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This case study discusses the role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), in supporting the creative industries. It is focused on the work undertaken by Birmingham City University (BCU). BCU’s support for enhancing the business capacity and internationalization of the creative industries is holistic and indirect in nature.
Name of the project:
Role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), in supporting the creative industries in Birmingham.
Name of the initiator and excecuting party:
The first initiatives were taken by different regions of Norway, where municipalities began to focus on the importance of culture in education. This is mentioned in different public documents from the beginning of the 1990s. In 2001 the first Rucksack was financed by the national government, with approximately 2 million euros. Today the budget of the initiative amounts to approximately 21 million euros and is mainly funded by the surplus from Norsk Tipping, the state-owned gaming company. The programme receives NOK 160–180 million (20–23 million euros) annually, which is allocated to and distributed by the regional and local authorities. The money is transferred to the counties, which are responsible for education in the primary and secondary schools and the colleges. Thus they are also responsible for the Cultural Rucksack in their county.
The Kultus.fi website is an online service maintained by the Annantalo Arts Centre. Kultus is one of the most important development initiatives of Annantalo that is an arts centre for children and young people in the centre of Helsinki. Annatalo is administratively under the Helsinki City Cultural Centre. Kultus has been co-funded by the Education Department of the City of Helsinki.
The Ministry of Education has been the main supporter of the web-site from 2003 to 2008. In addition to the Ministry of Education, other partners are drawn from cultural institutes and departments, schools and kindergartens from Helsinki. During the past few years, the cities of Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen have been part of the printed cultural calendar. Cooperation between all these cities on the web-based services will begin in 2010.
Goals (e.g. policy, research or other):
The aim of BCU is to provide innovation and talent which in turn help develop the capacity and reach of the region’s creative industries. The university infrastructure supports the three activities of teaching & learning, research and third-stream work in the area of creative industries.
There are three linked sets of activity which together are indicative of BCU’s creative industry support, which show how the university structure allows it to continue to offer this support. Each of these activity areas offers the possibility to support business capacity and internationalization of the creative industries within a city and a region:
Put another way, the work of HEIs contributes to business capacity at three levels: educational programmes develop the talent pool of a city; research-active academics keep educational programmes relevant and increase the employability of their graduates; knowledge transfer activity supports businesses and contributes towards job creation.
BCU recently unveiled ambitious plans to increase its research activity with nine key targets including “design and creative industries; digital participation and technology…; music and performance”. Its Corporate Development Centre helps academic staff to develop bids, broker partnerships and manage projects. Finally projects such as Screen Media Lab, located within the School of Media, is an industry facing unit which brings teams together on a project by project basis, drawing in skills from across the University and is active within teaching & learning, research and third-stream work.
The practices of BCU that enable it to contribute to the enhancement of business capacity and internationalization of creative industries are tied to regional, national and European strategies and their respective funding frameworks. All activities need to be funded in some manner, meaning that BCU responds to funders’ agendas.
Research Innovation and Enterprise Services (RIES) is centrally funded by BCU. One of its main areas of work is the development of strategic relationships with partners such as the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), and Birmingham City Council (BCC). The retained knowledge and networks of RIES facilitate BCU staff in aligning their research and knowledge transfer work with the objectives of funders at a local, regional and national level. RIES also help generate demand for consultancy and knowledge transfer through schemes such as Service by Design: a programme which develops innovation mentoring across faculties and with a range of industry partners.
Screen Media Lab (SML) is a purpose built facility which houses a number of industry facing projects. SML has its roots in Media Content Lab, an ERDF funded creative industries support programme, which began in 2001. SML provides BCU with premises in Digbeth, Birmingham’s creative industries quarter, close to the key Custard Factory and Fazeley Studios spaces which house more than 1,000 creative workers. SML is part of the Birmingham School of Media in the Faculty of Performance Media & English but projects housed within SML have drawn upon the talents of staff, students and graduates of a number of BCU faculties. Since the inception of Media Content Lab, SML has successfully developed a number of other projects funded by a variety of research councils and through ERDF funds; the initial project funding providing a platform and track record for further project bids. SML also obtains funding by undertaking media project commissions on behalf of other departments and projects within BCU.
SML’s projects contribute to enhancement of business capacity for creative industries through training, support intervention or advocacy and also aim to develop international recognition for the West Midlands region’s creative industries. Indicative projects include:
Place of excecution:
Birmingham in the UK.
Why is your project considered as a best-practice:
Within the UK there are many funding streams that allow creative industries to work with HEIs to develop innovative new ideas. However, the nature of funding is such that it is difficult to maintain third-stream and research work. We therefore need a structure that facilitates relationships and ensures that a HEI is able to move quickly to capitalise on opportunities and drive benefits to creative industries organisations. Units such as RIES and SML may be understood as enabling a HEI to serve the creative industries more effectively, brokering partnerships, contributing to an entrepreneurial culture amongst academics and signposting activity to potential industry partners.
Maintaining these structures is a key obstacle to overcome. SML has maintained itself beyond its initial ERDF funding through being entrepreneurial and relevant to the industry it attempts to serve. It is important, however, that a unit such as SML does not become too corporate in its approach, and begin to cannibalise the markets it is attempting to support, through providing at a subsidised cost services the creative industries companies are themselves trying to sell.
Innovation, created through research and knowledge transfer, helps develop new markets and ways of working for creative businesses. Where this is fed back into teaching, universities provide creative workers ready to deliver these innovations, thereby ensuring capacity to deliver. Where this is reported through journal articles and conferences, academics act as advocates for their region’s creative industries.
Birmingham City University currently holds more knowledge transfer awards from the Arts & Humanities Research Council than any other UK university and the highest number of knowledge transfer partnerships in the country. Projects run through SML have continued to achieve their deliverable targets, ensuring ongoing success in further funding bids. These suggest that the university has successfully created support mechanisms and a culture that encourages academic staff to engage with their local businesses to develop innovative new practice.
Best response to the project:
Anthony Tattum, Big Cat Group:
My company and Birmingham City University (BCU) have an excellent working relationship. We have benefited directly through knowledge transfer activities in developing new ideas and new products. BCU are at the hub of a lot of what’s going on in the City. I recently took on the role of Innovation Expert with the University which involves me in meetings with other cities and also helping SMEs develop business solutions to meet market need.
Links to websites and/or social media: