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Valuing creative skills as drivers of the future economy

  • 2 August 2021
  • By Anne Carlisle

This blog was kindly contributed by Professor Anne Carlisle OBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Falmouth University.

Last week, the Creative Industries Federation published a new report, The UK Creative Industries: unleashing the power and potential of creativity, showcasing and celebrating the economic impact and global reach of the UK’s Creative Industries. Ironically, it was published on the day the Government confirmed cuts to funding for creative degree courses.

It is deeply frustrating and disappointing that those of us working in this vibrant sector must continue to articulate and to advocate for creative skills and creative education. However, we must because they are fundamental to innovation, key to unlocking the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution and should be at the heart of economic growth and the levelling-up agenda post-pandemic.

It seems that part of the problem is an old-fashioned view of creativity which focuses on a narrow and ambiguous definition of ‘art’. It overlooks the crucial transferrable creative skills which will power the future economy.

This thinking can be observed within the concept of STEAM, where, grouped together with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, ‘Art’ remains siloed and separate from other disciplines. Creativity is transdisciplinary and most impactful when applied beyond disciplinary boundaries and to real-world problems.

At Falmouth University we call this idea the ‘Creative Bridge’ where creative thinking reaches across the divide between technology and humans to create meaning, value and innovation. To borrow a phrase, it’s how we ‘create love in the telematic embrace’.

As our world becomes increasingly driven by data, digital technology and AI, creative skills are future-proofed and in demand. Not only is it impossible to automate them, but they are necessary for the design of human-centred solutions (literally creating user experiences at the interface between people and tech, harnessing delight, entertainment and pleasure) in sectors across society and the economy. Imagination, innovation, communication and problem solving are finding new processes, products and experiences.

At Falmouth, our pedagogy and our research are rooted in real-world challenges and creative problem solving. Driven by external demand and not by supply, our work is responding to the world around us and making an impact.

From our product design students who are manufacturing new items using recycled marine waste, to the Connected Health Care research project, which is using satellite technology to improve health outcomes in rural communities, to the companies spinning out of our Launchpad venture studio, using digital platforms, smart interfaces and GPS technology to provide solutions in sectors as diverse as entertainment, agri-tech and tourism.

This methodology is powerful, because it is inherently innovative. Built on a culture of critique, a creative approach embraces the ‘edge mentality’, fosters disruption and seeks out the next paradigm shift.

Entrepreneurs – like creatives – display this mindset and it is no coincidence that a recent report listed Falmouth University in the top five UK universities for producing small business founders. Creative, innovative graduates go on to set up companies and create new jobs. A fifth (22%) of Falmouth graduates go on to set up their own business, many of those in Cornwall and account for 1% of all UK self-employed graduates.

And this leads us on to the importance of the local dimension. In their HEPI blog in June 2021, Diana Beech and Peter O’Brien articulated the importance of the creative industries for post-pandemic regional recovery.

Here in Cornwall, Falmouth has consciously aligned itself with the needs of its local economy, creating a pipeline of talent into local businesses and feeding the booming digital creative sector. From our thriving Games Academy and the highly respected School of Film & Television, to our Immersive Business facility, Falmouth University is committed to working with local and industry partners to drive the regeneration of Cornwall’s economy. Undermining this work risks undermining the economic development of a region where Gross Value Add per capita is around 35% below the UK average.

Putting aside the news and the specific issue of funding for courses, we must not allow creativity and creative education to be overlooked, undervalued or denigrated. To do so would be to handicap all efforts to grow the economy, truly level-up our regions and place the UK at the forefront of global innovation.

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