Harnessing the Potential of Createch in the West Midlands

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In this blog, Tasos Kitsos summarises the WMREDI/PEC event held virtually at the end of April. A recording of the event is available here. Special thanks are owed to the WMREDI staff Stuart Mitchell and Matthew Patterson for providing support for the event as well as of course to our guest speakers.

In recent years, countries, regions and cities have become increasingly aware of the significant short and long-term challenges they face if they want to improve the lives of their residents. This is at the core of research at City-REDI/WMREDI. Creative industries have significant transformational capabilities that can help towards this direction both via their amenity value and through their impact on local economies. In particular, they can be a catalyst of innovation across all sectors, enabling transformative new products and services which can drive regional economic growth, wellbeing and quality of life.

The integration of technology and creative industries (‘Createch’) can satisfy consumer demands and solve societal challenges. Perhaps harnessing virtual production, VR or AR and theatre practice to areas as diverse as mental health training, dementia support and pain control.

Given the potential of this emerging creative sector, the West Midlands is keen to be a thought leader and early adopter of Createch to maximise the economic and social value it can bring to the region’s people and its perception on the national and world stage. It is only natural then that our event focused on a simple yet complex question:

How can the West Midlands harness the potential of Createch in order to benefit its economy, the wellbeing of its citizens and the region’s perception on the world stage?

The event was introduced by Professor Simon Collinson, the Director of City-REDI/WMREDI and Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Regional Engagement at the University of Birmingham. Simon stressed the importance to look at the detail, mechanisms and implications of global innovation trends and the role of Createch for regions and places. To do this, Simon highlighted the need for inter-disciplinary and stakeholder engagement which lies at the heart of WMREDI’s mission statement.

Following this David Furmage, the Creative & Cultural Senior Policy Lead at Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and the West Midlands Regional lead for the creative sector presented the state of play and current issues for Createch in the West Midlands. Starting from defining Createch and discussing the 100 to watch campaign to raise awareness of Createch, David proceeded to discuss the sector’s relevance to the region and the challenges to the West Midlands becoming a world class centre for Createch.

We should not miss the opportunity to change the nature of production by tackling the big challenges of our times around greening the economy and creating inclusive economies through re-skilling.

Professor Lisa de Propris from the Birmingham Business School in turn focused on the role of Createch in what is termed the 4th Industrial Revolution and Industry 4.0. Lisa also stressed that we should not miss this opportunity to change the nature of production by only focussing on innovation and miss tackling the big challenges of our times around greening the economy and creating inclusive economies through re-skilling. Overall, Lisa argued that there is an abundance of opportunities, but we need fresh, joined-up thinking outside the current norms and processes.

I was up next presenting our research with Dr. Diana Gutierrez-Posada, Dr. Max Nathan and Dr. Massimiliano Nuccio on the impact we can expect from creative industries in local economies. In particular, our findings suggest that for every job in the broad creative industries, local economies can generate an extra 2 jobs in local services. These significant multiplier effects seem to be related to the creative services part of the broad sector such as film production and IT where Createch would be expected to be heavily represented.

Dr George Windsor, the Head of Insights at Tech Nation followed on, building on findings from Tech Nation’s Createch Report. George focused on three points. Namely, 1) the strength of the UK as a leader in global tech, the need to remain at the forefront of emerging technologies and the role of createch; 2) our emerging and evolving understanding of Createch, its limits and capabilities; 3) the fundamental opportunity afforded by Createch for broad based growth beyond creative industries and innovation.

Jessica Driscoll, the Head of Immersive Technologies at the Digital Catapult rounded off the presentations by offering valuable insights on three aspects. Firstly, she introduced the work of Digital Catapult on Createch drawing on specific examples. Secondly she discussed trends in Createch and the emerging support for it. Thirdly, Jessica discussed what she believes are the next steps for supporting Createch around the country.

The event continued with a stimulating Q&A session with questions ranging from the macro to micro topics for Createch before Simon’s closing remarks and thanks to the speakers. For more information on the event, please contact Tasos Kitsos at a.kitsos@bham.ac.uk.

This blog was written by Dr Tasos Kitsos, Research Fellow, City-REDI / WM REDI, University of Birmingham. 

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The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI / WM REDI or the University of Birmingham

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