Developing the creative industries

I presented at the conference ‘Making the case for HE in the creative economy’ yesterday. I was standing in for Francois Troussard and spoke from the perspectives of both the EU DG Education and Culture and the DG Enterprise and Industry, as well as throwing in a bit of my own stuff for good measure! What was very interesting was that Universities UK, conference host, was launching their new report ‘Creative Prosperity’, whilst I had been given early sight of the new EU report ‘The Entrepreneurial Dimension of the Cultural and Creative Industries’, launched next week. I have to assume that each knew the other was being compiled!
There was a range of really interesting issues raised although, of course, the liveliest and most pressing issue was that of the effective privatisation of arts courses in HE – for example, wearing my Skillscene’s Chair’s hat, as Nick Moran of Central has pointed out, it costs £12,000 to train a theatre technical person to degree level – but no university is going to subsidise that course by £3,000 per person. And who would be able to raise the money – only those from very affluent backgrounds – which is not the traditional demographic for this profession – and so on and so on. I know Skillscene members, the SSC and the NSA are all getting on the case but it is really seriously important that we make Govt hear our voice this time. We have been incredibly bad at this in the past and allowed their dismissive ‘you’re such a fragmented sector’ to justify their unthinking attitude to us. How else do you explain a Govt that proclaims at regular intervals how important the creative industries are, and how they are the leading sector for economic growth, ahead (yes really!) of even the Finance sector, but at the same time then announces that the emphasis on funding will go to STEM courses (the science and technology lot). Creative courses are irrelevant! At the moment, the UK’s CIs contribute 7% to GDP – in the rest of Europe, where the various countries are rushing around seeing how much more they can invest in the sector, the contribution to GDP is only around 3%. It’s as though our Govt has a death wish for our sector! Even in the midst of their draconian cuts, the French have just INCREASED their investment in the sector – Singapore is piling money into it, as is China – even last week when I was in Nigeria, their Government announced an investment of US$200million into it –
Sometimes, it just feels that the Govt want us to give away our global lead in this field!
Europe sees the potential significance of the sector, both for its own sake as well as the impact we can have on other sectors – they have just announced a completely new funding framework for the creative industries. Why are we so separated out? The Chairman of Nokia recently announced that their R&D departments have abandoned the traditional linear process and now deliberately set out to work as if they were working with artists – allowing people to express themselves – the valuing of the creative process is essential in every discipline, not just ours. Both I and Martin Beesley of Ingenious (who was fab!) cited the latest statement by leading technologist John Maeda quoted in the Guardian last week:
“Stem” subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) should be widened to include art; “turning Stem into Steam”.
Innovation doesn’t just come from equations or new kinds of chemicals, it comes from a human place. Superior innovation comes from bringing divergents (the artists and designers) and convergents (science and engineering) together..