Creativeworks London has built capacity for collaboration with the creative economy across a wide range of arts and humanities disciplines, and significantly raised the level of engagement and investment in this activity by partner universities.


Creativeworks London HUB

Creativeworks London has created productive ecosystems to sustain future collaborations, and has enabled the development of significant new networks that will have a major impact on the future growth and success of the creative economy in London. The range and diversity of innovation and research outcomes generated by the project is a clear indication of the power of the collaborations it enabled and supported.

The AHRC-funded period of Creativeworks London’s activities ends on 31 July 2016, but partners are committed to continuing to collaborate. New projects are being developed that will build on what has been learned through the rich programme of research and knowledge exchange activities undertaken over the past four years.

Please do contact us if you are interested in developing joint projects.

Our Aims

Our Aims - Left

Creativeworks London has always argued that Arts and Humanities researchers who understand London and its distinctive characteristics can make a major difference to the UK’s Creative Economy. This was the founding vision for CWL as a KE Hub.

London is a global city and has almost one third of the UK’s creative workforce, contributing more than £21 billion per annum to the capital’s economy.

CWL’s ambition was to provide new insights into London’s creative economy, in partnership with an exciting range of national and local hubs and networks.

Its focus on London has been key to CWL’s knowledge exchange methodologies and its research activities, because of the scale of activity, enterprise and partnerships already in place in the city.

CWL has presented a unique opportunity to observe, research and support London’s changing relationship with its creative economy.

Creativeworks London’s aim has been to ensure that London’s creative economy businesses turn to research collaborations with the Arts and Humanities community in London’s universities to meet their commercial needs and that the researchers themselves will be both ready and excited about this potential for engagement.

Our Aims - Right

The stated objectives of CWL were eight-fold:

  1. To undertake collaborative research on the complexities of London’s cultural and creative economies, including business models, policy and skills development, to allow for a full understanding of the processes that underpin and sustain London’s creative economy
  2. To use this knowledge to the benefit of creative and cultural enterprises in ways that respond directly to business needs, including entrepreneurial development and new routes to market in the creative economy
  3. To demonstrate the importance of business interaction with arts and humanities research to private industries and the cultural sector, ensuring that arts and humanities researchers
    become partners of choice for leading creative businesses seeking innovative solutions
  4. To create an interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral network that connects leading businesses, SMEs, micro-enterprises and cultural organisations large and small
  5. To develop innovative practice within the arts and humanities research community and act as a strategic intermediary to provide support and advice to AHRC-funded researchers
  6. To increase the number of arts and humanities researchers actively engaged in knowledge exchange within the creative economy, building capacity in knowledge exchange in exciting and innovative ways
  7. To leverage additional funding from other sources to ensure a sustainable legacy
  8. To work closely with AHRC and RCUK, and the other successful Hubs, to integrate knowledge exchange activity within existing and developing programmes.

The four UK HUBs

The Four UK HUBs

Creativeworks London is one of four Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy funded by the AHRC. All four Hubs, working as consortia, connect excellent research in the arts and humanities with a range of creative and cultural organisations across the UK, to accelerate growth and innovation, generate and utilize knowledge exchange opportunities, foster entrepreneurial talent and contribute to the development of the UK’s Creative Economy.

The four hubs, each of which received £4 million of funding from the AHRC, are:

Creativeworks London, led by Queen Mary University of London in partnership with 21 London-based higher education institutions (HEIs) and independent research organisations (IROs) and 22 creative and cultural industries organisations.. It brings researchers, creative entrepreneurs and businesses together to explore the issues that impact on London’s creative economy.

The Creative Exchange, led by Lancaster University in partnership with the University of Newcastle and the Royal College of Art. It is focused on bringing expertise in designing experiences, digital prototyping and communication innovation to address the opportunities and challenges of innovation in the digital public space.

Design in Action, led by the University of Dundee in partnership with Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh, The Glasgow School of Art, Gray’s School of Art at the Robert Gordon University, University of Abertay and St Andrews University. It supports small and medium enterprises (SMEs), utilising design as a strategy for innovation, both within and out with the creative economy.

Research and Enterprises in the Arts and Creative Technologies (REACT), led by the University of the West of England Bristol in partnership with the University of Bristol, University of Exeter, University of Bath, University of Cardiff, and the Watershed Arts Trust. This project has funded 53 collaborative projects, exploring a range of themes and ideas, from books and prints to design objects and documentaries.

Connecting to Innovate: A Preliminary Report on the Achievements of the AHRC Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy
Dr. Timothy J. Senior, with Professor Rachel Cooper, Professor Jon Dovey, Professor Georgina Follett, Professor Morag Shiach

Evaluation and Impact

Evaluation 1

Evaluation has been a key element of CWL’s work. During the project, evaluation was undertaken by the Evaluation and Dissemination Officer, Helen Matheson-Pollock, as well as the three postdoctoral research assistants, who evaluated the impacts of a range of funded projects. Finally, BOP Consulting undertook an external evaluation of the whole project in 2016.

A number of recent research and evaluation reports on knowledge exchange with the creative economy, on creative collaborations, on co-created research, on business models in the creative economy, and on cultural value, as well as on Creativeworks London itself, provide an important context for understanding the achievements of Creativeworks London.

These are:

  • Georgina Follett and Jon Rogers, Articulating Co-Creation for Economic and Cultural Value (2015)
  • Follett, G., Rogers, J., and Shorter, E., Identifying an Arts and Humanities Business Model and Practice (2015)
  • Geoffrey Crossick and Patrycja Kaszynska, Understanding the Value of Arts and Culture (2016)
  • Timothy J Senior, Connecting to Innovate: A Preliminary Report on the Achievements of the AHRC Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy (2016)
  • Helen Matheson-Pollock/BOP Consulting, Creativeworks London: A Knowledge Exchange Hub for the Creative Economy, 2012-2016 (2016)

Key findings from these reports include:

  • “Research and innovation are at the heart of the success of London’s creative industries. …and this produces benefits in the wider creative economy. The Creativeworks London programme reinforced this not only through business-led product development, …but in the less-commonly investigated paths that focus, as one participant put it, on values rather than on commercial value.” (BOP/Matheson-Pollock)
  • “Four of the five projects funded by the CWL BOOST scheme were collaborations formed through Creativeworks London’s methodology and activities, and all five have utilised their initial funding and follow-on funding to produce outputs and innovations that will ensure their businesses and associated research practices continue beyond the life of CWL as a knowledge exchange hub.” (BOP/Matheson-Pollock)
  • “When Arts and Humanities researchers work with SMEs, co-created methods and approaches generate fast and sustainable economic practices; …networks that build a sustainable ecosystem allowing businesses to withstand market fluctuations; …values that resonate in a circular economy and connect businesses to their customers and users.” (Follett, Rogers and Shorter)
  • “The key achievements of the [four KE] Hubs are activating connections between creative, cultural and HE sectors; driving innovation through knowledge exchange; mobilising knowledge from the Arts and Humanities; nurturing small businesses; stimulating new research and teaching; promoting culture change; and re-thinking business, community and region.” (Senior)
  • “Success for businesses is not always economically driven. Within the business case studies …many emphasised the importance of trust, establishing of a local ecology, and team-building based on common values. These qualities are fundamental to business success.” (Follett and Rogers)
  • “Although the economic benefits of arts and culture have been central to the case that has been made for public funding, the report questions the significance, and at times the quality, of economic impact studies. It calls for more attention to be given to the ways in which arts and culture feeds into the creative industries, supports the innovation system, and attracts talent and investment to places. Here, it is argued, are the distinctive contributions of arts and culture to the economy and they need to be better understood.” (Crossick and Kaszynska)

CWL’S funded projects have generated benefits including the development of prototypes, software, and apps; business growth and innovation; spinouts; the enhancement of democratic citizenship and the building of new audiences and new publics; new training opportunities within the creative economy; and the creation of resilient networks and partnerships to support future growth. CWL’s research strands have undertaken research that has been disseminated to a broad range of stakeholders nationally and internationally, and has attracted additional funding. CWL has also enhanced the capacity and desire of London’s research base to engage in collaborative research with the creative economy, particularly for early-career researchers. As external evaluation of CWL by BOP Consulting has indicated:

We have also observed a stronger propensity to work toward commercial outcomes amongst the researchers who worked on the projects. Whether in Ideas Pools, through Creative Vouchers or residencies, the work of the Hub seems to have led both businesses and researchers to a different way of approaching engagement, and increased the demand for and understanding of the importance of the contribution of, in particular, early-career researchers as ‘translators.

CWL has generated new and productive approaches to knowledge exchange for Arts and Humanities researchers. CWL has offered important research insights into methods and modes of knowledge exchange (captured in a series of Working Papers, films, and scholarly publications), and has also highlighted key research questions that could productively be addressed as part of any future investment in research on knowledge exchange with the creative economy. As BOP Consulting reported:

CWL has demonstrated responsiveness to the needs of the creative entrepreneur at every point in the business life cycle it has touched. Its impacts need to be observed over a longer time to understand more clearly at what point a ‘commercial’ return on capital employed may be reached. That observation could have important ramifications not only for continuing funding for this kind of research, but for a more efficient allocation and use of capital across the creative economy as a whole. In this way, CWL contains the seeds of a real structural change in the way in which resource may be best allocated to public interventions that seek to reduce barriers to entry and address market failures in creative industries. Its success may help articulate the need for a rebalancing of the role of State actors and private equity in providing the investment needed for the sector to continue to provide a driver of growth, jobs and export earnings for the economy as a whole.

The diagram below is derived from work done by researchers at Design in Action, to describe the ‘Knowledge Exchange Horizon’. This is the relationship between collaborative research and development of a product or business idea. The original figure – which described the relationship between ‘external’, shared research activity and ‘internal’ development by the entrepreneur in response to those inputs through stages of scoping, interpretation, ideation, formation (or prototyping) and evolution (or testing) has been extended to include two further stages:

  • Operations – development of the business structure, processes, human and financial capital (including relationships with external suppliers and actors) to reflect the specific capabilities and capacity needed to exploit its product or service in the market
  • Go to market strategy – the final set of choices and decisions made by the creative entrepreneur or founders about how to finance and launch the product, and which channels and partners to engage in that


It is clear that CWL’s projects spanned the whole creative journey set out here.

  • Creative Vouchers, Creative Entrepreneurs and Researchers in Residence typically dealt with iterations of scoping and ideation with the end goal, in some cases, of producing a model or prototype to provide the basis for further investment or other development.
  • BOOST and Fusion projects pursued the later stages of development, from production of a working prototype through a structured evolution achieved by testing (both ‘alpha’, using the combined efforts of the business owner and knowledge intermediaries funded through the funding award, and ‘beta’, or market, testing) to, in some cases, a product launch or further funding rounds.

Both of these stages can be seen to have been successful in helping creative businesses to identify strategies to monetise their cultural and creative products. CWL has a wealth of case-study evidence to demonstrate that partners engaged in collaborative research from both the business and academic side have identified new ways of doing things, which in many cases resulted in the commercialisation of new intellectual property born out of that engagement. 50% of Creative Vouchers and Residency projects either have secured or intend to seek funding for further development, and have drawn inferences from this about the improved survival rates and longer term sustainability of the projects and products that have resulted from engagement between researchers and creative businesses.

Successful BOOST applications and Fusion projects were followed through to at least prototype stage and demonstrated high levels of economic impact. Responses from the survey indicate that other projects, some of them at a pre-revenue stage, continue to be developed: the repeated response that it was ‘too early to tell’ what economic impact the project may have had is an indicator that the founders intend to persevere. It is important to put this in context: many of the projects have had very little time to evolve and pursue an ‘exit’.

As the diagram above demonstrates, the voucher and residency schemes were operating at different points in the product and business life cycle from the Fusion Collaborative Awards. The ideas brought forward through the CV Ideas Pools were in many cases just that: ideas, not yet businesses. In most cases, the expression of that idea in a form that could be said to convey any intellectual property rights on the creator was unformed. They were in most cases pre-market ideas. In some cases, the projects themselves were not market oriented.

Here we need to make some comparison between the business development process typically observed in digital and creative technology companies with the activity of CWL. Whilst some innovative creative ideas can go to market in a short time, even the most disruptive and well-funded creative technology startups tend to go through a number of iterations over time before finding their final commercial expression. The parallels between that process and the creative reinventions that are revealed by the evidence from the CWL programme should be clear. Given the short time elapsed – some of the projects were less than one year old at the time of the survey – it is a significant achievement that as many as five of the original concepts have progressed directly, through BOOST.

Evaluation 2

Queen Mary - University of London
Arts & Humanities Research Council
European Union
London Fusion

Creativeworks London is one of four Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to develop strategic partnerships with creative businesses and cultural organisations, to strengthen and diversify their collaborative research activities and increase the number of arts and humanities researchers actively engaged in research-based knowledge exchange.