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High growth businesses fuse technology and arts

Date: 15/10/2013

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded study finds first empirical evidence of what is fuelling above average levels of innovation among a new generation of business radicals

The Brighton Fuse Report today provides deep empirical evidence of the economic impact of arts and humanities skills as drivers of innovation and growth in the digital economy. The findings identify a new type of business known as ‘superfused’, combining creative, digital and business skills to achieve growth figures almost three times as fast as other businesses and ten times that of the British economy overall.

With creative industries accounting for 9.7% of the UK economy, greater than construction, advanced manufacturing, and financial services,i this research is significant in classifying a new sector of business fusing the arts, humanities, and design with digital technology to achieve growth, as well as significantly higher levels of innovation, across a wider range of areas.

Conducted over two years by academics at the Universities of Brighton and Sussex, and overseen by the National Council for Universities and Business and Wired Sussex, the Brighton Fuse project focused on Brighton's vibrant cluster community to map and measure the activity and performance of creative, digital, and IT businesses (CDIT). The research findings call for a reappraisal of how creativity and technology are ‘fusing’ and ‘superfusing’ to provide businesses with a new type of competitive edge linked to innovation in business management and production.

According to this research, 65% of the Brighton sector is fused or superfused, breaking down traditional siloes between arts and ICT. 85% of CDIT leaders possess degrees and one quarter are postgraduates. This evidences that firms are employing specialists but creating an interdisciplinary environment and workforce to harness the best of arts and humanities graduates (32%) and scientists and computer engineers (21%).

Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive and Deputy Chair of the AHRC, underlined the crucial role of arts and humanities graduates and skillsets in the fusion effect;

Creating a culture that supports the continuous innovation in practice and process through interdisciplinary working is not easy. This research underlines that fact, but also the rewards of high growth. While innovation has long been a corporate byword for growth, arts and humanities graduates are key players in building it into the work of our creative digital businesses; delivering new processes (70%) and new services (62%). It’s significant that almost half of business leaders in the fast growth Brighton cluster are arts and humanities and design graduates.

The Brighton Fuse research also finds:

  • Superfused firms grow nearly three times faster than unfused firms, and 40% faster than the average Brighton CDIT firm
  • 99% of Brighton CDIT firms engaged in at least one type of innovation, but superfused firms are over three times more likely to be involved in 5 or 6 types of innovation. 47% are even willing to disrupt their processes, showing intensity of innovation
  • The average superfused entrepreneur is 40
  • 48% of Brighton CDIT entrepreneurs are arts, design, and humanities graduates
  • 50% of Brighton CDIT firms produce material for copyright but only 8% identify royalties as important source of revenue
  • Growth in employment in the Brighton cluster grew by 13%
  • Fused and superfused businesses are finding intense competition and major skill gaps, and are more likely to face barriers recruiting skilled talent than other firms

The growth of the Brighton creative digital cluster, like most clusters, is driven by the continuous innovation and exploitation of existing technologies and the presence of a vibrant artistic and creative community, rather than the commercialisation of new-to-the- world technology in new firms. The ability to share, collaborate, and diffuse new knowledge within the network of businesses has proved key in its ability to pioneer new ways of working.

Phil Jones, Managing Director, of Wired Sussex, says, As the research shows clusters are not necessarily based around a single industry, but can develop around a range of sectors that share common resources and inputs, and achieve scale economies by co-location even in a digital age. Brighton is a great example of this. A diverse ecosystem of private firms, together with public sector and University involvement, can assist in reusing and diffusing knowledge and innovative practice within a local context.

The job for policymakers is to help creative businesses better capture the value of what they produce and address barriers, such as ensuring education and government systems value interdisciplinary skills and avoid creative and digital skill silos.

Superfused clusters show the social and economic benefits of creating space and opportunity for collaboration and networking. 64% of respondents collaborate with other businesses and 46% attend technology related meet ups frequently. Notably, technology and digital platforms are being used as much to drive offline socialisation as they are online work and collaboration.

For further information, view the Brighton Fuse Policy Summary (PDF, 997KB).

To read the full report and find out more about the research findings, visit the Brighton Fuse website.

Watch a short film for an overview of the project and to learn some of the key facts and statistics that have come to light through Brighton Fuse.

For further information: Danielle Moore-Chick d.moore-chick@ahrc.ac.uk 01793 41 6021

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk


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