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Universities and creative sector can collaborate to drive innovation

30 September 2016


A new report has revealed that universities are pivotal to the growth of the creative economy.

The REACT Report details four years of work establishing an innovative collaborative network of universities and creative sector businesses funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, AHRC.

Between 2012 and 2016, REACT – which is a collaboration between UWE Bristol, Watershed, and the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter - supported 53 collaborative projects, featuring 57 creative companies and 73 academics from the arts and humanities.

This support stimulated over £5,354,000 in further investment for the projects, producing 86 new products and designs, 76 new pieces of software, 10 new companies, 43 jobs, 25 academic research articles and over 90 presentations at research conferences, and was celebrated and shared with over 7,000 members of the public.

Using the Watershed’s Sandbox methodology, the REACT network was able to support cutting edge research and development into industry areas as diverse as the heritage sector, the future of publishing, the internet connected objects and interactive documentary, and products for children. The Sandbox methodology is a system for supporting people to take creative risks within a carefully curated community, providing individuals and small companies with space, money and time to work on their most exciting ideas.

“One of the main reasons REACT succeeded was that it had true collaboration between creative and university sectors at its core. The other key factor in making the project a success was developing an approach to innovation based on values not outputs. Understanding the real values that underpin creative work allowed us to build a really powerful network driven by peer-to-peer learning.”

Professor Jon Dovey Director of REACT

The REACT Report offers valuable insight to policymakers, stakeholders in the arts, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and the creative economy highlighting the pivotal role that HEIs can play in the growth of multidisciplinary regional hubs. It outlines and suggests implementing a more holistic approach in order to understand cross-sector collaboration more effectively, and argues for a range of inputs to ensure partnerships work smoothly, knowledge can be shared equally, and creative innovation can thrive.

David Docherty, CEO, National Centre for Universities and Business, said: “The REACT Report is fascinating. It shows the role universities can play in developing this increasingly important sector of the UK economy. The report also demonstrates the importance of culture change in getting Universities and creative businesses working together to drive innovation.”