What is the Bristol and Bath Creative Cluster?

There’s never been a better time to be in the creative industry. Artists, small business owners, sole traders, and craftspeople all over Bristol can now capitalise on a new programme established to support their ventures.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council recently invested £80m to form the Creative Industries Clusters Programme which aims to aid and promote the accomplishments of universities and businesses in the creative technology sector across the United Kingdom. Regions covered include London, Belfast, Leeds, Cardiff, Dundee, York, and Bristol.

The Bristol and Bath Creative Cluster is one of the research and development partnerships formed under this programme. It merges research from four universities: University of Bristol, University of West England (UWE), University of Bath, and University of Bath Spa, all of which have different key research strengths.

Leveraging the Strength of the Region

The Independent Review of the Creative Industries published in 2017 reveals that Bristol is among the top 10 creativity and innovation hotspots in the UK according to the global innovation foundation, Nesta. It is also a hub for various creative industries like film. animation, television, and technology. Its local universities are also collaborative in nature. Each university in the Bristol and Bath Creative Cluster are aware of their key research strengths which they are maximising to their advantage.

For instance, according to Professor Stanton Fraser of the University of Bath, they specialise in interdisciplinary research with the creative industries. They have done relevant research projects with the UKRI such as the Centre for Digital Entertainment, CAMERA, Virtual Realities, and the REACT Hub. The latter, which has made over £7.5m of economic activity, is considered their most successful project yet. “We are very excited about the potential of this new programme of work to deliver transformative research with the creative industries in Bristol and Bath,” Fraser said.

Likewise, UWE Bristol takes pride in their own research, which they plan to develop further through professional collaboration. According to Professor Jane Roscoe, the university’s Pro Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, “UWE Bristol’s own research within our faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education is already shaping the future of how cutting-edge technology might be used to engage the audiences of the future in new marketplaces and understanding user engagement in new platforms.”  

Those spearheading the cluster programme, Professor Jon Dovey of UWE Bristol and Professor Tim Cole of the University of Bristol are looking forward to the opportunities this collaboration can bring into their region.

“We have a genuine opportunity to create something remarkable across Bath and Bristol, a creative network that produces opportunities and jobs that reflect the diversity of our communities,” Dovey said.

The programme director takes pride in the calibre of research and the quality of work their cluster will produce. “The projects that we invest in with our partners will use the best research to build prototypes for the creative industries that put us on the world map as leaders in innovation for inclusive growth,” he said.

Cole, the project’s co-lead adds, “University of Bristol researchers have strong links with our colleagues at UWE, Bath, Bath Spa and Watershed, as well as with creative industry partners in the city region and beyond. This funding is a perfect opportunity for us to build upon and develop those relationships and partnerships so that together we make a lasting impact in the city region.”

Professor Darren Cosker of the University of Bath believes that the programme will help hone the cluster’s global edge. According to him, “This is an excellent opportunity to truly leverage the academic and industrial strength in the region, which will lead to innovative new research and productions. The creative industries are one of the jewels of the UK economy – with the South West playing a leading role.”

Global Possibilities and Business Opportunities

The 2017 Independent Review of the Creative Industries names Bristol as one of the creative clusters outside London that has the potential to go global. Other creative clusters that got included in the list are Glasgow, Manchester, and Leamington Spa. It also details how the region is 50% more productive than the UK average and has given back £780m to the UK treasury. And in 2017, it started targeting 20% annual growth for its creative sectors.

“The ‘Creative Industries Clusters’ in the Bristol and Bath division will see Audible collaborating with the BBC and RSC, among other companies, focusing on the creation of jobs, companies and products in the region’s screen and performance industries by helping them adapt to emerging technologies,” writes Heloise Wood in her article for The Bookseller.

Other companies from various industries like publishing, broadcast, design, and performance will also be participating in this initiative. Some of them are Creative Youth Network, Strange Thoughts, BDH, Silverback Films, Crack Magazine, Creative Bath, Knowle West Media Centre, Open Bionics, Drummer TV, Xmos, Sensible Objects, Aardman, TLT, Yogscast, and Yellow Dog.

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