Contribution to creative economy

BACKGROUND

Birmingham City University’s impact on the Creative Industries is significant in terms of depth, breadth and duration. In Birmingham, the sector accounts for around 20,000 jobs – four per cent of the city’s workforce. The 3,450 creative businesses make up 10 per cent of the city’s total number of firms and business numbers have grown by almost 20 per cent since 2003. The Creative Industries sector employs more people than either construction or the manufacture, sale and repair of cars, and similar numbers to the legal, accountancy and management consultancy professions combined. 93 per cent of creative firms in the city are micro-businesses, employing 10 or fewer people. The sector produces more than £660m of GVA (source: Business Link).

LEARNING AND TEACHING

The Birmingham School of Media’s Skillset Media Academy status has led to engagement with the BBC, Global Media Group and Guardian Media Group, resulting in substantial benefits to our curriculum delivery and has resulted in the development of a Foundation Degree in radio production as co-taught provision. The work of its Screen Media Lab, a tailored industry facility which promotes multimedia and content skills to industry, has allowed non-creative businesses to access creative talent through the provision of initiatives like Talent Bank and Notion Studio, while its Skills Bank has facilitated an upgrading of skills of some 500 individuals.

In addition to more standard training approaches, Birmingham City University has been working with leading industry practitioners to provide cutting edge training. For example in the games industry, the School of Media led an initiative entitled Gamer Camp – an idea which Birmingham City University identified when attending South by South West, a leading international conference hosted in America, at the cutting edge of digital innovation. Offering an alternative educational experience based on work-based learning, the University identified a gap in the market to apply knowledge of games and animation in this way. The course was developed with Screen West Midlands, and in consultation with Hyper Island, Apple and leading industry stakeholders. Launched in 2009, 11 participants completed the programme, making them industry-ready to take immediate jobs within the animation and games industry because the training delivery was so closely aligned to industry requirements (with much of the course delivery being given by expert practitioners in the field).

BUSINESS ASSISTS

Screen Media Lab

The University has been successful at linking up with a range of public funding providers in developing specific activity to support the Creative Industries. In December 2002, with HEIF 2 funds (Higher Education Innovation Fund for 2004-06), the School of Media established Screen Media Lab, a commercially engaged entity which works either in collaboration with businesses or with interns and graduates to offer leading-edge web, video and mobile services. The University invested in the area to offer graduates work based opportunities, to develop relevant curriculum, and to build a development capability to directly support industry. The initiative was funded initially via ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), ESF (European Social Fund), commercial income, HEIF, SRIF (Science Research Investment Fund), National Lottery, NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), Advantage West Midlands, and Business Link. Work is now focused on commercial and research-based income to make it sustainable.

RESEARCH

The University has led the way in reviewing how digital infrastructure is changing the mode of operation for the industry, and the School of Media led an AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) project into change within the music and radio industry in the new digital age. Working with Capsule, Punch Records and Unity FM the project has been able to forge innovation, review communication and promote consolidation, with the creation of new prototypes for advocacy, new networks and new knowledge exchange. A project in Digital Archiving, in partnership with Screen West Midlands, TV Junction, MACE (Media Archive for Central England), the British Library, and Birmingham Archive and Heritage, has opened up access of digital archives to the cultural sector, aiding knowledge exchange and development. Our work with digital technologies as enablers of new forms of creative media applications is also extending understanding.

LUCID

The LUCID (Location, User and Context-Aware Information Delivery) project, funded by Advantage West Midlands through Science City and run through the School of Media, is just one of many projects the University has engaged in that contributed to the Creative Economy – Birmingham City University’s User-lab’s ongoing work in usability and user-centred design regularly sees it working with creative industry organisations such as regional SMEs and larger organisations such as Birmingham City Council. The LUCID project’s focus is on enabling technology and applications development for local creative companies to help them engage with their clients in areas where they lacked expertise (specifically in delivery of context-aware mobile applications/services).

With significant experience of how users and audiences respond to innovative technologies through the University’s work and our extensive engagement with local creative industries, Birmingham City University was well placed to facilitate and lead this project, which provided some eight demonstrations of practical applications of value adding audience development activity. Working in partnership with 383 Project, Urban Pie, Flatpack, Trilby Media, Digital Birmingham, TV Junction, MACE, and the British Library the project highlighted a range of application opportunities for the cultural sectors to develop interactive communications with their audiences.

The School of Media’s research reaches beyond the UK. Birmingham City University is working with 16 cities in two Interreg Programmes to share best practices and lessons for policy development in the creative economy – Creative Metropoles and ECCE Innovation.

CONSULTANCY

Paul Bradshaw

The University’s consultancy operates across a range of activities. The work of Paul Bradshaw, MA online journalism course director at the School of Media, with regional newspapers such as MRN (which owns Birmingham Post), national newspapers including The Guardian and international newspapers such as The New York Times has changed the shape of newsrooms around the world. His new model of online journalism highlighting major structural change requirements has resulted in major changes in the newspaper industry. His work has been reported widely as being an instrumental driver in change within journalism and has resulted in 23 editors directly receiving training and development from the University. Paul now attends conferences for online journalism across the globe.

EMPLOYABILITY AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Birmingham City University works extensively with Business Link, LSC (Learning and Skills Council) and Advantage West Midlands on the employability agenda. The School of Media’s Screen Media Lab is seen as a leader by NESTA in delivering its Insight Out programme to nurture creative talent by specifically assisting individuals to set up creative businesses. The programme has engaged the support of 48 organisations, engaged 121 participants, specifically supporting graduate retention in the region. The project has directly contributed to increasing business start ups in the region. This is being extended with support from Birmingham City Council in the BSEEN programme, which also involves Aston and Birmingham Universities, in assisting city-based graduates to establish their own businesses.

EVENTS AND NETWORKS

Animation Forum West Midlands

Building networks, developing understanding and distributing intelligence is a key part of Birmingham City University’s role in contributing to the region. Birmingham City University has been active in developing forums to assist communities in coming together to establish a collective vision and approach. For example in 2008, the School of Media facilitated the establishment of Animation Forum, through Advantage West Midlands funding. The Forum now has more than 700 active members.

The School of Media has been a key contributor to events including Flip Animation Festival – all recognised at national or international level.

STRATEGY AND DEVELOPMENT

The participation, secondment and contribution of our academic team on a wide variety of networks and think tanks provide the University with a unique ability to add value to strategy development within the region and beyond. For example, Dave Harte from the School of Media was seconded to Birmingham City Council’s Digital Birmingham programme to support it in developing a wider engagement strategy for digital activity in the city. Dave Harte is now a leading ambassador for our newly created Institute for Digital Experience and Applications and feeds directly into AWM’s Science City interactive digital media initiative and into Screen West Midlands with Birmingham City Council, specifically working on the digital participation agenda.

Jon Hickman, a leading researcher and tutor in online and social networking, orchestrated a conference to allow practitioners from the region to respond to the Digital Britain report. The event was supported by a postgraduate Events & Exhibition Management intern, providing unique work experience and was recognised within the national Digital Britain process for its contribution to dialogue. Funded entirely by the University, the event was seen as an instrumental driver in allowing the West Midlands based Creative Industries to input into the Digital Britain process.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Birmingham City University is committed to its wider community with a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. This vision is fully embraced within our Creative Industries work.

An example of community engagement is our support for the Government’s Gifted and Talented agenda, where the School of Media has worked with young students from disadvantaged backgrounds to produce a ‘Sound it Out’ community engagement programme. The five-day summer school provided students in Years 9 and 10 with an opportunity to develop the skills required to produce a basic radio feature. Students gained hands-on experience using audio recording and editing equipment – along with scriptwriting skills, editorial decision making, digital music composition, radio journalism and voice work for radio. The outcomes provided unique content for community radio – reinforcing benefits to industry as well as the community.

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