerce through on-line trading, social media marketing, virtual reality, immersive technologies.

Design companies, once traditionally graphically focused, now engage with media, film production and interactive technologies to generate on line and site specific content, creating greater demand for traditional artistic skills, performance, set design, editing and next generation technologies. One of our key aims, using AHRC funds, is to accelerate the adoption of the latest digital technologies to ensure the community of Future Makers continues to innovate, becomes more competitive and grows.

M3CC: M3 Creative Corridors Creative R&D Partnership

University of Surrey
Lead: Kirk Woolford

Guildford, “the Hollywood of Computer Games” is not only ready to embrace the new era of opportunities for screen industries detailed in the Bazalgette review, it’s already an international leader in video games and immersive media.

Likewise, Guildford is already creating the audiences of the future, years ahead of the challenge outlined in the Industrial Strategy White Paper. Surrounding Guildford is the M3 Creative Corridor (M3CC), home to the UK’s largest concentration of creative businesses and jobs outside London. It links a collection of “creative conurbations” with a global reputation for excellence in the digital sector of the creative industries, in particular videogames and immersive media. M3CC aims to increase the number of innovative new creative stories and experiences produced in Guildford and the surrounding M3 corridor, by bringing together creative businesses, researchers and technologists.

Specifically, M3CC will identify and explore opportunities for diversifying the cluster’s mature digital creative sector with application into other sectors where that might enhance innovation, growth and productivity. M3CC aims to remove cultural and technical barriers to collaboration by addressing skills exchange, equality and diversity, creative challenges for business incubation and investment, and co-development of creative technologies.

The following 4 challenges and associated activities detailed under “Objectives” have been identified as primary routes to increased productivity in the region. In addition, M3CC activities and outputs include:

  1. a ground breaking Digital Arts Festival, commissioning and showcasing the next wave of digital story-sharing, mediated performance and play experiences alongside a host of international artists and creative industry luminaries
  2. a creative/technology Skills Exchange Lab
  3. ‘Creative-Reach’ Diversity Research and Targeted Project Funding
  4. Skills Development, Technology Access and the Production of Industry-Ready Exemplar Projects using University-developed technologies.

Central to the M3CC project is the involvement of the G3 Consortium, representing many of the video game companies in the region. G3 has been developed in partnership with UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie), Charles Russell Speechlys LLP (a law firm supporting the creative industries), games development companies based in the Surrey Research Park including Peter Molyneux’s 22-Cans, new developer-publishers such as Chilled Mouse, and start-up incubator Rocketdesk (representing 25 Small and micro enterprises).

Other core partners include: – Enterprise M3 LEP (EM3) listing gaming as one of its key strategic economic priorities. – UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) the only trade body for the UK’s games and interactive entertainment industry, a not-for-profit and represent businesses of all sizes – Women in Games (WIGJ) ia not for profit organisation that works to recruit more women into the games industry and to support those already in the industry.

These and other links enable the bid to include numerous industry partners, including games developers, film and television production companies, immersive media producers, visual effects houses and animation studios. Diversity is at the heart of M3CC.

We recognise that the opportunities within this region’s creative industries need to be more inclusive, drawing in a wider community of practice and enabling the engagement of more diverse and hard to reach audiences and participants. This is not merely a matter of social cohesion, but also one of cultural and economic opportunity. New audiences, new forms of engagement, new stories and new experiences for wider and more sustainable reach.

Brighton Creative Cluster Partnership

University of Sussex
Lead: Paul Nightingale

Brighton is the third largest city in the South of England and is home to one of the most dynamic and innovative creative clusters in the UK. Its creative economy is based around networks of technically-sophisticated small firms and freelancers dispersed around the City who come together to collaborate in temporary projects.

They typically interact with a wide range of cultural organisations in Brighton and use Brighton’s vibrant arts and cultural sectors to generate innovative products, services and experiences. This dynamism allows the firms to be very flexible and adapt to changing circumstances, which is one reason why they have been so successful.

However, it also makes it harder for firms to upgrade their technology and capture value from their creative outputs. This project aims to help firms overcome these problems and apply new technology to become more efficient, profitable and dynamic.

The project aims to contribute towards doubling the Brighton cluster over the next five years, adding an extra £1bn to the UK economy. To deliver this improvement the Universities of Brighton and Sussex have come together in a partnership with Wired Sussex, a local business support organisation, to address two key challenges that local firms have identified as constraints on their growth.

The first challenge is to improve how the firms innovate using emerging technologies. These are new technologies such as 5G mobile phone technology, Virtual and Augmented Reality technology, Artificial Intelligence technology and a range of connected technologies that is commonly known as the Internet of Things. The partnership will work with firms to help them use the wide range of resources that are available in Brighton to create novel, commercially successful products and services.

The second challenge is to help firms capture more of the value they create. The firms that produce innovations are not always the firms that profit from them. To profit from innovations firms need to develop an appropriate set of skills and assets. The partners will work with firms to help them capture more value.

For example, by helping them use Brighton’s arts festivals to showcase their work to international audiences. To address these challenges the partnership has designed a programme of R&D for the firms in the cluster. This research will help firms use a range of assets (like technology test-beds, and shared workspaces) to innovate.

One of the benefits of being in Brighton is that it has a wide range of these assets, but there are so many that they can be hard for small firms to navigate. The project therefore aims to guide firms towards appropriate assets and support them as they use them to innovate.

This support for innovation will include helping firms use novel management methods to integrate knowledge from the arts and humanities, computer science and social sciences, so they can better understand the commercial potential of emerging technologies as they develop prototypes and analyse how customer and audience respond to them. By undertaking this work, the partners working on the project aim to substantially improve the economic performance of the Brighton creative industries cluster.

The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology Collaborative R&D Partnership

University of the Arts London


B+B Creative Cluster

University of the West of England
Lead: Jon Dovey

The Bristol and Bath Creative Industries (CI) cluster was identified in the 2017 Bazalgette Report as one of three regions outside London to have international growth potential.

We have some brilliant world leading creatives here already, BBC Natural History, Aardman, Hermann Miller, Dyson, the Bristol Old Vic and the Watershed, but we want to make sure that this success grows even stronger in the next ten years. We want Bristol & Bath to be known round the world as the place to come for creative innovation and we want to make sure that the next generation of global creative brands get the support they deserve.

We know that we are above the national average for jobs in Design, Film TV Radio and Photography, IT Software, Music and Performing Arts, and Publishing. But the business models in all these sectors are challenged and disrupted by the emergence of new technologies. Virtual and augmented realities, 5G phone connection, so called smart cities and cloud computing, automation and robotics, new ways of image processing like motion capture and distributed manufacturing will all shape the market places of the future.

Our B+B Creative Cluster programme, (B+B)XR+D, is designed to combine the best university research resources in the two cities with the most exciting and innovative companies. We will give companies time to think, time to imagine, time to plan how to make even more brilliant work in the ten next years with the amazing opportunities coming on stream.

This R&D capacity will be practical, this scheme is designed to make new products, services and experiences. Our collaborative R&D begins with the question what is your dream project? What would you like to produce that your day to day business makes difficult or impossible? Let us help you do that. By putting the design and production of new programmes, software, apps, games, goods and services at the heart of our scheme we ensure that businesses can grow.

Once our visioning and production phases are completing we will mobilise our business development support. We want to see more investment coming to the West of England’s creative businesses so that they can support more jobs and enrich the lives of our citizens. We also want to see more people from the city region employed in our creative industries, that is why we are including not only paid internships for a diverse cohort of next generation creative leaders but also skills development programmes for young people who might not otherwise consider a career in this sector which already supports 15000 jobs in the region.

NI Creative R&D Partnership

University of Ulster
Lead: Paul Moore

The NI Creative R&D Partnership (CRDP) comprises the two higher education institutions (Ulster University and QUB) and a number of key industrial partners central to the creative sector in the region, including NI Screen, BBC, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Causeway Enterprise Agency, Digital Catapult, Catalyst Inc., RTE, Games NI, Kainos, Invest NI, Techstart NI, Matrix and Tourism NI.

The Northern Ireland Assembly, defines the creative industries as ‘those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’.

The Partnership has, from this, developed a definition of, and a working model for, the creative industries in NI which is focused on participation, cultural and economic growth, and social and economic regeneration placing the Partnership as a leading developmental catalyst in this NI sector.

In the context of Northern Ireland, the creative industries are more than just another key economic sector, yielding, according to DCAL figures, £797 million in gross added value of the NI economy, and employing five percent of the entire NI workforce. For a region emerging from a period of profound conflict, and social and cultural division and dysfunction, the creative industries sector has continued to offer an alternative and successful paradigm, a new model for cultural expression, personal growth, and economic attainment.

The cluster of organisations involved in the NI CRDP will:

  1. be audiovisual-led, complemented by the strength of the digital sector and the impact of technology in other more traditional sectors, eg. in tourism, heritage, textiles and crafts
  2. operate across NI as a region: driven by the Belfast travel-to-work-area (which is recognised as one of NESTA’s 47 creative clusters) and complemented by developments elsewhere, including the North West of the province and by a regional infrastructure (Creative Incubation Hub, Coleraine, Nerve Centre, Derry)
  3. a spatially defined multi-sector cluster that is distinctive within the UK, shaped by the complexity of cultural space in the aftermath of 20th-century conflict, a plurality of commercial and cultural relationships including across the border with the Republic of Ireland (which provides access to cross border supports of Google, Facebook etc in Dublin), the role of economic development bodies such as Invest NI and Catalyst Inc. (with its community-led innovation ecosystem based on the San Diego model), and the significant investment of the HEIs and FE colleges in the creative industries.

The overarching aim of the NI CRDP is to develop a new understanding of the role the creative industries can play in advancing the NI economy both in terms of financial growth and the creation of new employment opportunities. It will do this by researching new technologies and opportunities, developing appropriate educational and training models, placing NI creative businesses in front of international markets, and working with government and other key agencies to ensure sustained growth.

The importance of this intervention is that it establishes the creative industries in NI as a neutral space where contemporary and emerging industrial forms can be advanced in secure settings in a transitional period which is still informed by underlying political tensions.

The role of the CRDP as a safe space for high-risk creative endeavour in a low-risk innovation environment, one that fosters experiment and cultural opportunity, cannot be overestimated. As Benedict Anderson (1991) has shown, communities interact through concepts of imagined connection and the NI CRDP will actively work as a hub to create new forms of imagined community which advance and normalise political stability while creating real employment and building economic growth.

Creative Media Labs: Innovations in Screen Storytelling in the Age of Interactivity and Immersion

University of York
Lead: Damian Murphy

Storytelling is central to human activity, one of the ways in which we make sense of the world. The screen industries are the latest in a long line of technologies and cultural practices committed to the creation of stories. Film, television, video, computer games and other interactive media now tell stories digitally.

But digital technologies are changing rapidly, enabling new modes of creation, new approaches to storytelling, new experiences for audiences and users. How can the screen industries keep pace with such change? How can they make the most of the new opportunities available for them? How can they develop the skills necessary to engage with these new technologies? How can they create with those technologies in ways that are exciting, commercially viable and capable of creating significant economic growth?

These are some of the questions that Creative Media Labs seeks to answer, as it enables innovations in screen storytelling in the age of interactivity and immersion. The focus of Creative Media Labs is the considerable cluster of screen industry enterprises in the Yorkshire and Humber (Y&H) region.

The aim of the partnership is to enable this regional cluster to become the UK centre of excellence for the next generation of digital storytelling. This is an established creative industries cluster that has been earmarked for significant support through Screen Yorkshire’s (SY) Growth Plan, supported by the British Film Institute’s (BFI) Creative Clusters Challenge Fund. SY, the BFI and the University of York (UoY) have come together in a collaboration that blends world-leading research on digital storytelling with national strategic vision and unparalleled regional industry nous.

Clustering is key to the development of the contemporary screen industries, and clusters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. With key initiatives across its five major cities, the Y&H region saw the fastest rate of screen industry growth in the UK between 2009 and 2015.

It is home to one of only three ITV production centres, producing around 500 hours of TV annually; True North, the biggest factual producer in the North of England, now owned by Sky; Warp Films, probably the most important out-of-London film company in the UK, and winners of multiple BAFTAs; Rockstar, one of the largest games developers in the world; Sumo Digital, one of the fastest growing games companies in the UK with over 300 staff; Revolution Software, developers of the hugely successful Broken Sword series; Viridian FX, one of the largest VFX houses in the North of England; and Church Fenton Yorkshire Studios, a major production facility used by Mammoth Screen for ITV’s Victoria.

There is also a wealth of micro businesses working in the sector. Creative Media Labs will build a sustainable and collaborative R&D partnership around this regional screen industries cluster, and its numerous micro-businesses, SMEs, and branches of large creative enterprises. Its core delivery partners are UoY, SY and the BFI; all the key local authorities and enterprise partnerships are on board, as are most of the other leading universities in the region; so too are investors, and some of the leading national trade associations, organisations and creative enterprises.

UoY has an excellent track record in multi-disciplinary research, with huge investment in creativity, across the arts, humanities and sciences – a combination reflected in the multi-million pound Digital Creativity Labs. There is then an extensive pool of research expertise in digital storytelling, from writing, through media embodiment, to the development of underpinning technologies.

By identifying industry-led challenges, this expertise will be shared with the Yorkshire and Humber screen industries cluster in ways that will enable us to fulfil our ambition to establish the region as the UK centre of excellence for digital storytelling. Co-creation and collaborative working will be at the core of what we do.

Funded By