Thinking Creative Industries

Developing data-driven innovation in creative industries

In this article

Caroline Parkinson leads a vision for Data-Driven Creative Industries across Edinburgh and regions, and provides the stepping-stones to achieving it.

report published today (16th September 2020) is recommending more support to help the City Region’s creative sector develop through better use of data-driven innovation and technology.

The sector is among the worst-hit by Covid-19; compounded by the cancellation of the Edinburgh Festivals in August. Across the country, trade bodies have reported varying degrees of loss of income, ranging from one-third up to an entire drop-off in income.

Caroline Parkinson, lead author of the report and DDI Sector Lead, Creative Industries, said: “The creative and cultural sector in the city region is dynamic, ingenious and collaborative and over the last year have responded with enthusiasm to our increased activity in data-driven innovation and creative technology. They have been severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis, and this has intensified the need for data and digital skills we observed during the consultation. To support their ideas to fruition or assist digital pivot or creation of new audience engagements will also require the best possible innovation support.”

The report says that many in the sector require a range of support in order to harness the potential of data for creative or business benefit.

This includes upskilling, better data knowledge in areas such as data sharing agreements, ethics and protocols, improved insights and awareness about the potential of data, as well as innovation support including access to academic research, business development, and funding or investment opportunities.

In response, the Data-Driven Innovation initiative – through support from the University of Edinburgh and City Region Deal – is providing assistance such as workshops, demonstrations and seminars on emerging new data-driven creative technology, and collaborative ideation workshops with academics and industry. It will also provide a creative space, to test and experiment with digital technology and equipment, and to give creative partners the opportunity to test new experiences with potential audiences. The Edinburgh Futures Institute is developing new under-graduate and post graduate programmes in creative data and continuing professional development courses for developing skills in creative workforce.

Jennifer Hunter, Director of Culture Counts said: Culture Counts fully supports the recommendation to discuss and finesse the innovation support for Creative Entrepreneurs within the context of data innovation. The cultural sector is low on valuable data, the sector requires support to increase knowledge of the importance of data-design at an early stage; to better understand ethical approaches to using data and to provide incentive and encouragement for entrepreneurs to take educated risks and therefore, support from the DDI is very welcome.”

Firas Khnaisser, Chair of the Data & Marketing Association Scotland, said: “For a long time, data and the creative industries were not seen as symbiotic. Now, there is no question that getting the most from data requires artistic and unconventional thinking and the brightest minds of the creative industries.

“From now on, we need to be investing as much as we can in making data skills training more accessible in the creative fields. It is something the DMA considers pivotal for the successful growth of our industry. The proposals of this white paper expertly ties business and entrepreneurial support with pedagogical input that will set us on the right path to achieving the ambitious targets of the DDI, and Scotland’s creative industry more widely.”

The team behind the report are advocating a range of measures, including support to draw out value from data, research into new modes of engagement and transaction with audiences, customers and clients, harnessing data-driven creative technology, provision of space for experimentation with creative technology to develop new experiences.

The paper is published by the Data-Driven Innovation initiative at the University of Edinburgh, part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

It reports on a two-year long consultation and pathway activity with businesses, trade bodies, and entrepreneurs across the creative industries looking at data capability, and potential for further innovation in the creative and cultural sector.

This research was undertaken in advance of the publication of the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review, but does complement the recommendations on Tech-Scaler National Backbone and Tech-Scaler Start-up Fund, the Investment Seekers Grant and Investment Funding within the Integrated Ecosystem Grant Funding, and the Student Internship Grant to support business awareness.

Chris Speed, one of the report’s co-authors and Chair, Design Informatics, Director of Creative Informatics Cluster, & Director of Innovation, Edinburgh Futures Institute: “This timely report not only sets out a vision for Data-Driven Creative Industries across Edinburgh and regions, but it provides the stepping-stones to achieving it. In doing so it places Scotland at the cusp of a vital opportunity to energise all sectors from advertising to craft, design to music, and performing arts to publishing, placing the nation at the forefront of international creative innovation.”

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