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Creative Fuse North East Innovation Support for the Cultural Sector

Creative Fuse North East is a project that has been running since December 2016, coordinated by all five universities in the North East region. But what is Creative Fuse, and how can the Cultural Sector make the most of our business innovation support opportunities? Here’s our five-point summary of Creative Fuse and Culture:

1.    What is Creative Fuse North East?

Creative Fuse North East is an action-research project coordinated by Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham, Sunderland and Teesside Universities. We work alongside SMEs, freelancers, artists, cultural organisations and large businesses to develop innovative ways of working within the region’s Creative, Digital and IT (CDIT) Sector.

We focus on the idea of ‘fusion’ – the combination of creative art and design skills with technology expertise to stimulate economic growth. Using fusion as the uniting concept, Creative Fuse combines academic research with practical innovation support through our Innovation Pilot Projects and business innovation support programmes, which will run until October 2018.

The project is funded by the AHRC, Arts Council England, and the European Regional Development Fund, and was developed with the Case for Culture principles in mind.

2.    How Does Creative Fuse Relate to the Case for Culture plan?

Creative Fuse is a project which responds to the Case for Culture principles, especially Talent and Progression, Participation and Reach, and Economic Value. Through the nature of fusion, the benefits of arts and heritage will be spread to new audiences and applications, including business environments. Some of the Innovation Pilot projects will focus on ways to utilise digital technologies as engagement tools for cultural organisations, and our placement schemes will aim to pair creative students within traditionally non-creative businesses (as well as bringing upcoming IT and business talent to cultural organisations). The long-term ambition of these activities is to stimulate new and successful ways of working, generating economic growth and jobs creation in the region.

At its heart, Creative Fuse North East is all about collaboration. Like NECP, we firmly believe that organisations can achieve much more through greater collaboration than they can alone. The project tries to break down siloes and get people talking and working together from across different backgrounds and contexts, including universities and businesses, artists and digital SMEs, large organisations and freelancers, and urban and rural communities. From the discussions that emerged during the Case for Culture Stakeholder Forum in early November, it became clear that collaboration across sectors, beautifully phrased as teaming up with “unlikely allies,” was a factor that many in attendance believed would help the North East Cultural Partnership achieve its goals. This partnership between businesses, academia and cultural organisations is just one potential starting point for a more dynamic and collaborative North East.

3.    What active opportunities are there for cultural organisations to get involved in Creative Fuse North East?

The innovation phase of the project began in July this year, after the publication of our initial research report, which maps the current challenges and opportunities faced by the North East CDIT Sector. The innovation phase included the open call for Innovation Pilot projects, supported by the AHRC, and a range of business support programmes, funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Each programme is organised by different leading universities and will offer a mixture of specialist support to tackle challenges within particular sub-sectors and wide-ranging flexible support channels that can be tailored to the business needs of individual organisations.

These programmes will be actively recruiting at different times, to see the current list, please visit the Creative Fuse website.

At the time of writing (November 2017) the following opportunities are open to the Cultural Sector:

  • Creative Fuse NE: There are opportunities to find out more or get involved in events and business innovation workshops across the region, as well as take up the offer of student, graduate and postgraduate projects, support or placements:
    • TV Creative Fuse Tees Valley 30th November, Middlesbrough launching the range of offers and support
    • Christmas CAKE on 7th December invites you to join a festive networking event looking forward to 2018
    • Northumberland onlyRural Cultural Business Innovation Programme: recruiting now for activities in January, this is for creative businesses and registered sole traders in Northumberland to learn and apply effective and modern approaches to product and service development as well as project management
    • NELEP Creative Connections Createathon on 22nd and 28th January (APPLY BY 30th NOV) explore business challenges, access new tools and develop action plans with Newcastle Uni Business School postgraduates
    • NELEP B2B Connect and Innovate Workshops (16th and 23rd March 2018 – APPLY BY 31st JANUARY) an opportunity for small creative enterprises to work with business managers from larger organisations
    • NELEP Get Ready to Innovate Northumbria is keen to work cultural organisations on business challenges  and opportunities in an action-focussed series of sessions with a multi-disciplinary team
    • NELEP Digital Business Innovation Programme for digital, tech and creative sector companies to explore business challenges with like-minded companies to explore new ideas and solutions – the first event is Time out to Innovate 9am-5pm on 30th November in Sunderland
    • NELEP Digital Literature coming soon with opportunities for creative writers to build digital skills capacity, brands and digital marketing competences
    • NELEP Interactive Media Design Student Placements University of Northumbria is offering a design service to organisations with digital projects, including website design, games design, app design
    • NELEP Creative Fuse Placement Programme University of Sunderland’s talented students or graduates will be paired with companies for short term flexible projects/placements to develop/test new products or services, engage with/research new markets and audiences, support design-led thinking
    • NELEP Creative and Cultural Industries Placements:  12-week postgraduate placements from Northumbria
    • NELEP Creative Connections Placements: Limited number of 6-day postgraduate placements
    • NELEP Hothouse programme where a team of talented students from the University of Sunderland will work with you on a project brief around business challenges to deliver fast turnaround solutions
    • TENDER:  Digital Media (deadline noon 6th Dec): Design agency to work on Northumbria’s Interactive Media Student Placement programme to create prototype digital products/communications for clients
    • TENDER: Social Media (deadline noon 6th Dec): Designer for illustration project, designing content and templates for two social media campaigns, two illustrated books around homelessness and sexual violence against women

4.    What about upcoming opportunities?

There’s plenty on the horizon that will be of interest to the Cultural Sector, including:

  • Artists Innovation Programme
  • Digital Literature Programme
  • Creative and Cultural Industries Placements
  • Launch of Creative Fuse Tees Valley – an innovation programme specifically designed for organisations based in the Tees Valley LEP region. Further details to be announced at a launch event on 30th
  • Innovation Pilot Projects – developed from our recent open call for ideas, the successful collaborative projects are yet to be announced, but with a strong response from cultural organisations, there are bound to be several emerging case studies of innovation within a cultural context over the next year.
  • Creative Industries Cluster Proposal – the Arts and Humanities Research Council will invest £45m in up to eight Creative Research & Development Partnerships within existing creative clusters across the UK. This could form an exciting new phase of Creative Fuse North East, with the chance to expand on our research and innovation activity in the region for 4.5 more years. The five universities are currently coordinating a proposal for this fund, consulting with businesses and cultural organisations across the region for their input. The stage one application will be submitted on 7th

Further details will be announced over the coming weeks and months, to be amongst the first to know about the launch of new opportunities, please sign up on our website.

5.    How can people find out more and stay up to date?

 To make sure you get the latest news, events and opportunities from Creative Fuse North East, please sign up to the mailing list and follow us on social media:

Twitter: @CreativeFuseNE

Facebook: Creative Fuse North East

If you have further questions about any Creative Fuse activities or would like to connect more closely with the participating universities, you can contact our dedicated Creative Fuse Cultural Sector Engagement Broker, Declan Baharini. Declan sends out regular updates that summarise news and opportunities of particular interest for the Cultural Sector.

Tel: 07787 425 529


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