As pandemic restrictions are increasingly eased for most of us, businesses across every sector are looking for creative solutions to the challenges they’ve faced over the past 18 months and those that lay ahead.

Fortunately, the creative sector itself – spanning everything from advertising and architecture to video and the visual arts – is built on solid foundations and is full of ingenious, inventive and optimistic people to get us all to a brighter future.

Before the pandemic, I worked with the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme, part of the £1.3bn Edinburgh and South-east Scotland City Region Deal, to understand the data-driven skills, needs and ambitions of the industry itself.

Consequently we developed and implemented the Creative Industries Sector Plan and then, working with the Edinburgh Futures Institute, we published the white paper Developing Data-Driven Innovation in the Creative Industries.

A key early success was securing funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, matched by
Scottish Funding Council and the DDI Programme to set up the Creative Informatics Cluster in Edinburgh in October 2018. This cluster is run in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University and industry partners CodeBase and Creative Edinburgh.

The programme has supported the sector with £1.6m of investment, 1,900 engagements through countless events, supporting 36 resident entrepreneurs, 14 challenge projects and 13 connected innovators, generating 62 minimum viable products thus far.

The cluster brings together academics, creative and cultural organisations, freelancers, industry trade bodies, creative entrepreneurs and artists, providing a range of funding and development opportunities open to anyone working across the creative industries in Edinburgh and south-east Scotland who would like to use data and data-driven technologies to develop innovative products, businesses or audience experiences.

One example of how creative innovation is supported though the various strands of the Creative Informatics Cluster programme is sound services start-up Black Goblin. The company aims to change how filmmakers, game developers and other creatives work with sound, through its software product that allows anyone to create audio from scratch in an easy, non-technical way.

Creative Informatics/Supplied

Black Goblin co-founder Ana Betancourt participated in CI’s Creative Bridge programme, and she and co-founder Gabrielle Haley received CI’s resident entrepreneur funding to develop their product.

They met new collaborators, expanded their team and built a network of partners and contractors through the Creative Bridge and wider CI community. Black Goblin has showcased its work at CI Lab, the CI Innovation Showcase 2020 and additional events that arose from connections made through the CI programme.

They also featured in a CI-arranged media feature which led directly to collaboration discussions with a leading industry player. The company was accepted onto the Great British Entrepreneur Awards’ Kickstart Employment Scheme, and now has a team of five, with further growth on the cards.

In short, engagement with the CI Cluster took the company from early startup through to minimum
viable product (commercial product release is planned for summer 2022) and opened up employment opportunities. Black Goblin looks to have a bright, sustainable future.

The list of beneficiaries of the CI Cluster is long and varied: the Ocean ARTic project sees creatives working with the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland to respond to the impact of climate change; Cop 26-related projects include work with groups in Nepal and Sri Lanka; and a funded CI Challenge set by the List, the UK’s leading events data group, has been answered by machine learning specialist Viapontica, to develop an AI image-cropping pipeline.

For the full view of Creative Informatics’ successes and potential, the annual two-day CI Innovation Showcase offers a packed programme exploring the latest innovations in the creative industries in Edinburgh and beyond.

This year’s free event took place on 8-9 June and featured an “in conversation” with Dr Anne Marie Imafidon, and an interactive performance from comedy duo Foxdog Studios.

The creative sector is unlike any other. Not only does it bring us great creative products, services,
audience experiences and joy, it is also woven into every aspect of life in Scotland, with creatives working within every kind of business.

Those who pursue creativity professionally, who qualify with creative specialisms from school, college and university, can pursue jobs in the creative and cultural sector and bring their creative skill to any part of the economy.

By engaging creatives with cuttingedge data-driven innovation and creative tech, and facilitating collaboration and experimentation, we aim to support creatives to develop their ideas and bring them to fruition as sustainable businesses. Their desire to push boundaries and harness technology with their creativity leads to innovation in the sector, and impacts the wider economy.