£7 million Digital R&D fund launches

Arts Council England, Nesta and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), have today (13 July 2012) launched a £7 million Digital Research and Development (Digital R&D) fund for the arts, following a pilot project which was opened in 2011.

The launch of the fund coincides with the publication of the Arts Council’s Creative media policy, which sets out how the organisation aims to stimulate a new era of digital access and growth in the arts and creative industries.

The Digital R&D fund is a strategic partnership between the Arts Council, NESTA and AHRC and is unique in encouraging collaboration between the arts, digital technology providers and the research community in order to undertake experiments from which the wider arts and cultural sector can learn.

The £7 million fund (including research spend) will be made available over three years (2012/13-2014/5) to support research and development projects that use digital technology to enhance arts audience reach and/or explore new business models.

The fund will focus on a range of key themes identified in collaboration with the arts sector such as user generated content and social media; digital distribution and exhibition; mobile, location and games; data and archives; resources and education and learning.

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “The large number of applications to the pilot Digital R&D project clearly illustrated that there was significant unmet demand in this area.

“The fact that we’ve been able to continue to work together in developing these useful partnerships on a large scale is a fantastic achievement and we look forward to seeing the terrific and radically creative ideas which will emerge and develop as we continue to work to encourage a resilient, sustainable and innovative arts and culture sector.”

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive, Nesta, said: “This fund tests how public R&D, with a strong focus on rigorous and systematic research, can bring wider benefits to the arts world through the creation and sharing of useful knowledge. Nesta believes that this approach can be used across the creative sector to provide both public funders and policymakers with good evidence to help shape their support for digital innovation.”

Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the AHRC, said: “The pilot programme of the Digital R&D Fund is not only resulting in some interesting and important outputs, but perhaps more significantly has also identified a set of relationships between arts organisations, technology providers and researchers that is central to digital innovation in the arts. The concept seemed a strong one, but now we can say with some certainty that the practice is too. We’re delighted to be taking these ideas forward in what is now a significant and potentially far-reaching initiative.”

The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts is an important strand of the AHRC’s activities to encourage interactions between researchers and the Creative Economy which can generate significant social, cultural and economic benefits. These activities include the creation of the Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy which have recently been launched.

Organisations can apply to the fund from today. More information on the application process, including key eligibility criteria, can be found here http://artsdigitalrnd.org.uk/.

The work undertaken will directly contribute to Arts Council England’s 10-year strategic framework, Achieving great art for everyone. It is a key development strand of the Arts Council’s wider creative media policy which has been published today, alongside other work such as the Arts Council/BBC Building digital capacity for the arts programme and The Space.

In its Creative media policy, the Arts Council has identified nine development areas which will shape the focus of development, investment and advocacy activities in digital and creative media work. They are:
1. Skills and training
2. Talent development
3. Media production
4. Digital exhibition and distribution
5. Archives and collections
6. Data and metadata
7. Rights and Intellectual property
8. Audiences engagement and learning
9. Business models and organisational development

Partnerships and collaboration will be essential to deliver the creative media policy and address the development areas. Arts Council England will look to strengthen existing partnerships, build new relationships with partners from the wider creative industries and work closely with its National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) and Major Partner Museums (MPMs) to develop more detailed and imaginative proposals.

The Creative media policy also provides greater detail on how the £20 million of Arts Council Lottery funding set aside in 2011 for digital innovation has been and will be allocated.

Included in the allocation is £8 million which is being set aside to allow for the possibility of The Space continuing as a freely-available digital arts service.

The BBC and Arts Council England are actively exploring the future of The Space which has a huge potential to make more of the arts available in new ways to new audiences. We expect to have more details in the autumn.

Digital innovation funding will be used to target gaps and large scale opportunities that are not addressed through the Arts Council’s other funding streams. The breakdown is:
• £3.5million – which has already been spent on the current Space pilot
• £6 million – contribution to the Digital R&D fund
• £2.5 million – to support the infrastructure for creative media content from the arts sector including support on IP, archives and data (funding to be available from autumn 2013)
• £8 million – set aside for the next phase of The Space

For more information contact:
Tamara Salhab
Media Relations Officer,
Arts Council England,
Tel: 0207 973 6890
Email: Tamara.salhab@artscouncil.org.uk