Why We Need an Innovation Revolution
Updated: Feb 3
There’s an old saying that reminds us that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Over the last few months we’ve all been forced into situations, through necessity, where we have to adapt, invent news ways of working and living and comes to terms with a very different life.
I’d like to suggest though that there’s another side to that old saying, that ‘creativity is the father of innovation’. The problem is that the relationship between those two either gets lost some where or is missed altogether.
I’ve spent my whole working life in and around the creative industries, mainly in the film and TV industries in the UK, and in Hollywood with the major studios. The creative sector and the wider creative economy in which they sit has never been as successful as it is now - a global powerhouse growing faster than any other industry and the engine driving the juggernaut that is the consumer technology, platform and content markets.
To give you some perspective on that, the creative economy in the UK is worth over £110bn a year to the economy, that’s more than the automotive, aerospace, oil and gas and life science industries combined.
The creative and cultural sector has also never been as important as it is now. That might sound a little odd, given that we are in a global health emergency and the future of our oceans and environment currently balances on a knife edge.
The value of creative and cultural industries to give meaning and joy to our lives in such times is well understood - whether that’s listening to music at home, going to the cinema or visiting an art gallery - but that’s not want I want to focus on here.
Recovering from the greatest global economic depression since the 1930’s is going to require a level of creative and collaborative innovation that we’ve never seen before. It’s going to take an industrial revolution that is more than just technology - one that is founded on a true partnership between the public and private sectors and led by people with the commitment and ability work across sectors.
The most important contribution that the creative and cultural sectors can make over the next generation will be to facilitate and drive that revolution, to see true innovation in every industry and every corner of society, community and government.
That’s a big ask but unless governments, national and international organisations, NGO’s and the global finance sector recognise that innovation is driven by creative collaboration - and not just science and widgets - then the recovery will be slower and more painful than we’ve ever experienced before.
That’s why I’m really excited by the opportunity to take up a role as Non-Executive Director at Artisans of Innovation http://www.artisansofinnovation.com a new multi-national innovation consultancy, based in the UK and Brussels, that aims to be at the centre of that ambitious movement.
By bringing together experts from the creative, cultural and digital technology sectors it’s setting out to help nations, regions and economies achieve the unprecedented level of innovation that I’d mentioned above.
This approach is critically important. As well as the immediate recovery from the impacts of COVID 19, there is the target of delivering on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The forthcoming ‘Decade of Delivery’ on those goals is going to take a far more collaborative and innovative approach that we’ve been able to manage so far.
Even before the pandemic we were struggling to really make headway on these goals, but now, with developing nations being hit hardest by COVID, those ambitious targets that were set out five years ago at the 2015 UN general Assembly, could seem like all but fantasy.
However, perhaps this pandemic will provide the impetus for a new approach, a kickstart for the kind of creative and digital transformation we’re going to need to see and where Artisans of Innovation can take a globally leading role.
We need to start looking beyond the boundaries of our own disciplines and industries. All too often, research, high level conferences, white papers and global forums, including those on the creative economy, have a far too introverted approach, with arguments that are often centred on outdates data and based on assumptions and theories that simply no longer hold true.
The dialogue between sectors, between the public and private domains and between industry and academia needs to be much more open, honest and connected.
We need to see governments develop business environments that can ease and capitalise the innovation process as much as possible. Creative entrepreneurs need to be supported, particularly in developing regions, through targeted and expert mentoring, and connected with each other through dynamic cluster initiatives. Pre-seed investment channels such as accelerators and angel networks are critical here. Investors need to be incentivised to put impact investing at the heart of their portfolio plans as well as having a much more open and regular dialogue with start-ups so that they can understand and assess the value chains of the creative sector. This will also help early stage creative SME’s in particular to understand what it takes to become investment ready.
This is all achievable if the will is there and the benefits made concrete. It will only happen however if the silos we’ve been working in up to now are broken down. Creative SME’s are already doing this - it’s now up to governments, academia and major organisations to follow suit.
That is why I’m excited to be able to work with Artisans of Innovation and to see where this determined focus on creative-digital cross-sector collaboration can take us. Hopefully it’s to an economy and a society that is more sustainable, more equitable and more resilient than before.
Peter Rudge is Non-Executive Director at Artisans of Innovation.