Notes from the NESTA/ACE/AHRC Digital R&D Fund Day

Yesterday was the first of the Digital Days organised by NESTA, ACE and the AHRC to talk about their Digital R&D Fund. Here are my notes from the talks by Andrew Nairne and Jon Kingsbury, with some summary points at the top.


The emphases are on building and inspiring new audiences and driving new business models in the arts.

In short:
•the £500k will fund five to ten projects
•each successful project will be partnered with a research team (funded by the £200k research strand)
•projects must have research questions at their heart and extensibility for the sector – either knowledge or (in some cases) tools
•artistic innovation might be a facet of the project but not the be all and end all
•there aren’t certain amounts of money allocated for each of the six themes or for specific regions: make a good proposal and it will land where it may
•collaboration is key – what are the benefits to less digitally literate organisations? Who are they great technologists you can work with? What are the interesting (corporate?) partnerships?

Deadline is 2 September. Successful projects will be notified by 3rd week of September.

Sandpit Days – 24/25 September

Projects are envisaged to run from 15 October 2011 to 1 October 2012.

Andrew Nairne, Executive Director Arts, Arts Council England

Digital runs through everything ACE do

Fund is very much in the space of building and inspiring new audience and developing resilience for the sector , or: audiences and business models

Want to be transformative – support a step change for artists and arts.

ACE are aware of the need to create imaginative digital content that can attract audiences – this is all about reach and making publicly funded content available to all – but they are aware that is NOT just about handing a TV camera to a television company. Instead this is a moment to think, “how can it be new?”

How to build new relationships? ACE are aware that reaching new people is not an easy thing to do (as we would already be doing it) – need to be cleverer than that

Feeling increasing positive about gaming, ref recent visit to the Pervasive Media Studio: how can we surround our audiences with experiences?

National Portfolio – beacons of excellence, taking a leadership role. ACE want to enable them to use digital technology to help them accelerate what they want to do anyway

Also bear in mind that this fund is not the be and end all. There are also GFA and strategic funds (lottery money), specifically the £20m Digital Fund to be announced in the Autumn,

The R&D fund is about recognising the gaps – working in partnership – being a catalyst and an enabler – supporting both the pioneers and the digitally illiterate – arts pioneers who can then make amazing work.

Want to do this with many partners – and hoping to bring on more partners – stepping out of the comfort zone of the arts. Arts orgs tend to think about their natural partners as other arts orgs, but we need to get out of that space and think more broadly – think into the creative industries – out of the sector

ACE to lead on advocacy, e.g. support w/intellectual property

They are interested in OPEN DATA and the possibilities there – want ACE to be a useful partner for arts and culture – to extend and deepen impact in and of arts and culture.

Questions to consider: how can orgs exploit their cultural assets – what is about your org that is special unique and rich? What is extensible and reproducible? e.g.  The Faber Wasteland app is a breakthrough – could something like that be whitelabelled and rolled out to other organisations?

Jonathan Kingsbury, Creative Economy Programme Director, NESTA

Sees the fund as enabling use of digital technologies in the arts and cultural sector to engage audiences in new ways and create opportunities for new business models.

Supporting projects that bring important knowledge and learning to benefit the sector as a whole

Looking for evidence and insights that other orgs will find useful – not just looking to support projects but knowledge that can be transferred

Each proposal should have a very clear research question that the project activity will hope to answer – this is extremely important – generating knowledge is at the heart of this.

Eligibility criteria for this is much more open that is usually associated with arts funding – businesses can apply as long as they can deliver benefit to the arts and cultural sector.

Opportunity for arts and cultural orgs who want to experiment and prototype – want to be explicit about engaging, reaching new audiences and exploring new business models

Built on the AHRC and ACE research

Expects that there will be between 5 and 10 successful projects that will generate value for the sector as a whole

Arts and culture partners need a technology partner to collaborate with. Don’t mind you using your own tech team but want you to “spread the love” and give some of that effort to people who have less capacity

Arts and culture orgs will be leading the fund

Research teams will be at the two-day workshop to help refine the question – and will be there to choose which projects to work on – they want the findings and knowledge to be robust and believable; researchers will write up the final report – researchers shortlisted in parallel with the project selection

Focus on research element is crucial – what potential does the project have to deliver research findings to the wider sector – what potential does it have to extend learning

Collaboration – collaboration – collaboration!

Interested to understand the impact of teaming up with arts and cultural organisations who have less capacity – how you are spreading the value to people who are less advanced?

Want to understand how committed your organisation is to this project

Much more interested in something at the heart of the organisation that gives it potential to go farther than it has before – not interested in marginal activity

All questions are published as part of the FAQ

Artistic innovation might be a facet of the project but not the be all and end all

Envisaging that projects will end October  2012

No limit to the number of applications or associations you might have

Overlap between the R&D fund and the core digital fund is still tbc.

Applicants don’t need to know exactly how they will do the research but they need to know that it’s a researchable question – don’t need a PhD proposal e.g.


One thought on “Notes from the NESTA/ACE/AHRC Digital R&D Fund Day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s