University of Exeter Streatham Campus

Creative industries in £16million funding boost

The University of Exeter is to play a key part in a new Knowledge Exchange Hub which has been established to boost the region’s creative economy.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has unveiled four new Hubs and pledged an investment of some £16million over four years.

The University of the West of England (UWE) has been chosen to lead one of the prestigious Hubs and will be working closely with the Universities of Exeter, Bristol, Bath and Cardiff, as well as Bristol’s Watershed and a wide range of creative industry partners, to form the new Research and Enterprise in Arts and Creative Technologies Hub (REACT) for Exeter, the South West of England and South Wales.

The University of Exeter’s Professor Nick Kaye will be a Co-director alongside Professor Robert Bickers from the University of Bristol, who will be joined by Knowledge Exchange champions from the Universities of Bath and Cardiff. Professor Kaye, the Dean of Humanities at the University of Exeter said: "This is excellent news. REACT will create new ways for our universities to build on already strong collaborations with the cultural industries. There will be tremendous opportunities for research academics, arts organisations and businesses in the creative economy to work together in new ways that will have substantial benefits for the region and beyond."

The Hubs will have the task of building new partnerships and entrepreneurial capacity in the creative economy and increasing the number of arts and humanities researchers actively engaged in research-based knowledge exchange.

The four lead institutions are UWE, the University of Lancaster, the University of Dundee and Queen Mary, University of London. Each will lead consortia that will include other universities, creative businesses, including small and medium enterprises, arts and culture organisations and other agencies.

Professor Paul Gough, UWE Deputy Vice-Chancellor said, “This is an outstanding result for the Universities and for all our partners across the south-west of the UK; the Hub will generate many brilliant and exciting projects that will have a direct impact on the creative economy, on businesses and education. UWE is delighted to be leading this project and working in collaboration with so many outstanding partners.”

The Hub will be directed by Professor Jon Dovey and based in Watershed's Pervasive Media Studio, growing its partnership with UWE's Digital Cultures Research Centre. This unique city-centre studio, which was established in 2008, brings together artists, technologists and academics to explore the future of creative technologies.

Clare Reddington of Watershed, who will act as Executive Producer for REACT, said: “We are delighted to be a partner in the Creative Economy Hub which will expand our network of partners and strengthen our mission to share, develop and showcase exemplary ideas and talent. The Hub's activities will centre around an extended Sandbox programme, first developed by Watershed's subsidiary iShed in 2008. We will produce 70 collaborative projects spanning heritage, broadcasting, digital media, publishing and beyond, further strengthening Watershed's position as a leader in the field of creative and digital innovation.”

The UK’s creative economy – which includes the creative industries as well as museums, galleries, libraries, orchestras and theatres – is, relative to GDP, probably the largest creative sector in the world.

As the major focus of AHRC’s new knowledge exchange and impact strategy for 2011-2015, the Hubs will encourage significant interactions between research and the Creative Economy which will generate wider social, economic and cultural benefits.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science said: “Interaction between businesses and universities is crucial for driving growth. It enables businesses and organisations to benefit from our world-class research base, gaining new knowledge and ideas. This major investment will not only enrich the creative industries but is also a vote of confidence in the excellent arts and humanities research at our higher education institutions."

Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive Officer of the AHRC and chair of the assessment panel which made the awards, said: “The UK is outstanding at many things and leads the world in some. Of these the quality and innovation of our research and the dynamism of our creative economy are two that stand out. These AHRC Creative Economy Hubs offer the opportunity to unite these sectors to the benefit of both sides and the country as a whole. The successful consortia emerged from an exceptionally strong field. We congratulate them; look forward to working closely with them over the next four years; and to welcoming the results of their work.”

Date: 22 August 2011

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