Fundamental to the overall aim of Creative Fuse North East is a strong research focus and application.
Aligned with the support delivered to businesses and freelancers to develop innovation, ideas and collaborations, from a research perspective Creative Fuse builds upon the mapping and surveying and wider development work in our first phase, to conduct new research that seeks to understand the conditions for creativity and inter-disciplinary fusion. Specifically, we will go beyond research questions of whether ‘creative fusion’ is occurring in the region or how much value is created, to understand why and how ‘fusion’ occurs in certain projects and settings but not in others. We hope that this research will support the creative and digital sectors and wider regional economy during a period of significant economic and political change and uncertainty and following the impact of the COVID pandemic.
Our first phase highlighted that ‘fusion’ was not automatic and needed co-ordination; people tend to identify, socialise and organise within disciplinary boundaries unless there are projects and opportunities promising benefits to collaborate. Creative Fuse seeks to provide that incentive, and coordinating role, but it also provides a single access point to the combined knowledge and reach of the university partners acting as “the power of five”, thereby reducing the barriers to engagement and the costs of searching for an academic partner for businesses. A very good example of this from our first phase was our successful Innovation Pilots programme.
Key elements of our approach to applied research include:
- Identifying and working with partners and stakeholders on thematic action learning sets, for example the rural creative sector, the creative freelancer economy and how creativity and innovation can be applied in other sectors like the independent food and drink industries. Action learning sets are a simple and powerful way for individuals to learn from each other. Action learning is a process which typically involves working on real challenges, using the knowledge and skills of a group of people combined with skilled questioning, to produce fresh ideas and reinterpret familiar concepts.
- Using the engagement and support to businesses and practitioners through the project to generate new research outcomes that will provide knowledge and understanding that will be shared and reviewed with peers as part of a collaborative research approach. Creative Fuse is, for instance, uniquely placed to capture the cross-disciplinary and cross-sector innovation advantages and map the spillovers into the wider economy (e.g. manufacturing, knowledge economy, health and analysis of diversity in the region), areas that contribute significantly in the region but often go unnoticed. The project will catalyse new cross-sector collaborations that nurture and mould shared innovation potential
- Creative Fuse will also work with national partners. Newcastle University, the lead for the project, is also centrally involved in the AHRC-funded Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC). The PEC’s vision is to provide independent research and authoritative recommendations that will aid the development of policies for the UK’s creative industries, contributing to their continued success. Newcastle University Business School (NUBS) is leading the PEC’s Work Strand 5 on International Competitiveness, including the implications of Brexit for the UK’s creative industries and the associated uncertainties over access to talent, exporting and inward investment. In addition, Creative Fuse will also be part of new national research which uses survey data and novel website scraping techniques to identify where the UK’s creative businesses are located, to what extent they are grouped together in ‘microclusters’, and the benefits to clustering. This ‘Creative Radar’ research will provide much more granular insight into the creative economy in the North East, will allow for improved benchmarking with other regions and cities, and will be part of our knowledge and evidence basis that will contribute to policy-making.
We believe that the Fuse model of research-led innovation support may be replicated or more likely adapted to other clusters and regions developing creative industries. This was shown with the original transfer from the South Coast to the North East and CFNE 2.0 will continue to explore interest from other places in adopting the Fuse model, which are increasingly international.