The UK creative industries are worth £84.1 billion a year to the UK economy*; an incredible contribution and an area in which the UK shines on a global stage. Our creative exports span across film, music, gaming and publishing (to name but a few), continuously breaking new ground and contributing to the cultural landscape of countries across the world.
I am fortunate enough to live and work in the South West of England, where we are immersed in the creative industries. Creativity and enterprise is thriving in the region and attracts many bright minds. Those coming to the West Country work, not only in the hub cities of Bristol and Bath, but all across the region, which is dominated by entrepreneurial micro-businesses and freelancers in everything from animation to software development. This adds a rich diversity to local economies as a key part of a wider supply chain that has the potential to drive job creation in many sectors.
Worryingly, the huge contribution the creative industries make is frequently overlooked, and education and employment in the arts is still viewed all too often as 'secondary' to the STEM (science, technology engineering and maths) subject areas which are considered the drivers of growth and enterprise. In reality the two are very much linked and often work in partnership. One of the most iconic examples of this happening is with Apple. When introducing the iPad 2 in 2012, Steve Jobs summarised his strategy for the company as 'technology alone is not enough - it's technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields results that make our hearts sing.' The rise and continued success of Apple in recent years is a true demonstration of the potential that can come from collaboration across disciplines.
With the economic benefits and the innovation possibilities clear to see, doesn't it make sense to encourage interdisciplinarity amongst young people? At Bath Spa University our students are exposed to creative practitioners and researchers who are enterprising in their approach to teaching. Through a creative curriculum that encourages entrepreneurial thought, our students are better enabled to enter successful careers within pioneering companies or as freelance creatives. Bath Spa graduates are socially engaged global citizens who meet the needs of the creative industries, not only in the UK, but across Europe and beyond.
The value of the creative industries goes much farther than just economic benefits. How far this reaches, and the ways in which many sectors within the creative industries inspire local STEM projects, is the subject of a major new research project. Bristol by Design, by Anita Taylor, Dean of Bath Spa University's Bath School of Art and Design, asks the question 'to what extent has design created an environment that has allowed SMEs and major corporations alike to thrive and evolve side-by-side and in partnership?'. The answer potentially has far-reaching consequences for communities up and down the country, as well as being the catalyst for a much needed true equality for the creative industries.
Creatives and the companies they work in or lead are not bound by borders or culture. They thrive on shared knowledge and expertise, so it is now more vital than ever before that we as universities are developing graduates who will ensure the UK's creative industries continue to be our largest export and have a positive impact on long-term economic prosperity.
*Department for Culture, Media and Sports, Jan 2016