FUSION: the process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity
- Published: Monday, 18 May 2015 11:49
- Written by London Fusion
Report by London Fusion
The London Creative and Digital Fusion project set out to fuse creative and digital skills in small businesses across London. The project had also to fuse a complex collaboration of universities and organisations into a delivery partnership and fuse a rigorous funding regime into that partnership. It took the hard work, tenacity and dedication of many individuals and their institutions to deliver this collaboration successfully.
The London Creative and Digital Fusion project was designed to support London’s creative and digital companies to collaborate, innovate and grow. The rationale for the project came from the NCUB’s Fuse report and the research undertaken through the Brighton Fuse that demonstrated that fusion across the creative arts, design and technology has become a force for innovation and growth. The fact that innovation can happen faster and is better embedded where a community or “cluster” “spark” ideas off each other, provided a further element of the project jigsaw. London presented a unique community in which to test this programme of knowledge exchange. While many cities around the world can claim to be hubs for technology entrepreneurship, London’s distinctive potential lies in the successful fusion of world leading technologies with its world leading culture and creative genius. This context set the ambition for the London Fusion project.
In just over two years, London Creative and Digital Fusion stimulated over 200 new jobs, increased business growth and cemented new links between a number of London’s world class higher education institutions and between them and many small businesses. London Fusion energised over 1,000 small businesses. Many have been inspired to think differently; nearly 500 have worked to fuse new thinking into their businesses. Finally, over 50 have accessed innovation vouchers to create new jobs, new processes and new products that are leading their businesses into growth and sustainability, supported by specialists from the project’s leading universities.
According to the Greater London Authority, the London Creative and Digital Fusion project has been the most complex partnership project in their portfolio to date. This complexity was however needed to meet the scale and scope of resources needed to deliver the project’s aims and objectives. The programme was led by Lancaster University from its London base at the Work Foundation. Lancaster is an institution with outstanding excellence in leading complex partnerships and extensive experience of delivering successful European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded projects, making it the ideal lead partner.
The partnership brought a further nine higher education institutions together. The core delivery team involved four universities and a further five were engaged in the wider delivery, including two of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Knowledge Hubs. To build the trust required for effective partnership within the project entailed a huge investment of patience and understanding of differing perspectives throughout the project.
The project was part-financed by ERDF which provided 50% of the £5.8M funding. This meant that without the experience of Lancaster University and its ISO9001 system, specifically designed for ERDF management, the audit and evidence requirements of the funding package would not have been overcome. None of the London partners in the London Fusion project had prior experience of this type of funding. This element alone involved an important learning journey for the partners and for the participating businesses.
The impact of the funding mechanism should not be underestimated as the overhead and administrative burden could have made delivery impossible in the fast-moving creative and digital sectors and competitive London market.
In designing the programme of support for companies, we tried to take them on a journey that would support their innovation aspirations. We held a number of high-profile speaker events which were open to all to hear how entrepreneurs such as Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, had faced and met their business challenges. The partners delivered a huge range of workshops, masterclasses and tailored business support designed to meet business needs.
For those companies that aspired to significant growth we devised competitive voucher schemes that provided access to leading thinkers and practitioners in universities and higher education institutions. Queen Mary University in conjunction with the Creative Works Knowledge Hub led this programme which reached out to other universities in London for delivery. Goldsmiths, University of London and Kingston University were stellar in their support of this element of the programme.
A number of the companies that demonstrate the impact of the London Fusion programme are featured as case studies in our London Fusion brochure. Examining a number of the fastest growing companies shows that it was our ability to tailor support to meet specific company needs that worked best.
Case Study: Seren
Seren is a fast growing design consultancy specialising in advanced measurement techniques to understand user experiences. Seren’s challenge was how best to include physiological data into gaming, retail and digital media product-user research.
Through the Fusion Collaborative Award scheme, Seren collaborated with the Design School in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Kingston University. The University offered access to game designer, producer and developer resources to help shape the methodology and ensure that it would be commercially viable. They provided mentoring support and introductions helped raise Seren’s profile in the video-gaming industry. The work also highlighted the potential for biometric methodologies in other aspects of Seren’s existing business, such as neuromarketing.
The company shared a passion with their academic collaborator for the area of inquiry; they had very compatible priorities, something that made this collaboration a very successful one.
Terry Heath of Seren said: “We benefited from the expertise of our academic partner and developed tools that we would not have been able to do by ourselves.”
The lessons learnedIn any innovative project such as London Creative and Digital Fusion, it is important to capture lessons for the future. London Creative and Digital Fusion was not a research project but it has been able to capture practice-based evidence.
The vast majority of companies with which the London Fusion project engaged were either companies with no employees or micro companies with 0-9 employees. Companies of this size need basic business support before they can capitalise on the more specialised interventions that universities can offer. Likewise, growth trajectories for such companies take time and it is no surprise that at the end of the programme those companies that have accelerated fastest were those that already had a substantial company infrastructure.
In the creative economy the “freelance” economy prevails and some of the concerns that pre-dated the London Fusion project regarding vulnerability to economic shocks remain. However, the project has strengthened the links to local London universities and anchored new support mechanisms in London.
Above all, the project has created a more connected community and work continues both with the London-based universities and through the use of social media to retain that connectivity.
Many other practical lessons have been gained by those engaged in the project with regard to working with the sectors in London; working with each other in partnership and working with ERDF funding and target-driven mechanisms. These lessons stand the companies, the universities and London as a whole in a better position to capture the potential that resides in its unique creative and digital ecosystem.