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Major new project aims to light the fuse of economic growth

Date: 20/01/2016

A major new project is being launched to explore how the creative, digital and IT (CDIT) sector in the North East can be developed in order to play a leading role in the region’s economy.

The North East is an interesting case study for research as it includes the opposite extremes of the UK economy as a whole. In its rural areas it contains England’s lowest population density and areas of major economic deprivation. On the opposite side of the scale, urban environments like Middlesbrough currently has the fifth highest growth rate in new businesses in the country.

Within the CDIT sector, the North East lacks an overarching structure or larger network instead containing a number of smaller networks. The new ‘Creative Fuse North East’ project will begin by mapping the creative, digital and commercial landscape of the North East in terms of the mix of skills, knowledge and support available. This will be followed by work to identify opportunities for more effective use of resources and best practice in workforce development as well as highlighting ways in which the region’s universities can support the sector more effectively.

The new £3m project will run over 30 months and involve all five of the North East’s universities – Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham, Sunderland and Teesside. The project is part funded by the universities and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. They will work with businesses, artists, cultural organisations and partners to research how the ‘fusion’ of creativity and digital technology can support innovation and economic growth.

The project will work in partnership with the 12 local authorities in the North East, arts and cultural organisations, businesses, and the five universities which is significant to ensure that the findings of the ‘Creative Fuse North East’ project can support a suitable development of the region.

Creative Fuse North East will consider how the CDIT sector can ensure it has the right skills for a sustainable future, alongside how to develop more entrepreneurial graduates. It will also look at how the skills within the region’s CDIT sector can benefit the wider regional economy, for example by exploring opportunities for placing creative practitioners in non-creative businesses as a way to increase innovation.

The project will be led by Newcastle University and will draw on expertise from more than 40 academic and business support staff from across the five institutions, from creative arts, cultural heritage and digital humanities to business schools and cloud computing.

Professor Eric Cross, Dean of Cultural Affairs at Newcastle University and the project’s Principal Investigator, said: “To ensure that the North East’s CDIT sector can realise its full potential, businesses and creative practitioners need to be able to connect with, and benefit from, the best that our universities have to offer in terms of research, training and talent.

“Creative Fuse North East will work hand-in-hand with the CDIT sector to discover and promote best practice, join up support, and drive creativity and innovation across the North East’s economy.

“By bringing businesses, artists and academics together, Creative Fuse North East will create value – both in economic and cultural terms - regionally and nationally.” Creative Fuse North East builds on a similar project in Brighton launched in 2011. A report published in November 2015 highlighted that, as a result of the Brighton Fuse project’s evidence that was used to lever European funding, Brighton and Hove's digital and creative economy is now worth more than £1 billion to the city each year. Research carried out by Brighton Fuse also showed that ‘fused’ businesses grow three times faster than unfused businesses.

Professor Andrew Thompson, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Research Council said; “Creative Fuse North East combines the research strengths of the region’s five universities with a range of local authorities, cultural, creative and digital sector partners in ways that will facilitate new interactions between researchers and businesses, education and entrepreneurship.”

“A multi-disciplinary range of subjects are involved from the initial scoping work, business analysis and networking through to potential platforms for deeper engagement between creativity and economic growth."

"Alongside the ongoing impacts of the Brighton Fuse initiative and our current project ‘Bristol-Bath by Design’, Creative Fuse North East will explore the dynamic relationship between the skills, infrastructure and approaches needed to stimulate future directions for research and innovation in this sector.”

Notes for Editors

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 £98 million 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.

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