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Creative industries in £16million funding boost

REACT will help to develop projects that use game engines and avatar chatbots to dramatise heritage sites such as this recreation of the Pompeiian Court built in Second Life by Dr Shelley Hales and Dr Nic Earle

REACT will help to develop projects that use game engines and avatar chatbots to dramatise heritage sites such as this recreation of the Pompeiian Court built in Second Life by Dr Shelley Hales and Dr Nic Earle

Press release issued: 16 August 2011

The University of Bristol is to play a key part in a new Knowledge Exchange Hub which has been established to boost the region’s creative economy.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has today unveiled four new Hubs and pledged an investment of some £16million over four years.

The University of the West of England (UWE) has been chosen to lead one of the prestigious Hubs and will be working closely with the Universities of Bristol, Exeter, Bath and Cardiff, as well as Bristol’s Watershed and a wide range of creative industry partners, to form the new Research and Enterprise in Arts and Creative Technologies Hub (REACT) for Bristol, the South West of England and South Wales.

The University of Bristol’s Professor Robert Bickers will be a Co-director alongside Nick Kaye from the University of Exeter, who will be joined by Knowledge Exchange champions from the Universities of Bath and Cardiff.

Professor Bickers, of the University’s School of Humanities, said: “This is tremendously exciting. We have a very strong partnership in the five universities and the Watershed, and a tremendous critical mass of Arts and Humanities excellence that we will be drawing on. REACT will embed this in our region’s vibrant creative economy, creating sustainable partnerships that will provide significant economic and societal impacts.”

The Hubs will have the task of building new partnerships and entrepreneurial capacity in the creative economy and increasing the number of arts and humanities researchers actively engaged in research-based knowledge exchange.

Head of Bristol’s School of Arts, Professor Stephen Banfield said: “This is extremely good news for the University of Bristol, for the Faculty of Arts in particular, and, if I may say so as Head of School, for the School of Arts.  The Faculty already has impressive links with the region’s creative economy and is rapidly developing them, for example through programmes of study in screen media, tangible heritage and public history. These sit alongside research specialisations which will now have new conduits for knowledge transfer.  The same applies to the performing arts - music and theatre in our case.  We welcome too the opportunity to work more closely with the other universities in the consortium.”

The four lead institutions are UWE, the University of Lancaster, the University of Dundee and Queen Mary, University of London. Each will lead consortia that will include other universities, creative businesses, including small and medium enterprises, arts and culture organisations and other agencies.

Professor Paul Gough, UWE Deputy Vice-Chancellor said, “This is an outstanding result for the Universities and for all our partners across the south-west of the UK; the Hub will generate many brilliant and exciting projects that will have a direct impact on the creative economy, on businesses and education. UWE is delighted to be leading this project and working in collaboration with so many outstanding partners.”

The Hub will be directed by Professor Jon Dovey and based in Watershed's Pervasive Media Studio, growing its partnership with UWE's Digital Cultures Research Centre. This unique city-centre studio, which was established in 2008, brings together artists, technologists and academics to explore the future of creative technologies.

Clare Reddington of Watershed, who will act as Executive Producer for REACT, said: “We are delighted to be a partner in the Creative Economy Hub which will expand our network of partners and strengthen our mission to share, develop and showcase exemplary ideas and talent. The Hub's activities will centre around an extended Sandbox programme, first developed by Watershed's subsidiary iShed in 2008. We will produce 70 collaborative projects spanning heritage, broadcasting, digital media, publishing and beyond, further strengthening Watershed's position as a leader in the field of creative and digital innovation.”

The UK’s creative economy – which includes the creative industries as well as museums, galleries, libraries, orchestras and theatres – is, relative to GDP, probably the largest creative sector in the world.

As the major focus of AHRC’s new knowledge exchange and impact strategy for 2011-2015, the Hubs will encourage significant interactions between research and the Creative Economy which will generate wider social, economic and cultural benefits.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science said: “Interaction between businesses and universities is crucial for driving growth. It enables businesses and organisations to benefit from our world-class research base, gaining new knowledge and ideas. This major investment will not only enrich the creative industries but is also a vote of confidence in the excellent arts and humanities research at our higher education institutions."

University of Bristol Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Guy Orpen said: “The University of Bristol is committed to building on its strong track record of knowledge exchange, as well as its robust partnerships with universities in the region and with the creative economy.  The AHRC's award reflects these strengths, and the excellence of the research that underpins them.  The involvement of the Faculty of Arts in REACT provides an excellent opportunity to take this to a new stage, and will generate substantial new activity and benefits.”

Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive Officer of the AHRC and chair of the assessment panel which made the awards, said: “The UK is outstanding at many things and leads the world in some. Of these the quality and innovation of our research and the dynamism of our creative economy are two that stand out. These AHRC Creative Economy Hubs offer the opportunity to unite these sectors to the benefit of both sides and the country as a whole. The successful consortia emerged from an exceptionally strong field. We congratulate them; look forward to working closely with them over the next four years; and to welcoming the results of their work.”


Further information

Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. For more information visit the AHRC's website.

Watershed is a cross-artform venue and producer, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent. It is based in Bristol, but places no boundaries on the desire to connect with artists and audiences in the wider world. It curates ideas, spaces and talent to enable artistic visions and creative collaborations to flourish. It produces work which cuts across film, music, theatre, design, visual art, and the creative and technology sectors.

The Pervasive Media Studio is part of Watershed. It is a multi-disciplinary lab exploring and producing pervasive media content, applications and services and works within a brilliant community of artists, creative companies, technologists and academics. For more information on Bristol’s Pervasive Media Studio visit its website.

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