Creativeworks London (CWL) has been undertaking research over the past two years focused on the digital economy in London; on geographies of innovation in the creative and cultural industries; and on London’s audiences. Research findings have been presented at a wide range of conferences, workshops and research Labs, and have also been published in a series of CWL ‘Working Papers’, which can be found at: www.creativeworkslondon.org.uk/publications/.
One of the important and exciting features of CWL’s research has been the rich and productive interactions between the many projects that we have funded under our Creative Voucher, Researcher-in-Residence, and Creative Entrepreneur-in-Residence schemes and the most pressing research questions for the creative economy in London. Themes such as ‘localities’, ‘mobile culture’, ‘co-creation’, ‘rethinking value’, ‘working with archives’ or ‘joining the dots’ have clearly resonated with SMEs while also enabling CWL’s researchers to build a much richer evidence base for their research on key aspects of the creative economy. Our researchers have been partners on creative vouchers and residency projects, working closely with SMEs to develop collaborative research projects that have had significant and positive impacts for a wide range of SMEs. They are also now able to draw in their research on the outcomes of nearly a hundred funded collaborative projects, reaching across many sectors of the creative economy and drawing on diverse disciplines within the Arts and Humanities. The insights and innovations of this research are beginning to attract significant interest internationally, and CWL is now actively pursuing international funding opportunities to sustain and develop this research over the coming years.
Seven members of the CWL team presented at a conference (October 2014) in Lancaster organised by the AHRC to capture the interim findings from the four KE Hubs for the Creative Economy they are currently funding (Creativeworks London; REACT; Creative Exchange; and Design in Action). A selection of these presentations will be published in the spring. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to present a paper jointly written with Jana Riedel (CWL Hub Manager) and Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani (London Fusion Coordinator). CWL has been a partner in London Creative and Digital Fusion over the past two years, and has had particular responsibility for the delivery of the ‘voucher scheme’ run by Fusion, the Fusion Collaborative Awards, during this time. With the first phase of Fusion coming to an end very soon, it seemed to be a good moment to analyze and compare the methodologies underpinning CWL’s Creative Vouchers (CVs) and Fusion’s Collaborative Awards (FCAs); their policy antecedents; and their impacts.
Our conclusions were that both the CV and FCA schemes have generated collaborative research opportunities that have increased engagement between creative and cultural SMEs in London and researchers in Arts and Humanities disciplines. The benefits from these collaborations are multiple, diverse, and significant, and indications at this stage are that a significant number of sustainable relationships have been put in place. This sustainability will be further investigated over the next two years. Both schemes deployed significant amounts of brokerage to ensure the best possible fit between the business needs of SMEs and the research expertise of CWL partners, and to enhance the potential for sustainability.
We also concluded that the CV scheme was better able to target specifically researchers in Arts and Humanities disciplines, although in both CV and FCA schemes there was significant involvement of researchers working in cross-disciplinary spaces, particularly where these were focused on digital creativity and innovation. At this stage it appears that the proportion of projects leading to significant economic growth within participating SMEs is higher in the FCA than the CV scheme, although both schemes do also demonstrate a wide range of significant social and cultural impacts. Finally, the CV scheme generated more projects with clear research benefits for the research partner, perhaps because the shape of these projects was more explicitly co-designed by researchers and SMEs within the CWL scheme.
An extensive discussion of the methodologies deployed within CWL’s CV scheme can be found at http://www.creativeworkslondon.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/PWK-Working-Paper-4-SEO.pdf. Further evaluations of the medium-term impacts of these two schemes will be undertaken over the next two years. This will be of clear benefit to funders and policy makers seeking to understand the most effective methods for supporting university/industry collaborations and enabling innovation and growth within the creative and cultural economies.
Morag Shiach is Director of Creativeworks London, and is also Professor of Cultural History and Vice-Principal (Humanities and Social Sciences) at Queen Mary University of London.
This article was first published on the Creativeworks London website on 8th December 2014.