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R&D investment set to provide step up for Creative Industries

Date: 07/09/2018

From screen industries and digital storytelling to fashion and videogames, some of the UK’s best performing and world renowned creative businesses are to receive a major boost from investments announced today by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (see ref 1).  

The unprecedented investment offers support to the UK’s globally important creative industries, which are already worth over £92 billion to the UK economy and export an estimated £46 billion in goods and services each year (see ref 2).The aim is to create jobs and drive the creation of companies, products and experiences that can be marketed around the world, significantly contributing to UK economic growth both regionally and nationally.

The Creative Industries Clusters Programme is part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy (see ref 3), and comprises nine creative clusters and a new Policy and Evidence Centre. The Programme will bring together world-class research talent with companies and organisations from across the UK’s four nations in a first-of-its kind research and development investment.

Professor Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “Combining world-class arts and humanities researchers with our globally renowned creative industries will underpin growth in this vibrant and rapidly expanding sector within the UK economy. 

“These pioneering partnerships between industry and universities are providing a huge vote of confidence for a sector that is vital to the future prosperity of the UK.”

Each of the nine clusters emerged from an open, rigorous and peer-reviewed selection process that began a year ago. They bring together a range of educational and commercial partners to tackle unique R&D challenges identified by a specific area of industry. The clusters span the UK: from Bristol and Bath, Yorkshire and the Humber and South Wales to Edinburgh, Dundee, Belfast, and the south east of England (see ref 4).

The funded projects will accelerate growth in a range of creative sectors including the broadcast and screen industries, fashion textiles and technology, fashion design innovation, data and design, animation and videogames, digital storytelling and creative audiovisual.

In parallel, this investment also establishes a new Policy and Evidence Centre. The Centre will address the fact that while the national economic strength of the UK’s creative industries is unquestioned, gaps in the evidence base still exist. Led by global innovation foundation Nesta (see ref 5), with university partners across the UK, the new centre will connect stakeholders within the sector, research communities, and policy makers.  It will develop independent evidence that will inform decision-making across the creative industries and underpin future policy decisions.

The nine Creative clusters will be showcased at the Beyond Conference, which will mark the start of a new chapter in the UK’s creative industries. Exploring the sector’s future and potential to grow, innovate, and lead as well as learn from its global partners and competitors.

The Beyond conference will take place on Tuesday 13 November 2018 at Milton Court, Barbican in London, with tickets going on sale in mid-September, visit beyondconference.org for more information.


Notes to editors

For further information about the Creative Industries Clusters Programme please contact: Mike Collins, Head of Communications at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, on 07590 463751 or mike.collins@ahrc.ukri.org.


  1. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation,  funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: archaeology, area studies, the creative and performing arts, design, digital content, heritage, history, languages, philosophy and much more. This financial year we will spend approximately £98 million on 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 economic, social and cultural benefits to the UK, but contributes to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.

  2. All industry statistics sourced from the Creative Industries Federation: www.creativeindustriesfederation.com/statistics  

  3. The Industrial Strategy sets out a long term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK. It sets out how the UK Government is building a Britain fit for the future – how it will help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.

  4. The nine successful clusters focus on the following challenges (see the nine clusters listed below).

  5. Nesta is a global innovation foundation. It backs new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, through its knowledge, networks, funding and skills. Nesta works in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities.  It is a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit www.nesta.org.uk

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The nine clusters

  1. Creating jobs, companies and products in the Bristol and Bath region’s screen and performance industries by helping them adapt to emerging technologies.
    Led by: the University of the West of England with other institutions and commercial partners including Watershed, Aardman Animations, Audible, the BBC, and the RSC.

  2. Transforming the screen and broadcast industries in the Cardiff region of South Wales by helping them innovate and compete.
    Led by: Cardiff University with other institutions and commercial partners including BBC Cymru, S4C, Boom Cymru, ITV Cymru Wales and Sony UK Technology Centre.

  3. Delivering new products, start-ups and training opportunities in the video game sector, and intensifying growth, diversification and cultural engagement.
    Led by: Abertay University in Dundee with other institutions and commercial partners including DC Thomson and Co, Sony, deltaDNA, Scottish Enterprise, Microsoft, TIGA, Creative Scotland and Dundee City Council.

  4. Seeking to put businesses and creative entrepreneurs in the driving seat of data-driven innovation in Edinburgh’s lively design and advertising sector.
    Led by: University of Edinburgh with other institutions and commercial partners including Creative Edinburgh, Festivals Edinburgh, The List, the BBC, National Museums Scotland, The Fruitmarket Gallery and Royal Bank of Scotland.

  5. Transforming the fashion industry’s capacity for creative innovation and reducing lead times and waste by embracing digital technologies in the design process.
    Led by: University of Leeds with other institutions and commercial partners including the Royal College of Arts,Burberry, Wools of New Zealand, Wooltex UK and the British Fashion Council.

  6. Driving innovation in creative, immersive storytelling; connecting businesses, creating jobs and developing next-generation talent as the sector seeks to harness data-driven personalisation, smart devices and AI to reach audiences in new and complex ways.
    Led by: Royal Holloway with other institutions and commercial partners including the BBC, HTC Vive, nDreams, Plexus, Punchdrunk, Sky UK, Pinewood Group, BFI, Endemol Shine, Heathrow Airport, and the National Film and Television School.

  7. Delivering sustainable growth for the business of fashion, textiles and technology through innovation and adaptation.
    Led by: University of the Arts London with other institutions and commercial partners including ASOS, Clarks, British Fashion Council, London Legacy Development Corporation, Centre for Fashion Enterprise and the V&A.

  8. Growing the creative industries in Northern Ireland, particularly the extant animation and games clusters, by developing new hardware and software solutions.
    Led by: Ulster University with other institutions and commercial partners including: Northern Ireland Screen, the BBC, RTE, Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Catalyst Inc., Causeway Enterprise Agency, Belfast City Council and Digital Catapult.

  9. Establishing the screen industries of Yorkshire and the Humber as a centre of excellence in immersive and interactive storytelling.
    Led by: University of York with other institutions and commercial partners including Screen Yorkshire, New Moon Studios, BT, Sony, BFI, Duck Soup, Warp Films, Game Republic and the BBC.

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