Future Screens NI

Lead Research Organisation: University of Ulster
Department Name: Faculty of Arts

Abstract

Future Screens NI comprises the two higher education institutions (Ulster University and QUB) and a number of key industrial partners central to the creative economy in the region, including NI Screen, BBC, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Causeway Enterprise Agency, Digital Catapult, Catalyst Inc., RTE, Games NI, Kainos, Invest NI, Techstart NI, Matrix and Tourism NI.
The Northern Ireland Assembly defines the creative industries as 'those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property'. The Partnership has, from this, developed a definition of, and a working model for, the creative industries in NI which is focused on participation, cultural and economic growth, and social and economic regeneration placing the Partnership as a leading developmental catalyst in this NI sector.
In the context of Northern Ireland, the creative industries are more than just another key economic sector, generating, according to DCMS figures, £1.01 billion in gross added value of the NI economy, and employing 2.9% of the entire NI workforce. For a region emerging from a period of profound conflict, and social and cultural division and dysfunction, the creative industries sector has continued to offer an alternative and successful paradigm, a new model for cultural expression, personal growth, and economic attainment.
The cluster of organisations involved in Future Screens NI may be defined as:
(a) audiovisual-led, complemented by the strength of the digital sector and the impact of technology in other more traditional sectors, eg. in tourism, heritage, textiles and crafts;
(b) operating across NI as a region, driven by the Belfast travel-to-work-area (add ref to NESTA) but with a region-wide remit linking, in particular, to the North West of the province;
c) a spatially defined multi-industry cluster that is distinctive witin the UK, shaped by the complexity of cultural space in the aftermath of 20th-century conflict, a plurality of commercial and cultural relationships including across the border with the Republic of Ireland, the role of economic development bodies such as Invest NI and Catalyst Inc., and the significant investment of the HEIs and FE colleges in the creative industries;
d) comprising emerging animation, games and immersive technologies industries, which although small by international standards, is one of the fastest growing sectors of the NI economy.

The overarching aim of Future Screens NI is to develop a new understanding of the role the creative industries can play in advancing the NI economy both in terms of financial growth and the creation of new employment opportunities. It will do this by researching new technologies and opportunities, developing appropriate educational and training models, placing NI creative businesses in front of international markets, and working with government and other key agencies to ensure sustained growth.
The importance of this intervention is that it establishes the creative industries in NI as a neutral space where contemporary and emerging industrial forms can be advanced in secure settings in a transitional period which is still informed by underlying political tensions. The role of the Cluster as a safe space for high-risk creative endeavour in a low-risk innovation environment, one that fosters experiment and cultural opportunity, cannot be overestimated. As Benedict Anderson (1991) has shown, communities interact through concepts of imagined connection and Future Screens NI will actively work as a hub to create new forms of imagined community which advance and normalise political stability while creating real employment and building economic growth.

Planned Impact

Developing at the 2015 rate identified in Bazalgette of 0.9% of UK, we forecast creative industries (CI) contribution to the economy in Northern Ireland to grow from £797million to £1.2billion by 2025 and to create 9,000 (20-30K forecast by INI) new jobs by 2030. However, as we detail elsewhere in this bid, we feel that an injection of support on the scale provided by the AHRC Creative R&D Partnership will drive growth from 0.9% to 2.7% of UK GVA in the sector generating £2.1 billion GVA and creating 20,000 new jobs in NI.

Specific impacts will include:
1. Enhancement and expansion of R&D capacity, knowledge and skills of CI businesses (micro and SMEs) and their owner/managers. The embedding of new knowledge and core technical/business enterprise skills will bring an in-depth understanding of the commercial reality of doing business in CI in a way that will foster collaboration and growth resulting in
improved productivity and efficiency at an individual firm level and, in turn across sub-sectors.
2. Commercialisation and exploitation of technical/expert knowledge leading to spin out companies, as well as the creation of new processes, products and services.
3. Development of the international commercial capabilities of CI business owners to aid the sector to attract R&D investment from global business.
4. Increased wealth generation and economic prosperity, evident in the creation and growth of companies and jobs, and the enhancement of business revenue and innovative capacity in high performing CI sub-sectors in NI.
5. Establishment of specialised physical Creative Innovation Hubs in Belfast, Newry, Derry and Coleraine.
6. Development of innovative hardware and software solutions for application in creative contexts.
7. Implementation of flexible, agile and bespoke training and accreditation for CPD and technical skills development.
8. Evidence-based and industry-informed recommendations to policy-makers (including Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive), buing upon the draft NI Industrial Strategy 'Economy 2030' but also influencing development of future policy and strategy to create, develop and market NI's unique IP for the CI sector so the predicted growth of the sector is realised.
9. Increased productivity of individual high performing (or potential high growth) CI firms.
10. Increased number of ideas driven through to successful product development and commercialisation.
11. Improved efficiency, performance and sustainability of CI firms by targeted interventions that focus on the personal and professional development of their business leaders.
12. New frameworks of leadership development for the CI sector to facilitate collaboration between micro-businesses via HE, local authorities and enterprise agencies to ensure training, advice and mentoring that is fit for purpose.
13. Contribution to regeneration and economic development in the sub-regions of Belfast and areas of the North Coast and Derry/Londonderry by the development of local creative clusters and programme activity.
14. Connection of pockets of excellence across the region harnessing the opportunities afforded through the region's heritage and tourism product.
15. Testing of issues posed by BREXIT in Creative Industries and development of solutions in the cross border area of Derry.
16. Provision of investment and support at the later stages of innovation to translate and bring ideas into commercial reality and on a global platform.

Publications

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