Support for the creative economy

Written evidence submitted by Birmingham City University [SCE 063]

1. From a university with strong cultural and creative industry credentials

· Government innovation investment is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focused

· Funding moving away from culture and creativity to STEM?

· Do we understand the innovation ecosystem?


2. Birmingham City University annually educates over 6,000 students in the creative and cultural industries-more arts , media, music and performance graduates than any other institution outside London. It has the:

· Birmingham Conservatoire

· Birmingham Institute of Art & Design

· Birmingham School of Acting

· Birmingham School of Media which is a Creative Skillset Academy.

3. The University supports students and graduates establish portfolio careers and establishing their own businesses. Collaborating with universities in the city and the region, it accesses additional ERDF funding streams to support student/graduate entrepreneurship.

Government innovation policy

4. The Government’s Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth (December 2011) mentions the wide range of ways that businesses can innovate including design. The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) drives the UK innovation agenda through the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Research Councils UK as well as tax credits etc. through HM Treasury. However, public investment in research and innovation is primarily in STEM + Medicine related disciplines.

5. There is some focus on challenge-led innovation to drive interdisciplinary collaboration to develop new business models, products and processes e.g. climate change, ageing population, etc. where creativity and design take on more importance, but there probably needs to be more.

6. Under the European Commission’s Horizons 2020 research and innovation programme there is a key strand addressing society’s challenges.

7. TSB funding tends to support R&D led sectors of the economy which by their nature are STEM related and dominated by a few large players that can influence supply chains. So far moves by TSB into the digital economy have tended to focus on the technology aspects and not the applications that make the technology useful.

8. Our experience of the TSB Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) is that it seems more difficult to demonstrate ‘high quality’ impact if the innovation is not technological.

9. Increasingly funding for TSB KTPs are through specific calls e.g. civil nuclear supply chain.

10. Is there an issue at the heart of Government in that the cultural and creative industries have been ‘ghettoed’ within Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) away from where the action is in BIS?

11. Government and its agencies need to encourage businesses and therefore Local Enterprise Partnerships to understand the potential benefits of creative and design-related innovation approaches.

Funding moving away from culture and creativity to STEM?

12. There has been tightening up of Arts Council funding and this may be having a knock-on impact on the cultural and creative economy.

13. In the last round of Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) which runs from August 2011 to July 2015 the funding formula favoured those universities that have more income from contract research, consultancy, hire of specialist facilities and equipment, non-credit bearing continuing professional development, intellectual property, regeneration development and TSB KTPs. The impact of this was that the research intensive Russell Group universities-which by definition means research intensive in STEM + medicine-gained more of the HEIF allocation and were more likely to be on the maximum funding of £2.8m p.a. Some specialist arts based institutions got nothing as they did not meet the minimum external income threshold required for the HEIF allocation formula. Post-92 universities-many of which have art and design departments established in the mid-1800s make the UK more competitive globally (!) -do less of the STEM related subjects and got less than in the previous round.

14. Many universities have legitimately used HEIF to support their student/graduate entrepreneurship activity. However success in doing this currently will not feed through the next round of the HEIF allocation, although HEFCE seems to be interested in stimulating social enterprise in universities.

Do we understand the innovation ecosystem?

15. Birmingham City University is currently engaged in an EC funded collaborative project with EU partners looking at best practice in how ideas from creative and cultural sectors spill over into other sectors.

16. Is the role of the Arts Council, the BBC and universities with creative disciplines understood in the innovation ecosystem both regionally and nationally?

17. Regions outside London need to harness the potential of the creative industries.

Fundamentally, we have a concern that the Creative Industries are in danger of being corralled into a ‘constructed’ creative sector which has a lower funding priority than other sectors of the economy. However, art, design and industry, particularly manufacturing industry, work hand in glove to produce new products of style and substance and create prosperity. The Creative Industries rather feed the economy rather than borrow or deflect resources from it.

The recent Heseltine Report emphasises the need for vibrant and economically ambitious regions. Great cities have a thriving creative sector to make life better for their people and attract inbound investment. A thriving creative scene is consequently as vital to the nations, regions and their cities as it is to the capital itself. What holds good for the life and prosperity of London holds equally good for the regional hinterland, possibly more so.

To perpetuate an artificial distinction between art and industry is to misunderstand the roots of British innovation and prosperity in the 19th century and, consequently, to underestimate the importance of its potential dynamic to the 21st century.

November 2012

Prepared 17th November 2012