Suggestions for learning sessions at the Arts and Technology residential unconference, February 2016

Introducing the Arts and Technology pilot programme

The Arts and Technology programme is an exciting, pioneering pilot scheme designed to support innovation in arts practice, technology development and associated business models.

It’s organised by Arts Council England, Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network, and is being delivered by three regional partners: Makerversity in London, MadLab in Manchester and Near Now at The Broadway Arts Centre in Nottingham.

Madlab, Manchester

One of the programme’s core strengths is its diversity. Each partner is executing the pilot scheme in a slightly different way, reflecting individual specialisms, ethoses and workflows.

The result of this diversity is varied and nuanced insight. This blog aims to share these valuable experiences — not just for the benefit of the partners and their cohorts, but the wider world too.

This post introduces the programme, and below it are links to posts outlining the hopes of key decsion-makers who launched the programme. They’re well worth reading to better understand how the aims of the programme will be fulfilled.

There’ll also be regular posts containing audio interviews, photos, and commentary on each stage of each participant’s version of the programme.

Here’s an introduction to the Arts and Technology pilot programme, along with some broader context, from Tom Campbell, the Knowledge Transfer Network’s Joint Head of Creative Industries. If you’re interested in the space where art, design and technology co-exist, hit “follow” at the foot of this post to keep abreast of the programme’s developments.
“Innovation in the creative industries is driven by an intricate relationship between content and technology; the collaboration between artist and scientist.”
- Innovate UK, Creative Industries Strategy (2013)

Digital technologies are recognised as one of the fastest growing areas of the UK economy. According to the most recent government statistics, ‘IT, software and computer services’ now represents more than 5% of the economy as a whole, with a turnover of £37bn and employing over 600,000 people.

Makerversity studios, London

As with so many sectors, the creative industries are being transformed by the digital economy. But that does not mean they are being subsumed into it. Rather, technological innovation is going hand in hand with creative practices and artistic expression.

Visual artists, film makers, writers, designer makers, fashion designers, animators, musicians and many more are pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved both creatively and technically.

Of course, artists have always been doing this — from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneering sound engineering in the 1950s through to director James Cameron amassing patents for video cameras and audio-visual production tools.

Near Now staff and participants (centre) at the project’s Residential event, February 2016

But the opportunities provided by digital technology mean that artists are able to create new works, products and platforms to an unprecedented level.

Established ways of working are being transformed — as Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy has said, “Many of the UK’s leading creative professionals could equally well be described as engineers or designers, inventors or artists.”

This is not just about new businesses and markets — it is also giving artists the chance to widen their practice, to experiment with new tools and reach out to different audiences.

Arts Council England, Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network have recognised this and come together to initiate and manage the Arts and Technology Programme.

A pilot project delivered by three organisations with a track record of fostering cross-sector collaborations, it is equipping talented individuals and start-ups with the means to develop the kinds of products and services that will come to define the UK’s creative economy.

— Tom Campbell, February 2016

The rule of three: further thoughts on the Arts and Technology programme

This programme was inititated by three organising partners in conjunction with three regional partners.

So what are the aspirations of each organiser? Here are the thoughts of:

Lucy Sollitt, Creative Media Relationship Manager, London, Arts Council England 
Matt Brown, Lead Technologist, Creative Industries at Innovate UK
Frank Boyd, Director of the Creative Industries, Design and Digital Economy at the Knowledge Transfer Network

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