Building new partnerships to power the creative industries

The AHRC believes there's a huge amount to be gained from better conversations between the creative industries and arts and humanities researchers – and that's why we are driving forward bold plans to encourage collaboration.

Heather Williams, Creative Research & Development Partnerships Call Lead

In the UK we have world-leading creative industries that generate £87.4bn a year. We also have universities producing genuinely world-class arts and humanities research.

The two sectors have been cross-fertilising each other for decades, so it seems strange that there has been no formal systematic way for them collaborate – until now.

Starting this autumn, the AHRC-funded Creative Clusters Programme will link up academics with the creative industries with the aim of creating partnerships that deliver tangible economic benefits.

“It's a genuinely exciting proposal,” says Heather Williams, Funding and Delivery Lead: Creative Industries Clusters Programme, at AHRC.

“This isn't business as usual for the AHRC. This is a completely different and far more radical approach to funding.

“In other sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, there is a custom of using universities as sources of research and development. But this just hasn't been happening in the creative sector and we think that needs to change.

“Both sides have so much to gain from a closer relationship. And we want to help make that happen, now.”

For their part, academics will gain from collaboration, not only by getting privileged access to creative businesses but by being able to prove the real-world impact of their research and see it in action.

Meanwhile, the creative sector will benefit from direct access to a vast reservoir of talent. “creative businesses need access to deep knowledge, understanding and creative content,” says Heather. “They can find those things in the arts and humanities departments of our universities.

“By working with universities they have access to a whole range of academic experts, from humanities, to social sciences, to computer science; along with getting a lot of soft support around areas like, business management, finance and intellectual property.”

There is a specific audience the Creative Industries Clusters are keen to target: university research officers. “They have an absolutely key role to play, not only in talking to academics and helping them to see the benefits of being involved,” says Heather, “but also in helping break down some of the silos that exist between disciplines and departments.”

While the Creative Industries Clusters are still at an early stage, now is the time to get involved. This is when you can help shape these developing partnerships and find a model for how to work together to benefit each other.

As Heather says: “Everyone has a lot to learn from engaging with the Creative Industries Clusters.”

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