United by Innovation: Celebrating Creative UK’s partnership with AHRC

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One of the core reasons why the Creative UK network is so far-reaching, and our industry relations so deep-rooted, is that we all share a vision: to cultivate a world where creativity is championed, valued, and fundamentally nurtured, but perhaps more urgently, to generate opportunities for creative innovation to thrive by investing in people and their ideas. It is this that binds us tightly with our long-standing member, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

UKRI is a relatively young organisation, having only launched in 2018, whose mission is sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). As a non-departmental public body, UKRI connects seven pre-existing disciplinary research councils including Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. UKRI’s R&D efforts for the creative sector are exemplified in AHRC’s Creative Industries Clusters Programme; over the past five years £55m has been plunged into nine cluster projects across the UK, each project a collaboration between creative sub-sectors (including fashion, film, design and immersive technology) and brilliant academic minds.

Person with long brown hair wears a VR headset, playing a game with hand held nunchucks. They wear a denim jacket and stand against a neon blue and pink background.

We recently announced a headline partnership with AHRC for this year’s Creative Coalition Festival; our annual event where we bring together the UK’s boldest, most inspiring creators, innovators, leaders and emerging talent to reimagine, redefine and reignite the future of our world-leading Creative Industries. The organisation is no stranger to the festival, with UKRI having partnered for its last two editions in 2022 and 2020 prior to that. As we poise our pens and prime our minds for the conversations of 2023’s festival, we’re reliving the crucial perspectives UKRI has brought to the table historically.

In the peak of the pandemic, and for our debut Creative Coalition Festival, UKRI came on board to open the consultation on Creative Innovation through a time of Pandemic. A force of speakers joined the discussion – Prof. Jonny Freeman (Managing Director, i2 Media Research at Goldsmiths University), Zoe Seaton (Founder, Big Telly Theatre Company), Susan Cummings (Managing Director, Tiny Rebel Games), and Simon Reveley (CEO, Figment Productions) – around why research and innovation were so crucial during those difficult times where recognised (and cherished) forms of creativity were suddenly paused during the pandemic.



For 2022, UKRI sponsored a couple of sessions, the first being A Case for Creativity which united creative leaders to explore the power of creativity to ideate solutions for society’s biggest challenges. Chaired by Graham Hitchin (Director of Policy, Loughborough University London), the panel involved key industry voices like Henry Holland (Designer), Gus Casely-Hayford (Curator), Franki Goodwin (Film Producer) and Fran Sanderson (Director of Arts Programmes and Investments, Nesta). Their second session Engines of Change? The Future of Screen Technologies was led by Innovate UK’s Challenge Director Prof. Andrew Chitty, where the conversation focused on the benefits of new generation technologies like gaming and VR, and how they were revolutionising the way we make things, particularly in the screen and performance sub-sectors. We heard from people at the cutting edge of this revolution, including Sue Lyster (Executive in Charge, Industrial Light and Magic), Sarah Ellis (Director of Digital Development, Royal Shakespeare Company), Prof. Peter Richardson (Professor of Creative Industries and VP Lead, StoryFutures) and Dr Declan Keeney (Director of Ulster Screen Academy, University of Ulster).



So, what’s next? UKRI’s return to the Creative Coalition Festival is being fronted by their Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The AHRC fund world-class, independent research in a breadth of subjects, from philosophy and the Creative Industries to art conservation and product design. Across several unmissable virtual sessions, their team will be shining a spotlight on the vital role of research and innovation for the future of the Creative Industries, demonstrating how R&D can catalyse creative progress across the UK, as well as a Breakfast Briefing for policymakers and influencers on unlocking commercial growth through public investment.

Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair, AHRC, said: “AHRC funding supports impactful policy and evidence, cutting edge research and innovation, and world-leading infrastructure in Creative Industries, the industries of the future.  I am delighted that AHRC is supporting this brilliant festival that showcases how we can build a creative future for the good of all in the UK.”


Tickets are still available for both the Virtual Festival (happening 1-3 March) and our first ever in-person Opening Gala (28 February), taking place at the powerhouse that is the Southbank Centre. Join the conversation, join the celebration, and get your tickets here while you can.

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