The Networked Shift

The Networked Shift is a new report by Careful Industries, a rapid foresight study exploring some of the changes and challenges for the creative industries over the next three to five years.

Co-commissioned by MyWorld and the Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre the aim of the project was not to pin down one version of what might happen, rather to make clear potential future opportunities and challenges, exploring how what is currently known might evolve in the light of new technologies, significant industry shifts and changes in consumer behaviours.

The Networked Shift gathers a number of visible trends in the creative industries and looks at the opportunities and tensions resulting from those changes. As well as observing an overall shift to more networked, connected behaviours among audiences, creators, and digitally literate creative businesses, Careful identify three sticking points that create barriers to innovation. These sticking points are:

  • a lack of diversity and representation
  • uncertainty around automation
  • over-dependence on platform businesses

My intention when co-commissioning for MyWorld was to inform our Observatory function, guiding strategic future development. Careful’s concentration on the impact of automation on the creative industries, aligns very clearly with a direction of travel in conversations within MyWorld as it relates to tools, workflows and particularly the adoption of AI.

We interviewed prospective candidates for the MyWorld Challenge Call last week and the upcoming prototype investments will directly address some of these questions around automation.

Download The Networked Shift here:

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Bristol / Cardiff

Whilst there has been consistent communication and collaboration between Bristol and Cardiff in recent years, particularly around R&D programmes, a number of linked factors combine to make a more extensive look at connections and potential opportunities for a more active partnership between the two cities timely.

  • The growing strength of both Bristol and Cardiff as creative industry clusters, particularly in media and screen-based production.
  • The two AHRC CICP cluster projects developed in Bristol and Cardiff and their legacy.
  • The current UKRI Strength in Places Funding (SIPF) projects, MyWorld and Media Cymru – the only two SIPF projects in the UK to focus on the creative industries and taken together large-scale parallel investments.
  • Increased (anecdotal) evidence of commercial industry linkage across the two cities.

Combined, Bristol and Cardiff have the strength to become a regional powerhouse in media-based creative industry innovation, and to spearhead further developments with a national and international significance. 

On behalf of University of Bristol and Cardiff University I’m leading a project to explore the proposition of a Bristol / Cardiff Creative Industries Axis. The aim of the Creative Industries Axis project is effectively two simple linked tasks:

  • Capturing in detail the current position of the creative industries in the two cities (and visible development trends)
  • Evaluating that detail, including in the context of wider economic and political factors, to generate a set of recommended collaborative actions or future strategic activities

Currently deep in a data analysis phase, the intention is to then broaden out the research to stakeholders and industry with an end goal of developing a compelling narrative to capture and promote the scale and capability of the combined Axis; and to propose practical and actionable forward looking recommendations.

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2023 will see the MyWorld project really gather some profile and momentum.

A £46M R&D programme exploring the future of content production, distribution and experience, MyWorld will generate a hub of creative technology innovation in the West of England. Work to date has been primarily foundational but investments, particularly in prototyping and facilities, will make the research and development activity much more visible over the coming year, for example:

  • A new call for innovation in creative technology tools, supported by Nvidia
  • Collaborative R&D projects delivering new insight from academic / commercial partnerships, including Air Giants, All Seeing Eye, Awarri, Celestial, Condense, Marshmallow Laser Feast
  • Six Playable City commissions, exploring creative technology interventions in public space
  • Experimental research linked to major production, beginning with Complicite’s new show

In parallel the continuing facilities builds in Bristol and Bath plus work on future facing skills and training (demonstrated in the recent Lux Machina / Epic Games ICVFX pilot) emphasises the vision of MyWorld as an intervention which is designed to positively reinforce and sustain impact across the whole West of England ecosystem.

The scale and scope of MyWorld is particularly exciting and within the project I’ve been leading on the establishment of an Observatory function, placing the intervention within the context of global trends and technology foresight in order to inform strategic future development. MyWorld was referenced in Gordon Brown’s recent “A New Britain” policy paper for Labour, with the Observatory seeking to provide exactly the type of evidence which would reinforce its recommendation of effective “place-based innovation-led R&D programmes”.

In partnership with the Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre, the MyWorld Observatory has commissioned Careful Industries to deliver insight on possible creative technology futures to help inform the direction of a next wave of MyWorld R&D investments and the commercialisation of results.

I first mentioned MyWorld here at the beginning of 2021 post-funding award but ahead of the programme start, two years later the project will begin to deliver significant visible impacts.

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Here + There

Here + There is a strategic initiative developed by the Bristol + Bath R&D Cluster. The project aim is to connect supported businesses to an international creative technology conversation through a programme of talent development, research exchange and business development.

As part of Here + There I have developed and delivered a series of panel sessions, exploring global opportunity markets. These sessions – via Zoom with experts in country and businesses with direct insight and experience – cover the affordances and considerations for creative businesses in international expansion, for example models for entry or differences in business culture.

The intention is that through an informal discursive session our audience gains a more granular understanding of the implications of market entry along with specific insight and guidance on key considerations.

To date three sessions have been delivered, focusing on the US, China and a more general look at localising content to match to differing international audiences.

Effectively a pilot of a content format the sessions appear to successfully to deliver valuable guidance and knowledge on a complex business consideration in an approachable way. More sessions (e.g. India) are in planning for Autumn.

China – featuring DIT Beijing, Aardman, Arcadia and Punchdrunk


Localisation – featuring British Council, LoFi Games and Luke Jerram


USA – featuring DIT Los Angeles, DIT San Francisco and Motion Impossible


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The image is from the current Fashioning Masculinities exhibition at the V&A, visited as part of research for a new project related to fashion and archive. The exhibition is a slice through gender identity via the medium of men’s fashion. Archive is used within in it primarily as expression of timeline, drawing parallels across the evolution of fashion styles and societal attitudes.

Bath Spa University is currently in discussion with Bath & NE Somerset Council and the Fashion Museum over the relocation of the Museum’s storage facilities to a new building near Bath Spa’s Locksbrook campus development. The Fashion Museum archive is a significant collection of over 100,000 items, spanning 17th Century to the present day, but a resource that everyone involved feels is not utilised to its best potential currently.

The movement of the collection offers an opportunity to increase its accessibility and re-think its relationship with both academia and industry – and generates opportunities for the new facility to actively engage in research, innovation, skills development and the future growth of the fashion sector in the West of England.

I am working with Bath Spa to help scope the potential vision for the relocated Fashion Museum collection and in particular its connection to industry at a regional, national and international level – across all elements of the fashion value chain and including wider linked sectors, for example technology and sustainability.

Whilst it’s refreshing to work with a different part of the creative economy to usual I keep finding echoes from the distant past, in particular my involvement in the restructure of the Granada TV archive which displayed the same tension between two entirely valid positions, conservation and curation vs accessibility and exploitation of assets.

There have been strong public statements of intent from all involved for the relocation of the Fashion Museum and collection to be a catalyst for a much wider strategic re-think of the creative geography of Bath – and to use this cultural asset as a means to surface a more active and contemporary dialogue around skills, growth and impact. My role is to help prompt and shape the direction of travel.

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Los Angeles / Virtual Production 2

As noted in the post below the review of the virtual production landscape in the UK and its emergence as a centre of excellence was launched in LA, at a joint DIT / Screen International event.

After my presentation of the Review we staged a fascinating panel, chaired by Chris Evans from Screen Daily / KFTV and featuring:

Connie Kennedy – Head of LA Lab Epic Games
Ryan Beagan – VP of Virtual Production, Warner Bros
Chris Ferriter – President, Halon
Lisa Gray – Executive Producer, Bild Studios

The conversation explored the changes in production planning, process, skills and workflow engendered by the technology – and of course the UK’s position in the global market. As Chris Ferriter noted, “I’m struggling to think of the last time we worked on a project that started in LA that didn’t end up going to the UK”

Upcoming work on virtual production for the British Film Commission will look to build on this momentum.

It was genuinely refreshing to be travelling again, a reminder of the quality of ideas and interaction and inspiration that you get from being in a new environment with new people

And also a change of scenery on the work front, with a project around fashion coming up.

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Los Angeles / Virtual Production

About 5 years ago I wrote a strategy entitled, “creativity meets technology” for DIT (subsequently shortened by others to Createch). And a project launching this week in Los Angeles is the latest validation of that strategy.

The exponential growth of virtual production in the UK is an exemplar of our ability to combine world class creative production skills and technology services at scale. 

The emergence of virtual production technologies has generated a fundamental change in process, production, roles and workflows. But the UK screen industries – across the whole value chain of hardware, software, creative and production services – has been able to rapidly innovate in response to become a global centre of excellence in virtual production.

The development of the VP ecosystem has demonstrated:

  • Fast scaling VP stage capacity
  • Responsive supply chains of creative and technology expertise
  • Strategic interventions in VP skills development
  • Catalytic investment in innovation
  • Collaborative Government and industry initiatives focused on growth

I wrote, produced and co-designed (with Bray Leino) the document above. It will be presented to a US exec audience and then widely circulated – highlighting a genuinely exciting, and internationally significant, evolution of the UK production landscape.

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And so it came to pass…

My New Year blog for 2020 talked about wanting to spend less time at my desk and being part of the original AZ trial (now at 2Bn+ vaccinations in 170 countries, an extraordinary achievement). But I’m still here and now have the new variant of Covid – albeit very mildly.

There was an interesting article in last week’s Economist ( which explored the idea that the concept of “new normal” conveyed the fact that some of the changes of the past two years are irreversible, both positive and negative, including “today’s predictable unpredictability.”

From my perspective I have a similarly split feeling.

Access to people is so much easier when we all adopt a digital first perspective, for example earlier this month I chaired a session on new production technology which included participants in Tokyo, London and San Francisco. But a trip to Belfast reminded me of why I liked travelling, the stimulation in new environments and unexpected ideas.

Project management can be incredibly efficient, with all of the waste stripped out, but trying to creatively co-design over zoom is impossible (and the incidental time is where we exchange value and build collaboration).

So the Economist’s description of “predictable unpredictability” does feel like a crossed line. The resilience and adaptability which has been forced by the pandemic has been to an extent “baked in”, we now plan with an expectation (whether conscious or subconscious) that events may change rapidly and require an agile response – which feels like a positive shift in the art of the possible. Businesses in the Creative Scale Up / Creative Sector Growth Programme I’ve been part of managing demonstrate that, with extraordinary growth delivered through in some cases very radical business transformation.

2022 will see delivery of a new Virtual Production strategy for DIT and the first investments under the MyWorld Bristol programme, both in different ways exemplars of similarly radical transformation in the form of exciting imminent shifts in creative technologies within production, distribution and personal experience (don’t mention the metaverse..).  

But New Year will pass with me in self isolation, hoping for more days of escape in 2022 like the one below – a sparkling Lake Como.

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5 years ago I wrote a speculative strategy for the Department for International Trade. Focused on what the UK “offer” was to global inward investment in the Creative Industries, it identified a USP at the point where “creativity meets technology”.

With the rapid adoption of digital technologies generating fundamental changes in the production, distribution and consumption phases of nearly all industries (especially true where new technologies allow a direct communication with a customer) it was my contention that the UK has a competitive advantage due to its unique ability to combine four elements: creative excellence / established tech sector / innovation ecosystem / addressable scale market.

My hypothesis was that many markets were able to demonstrate 3 of the 4 circles of the Venn diagram but very few places could validate the presence of all four (NB: Innovation should probably read Innovation Support – a key distinction in the availability of strategic public investment in R&D).

Over time the strategy was adopted but the focus was shortened to “Createch”. Whilst I’m still not a fan of the term, its adoption by DCMS, Tech Nation, Creative Industries Council and others makes it unavoidable.

So, fast-forward to 2021 and I’ve been delighted to be a judge on the Createch 100 Ones to Watch ( And this week I’ve chaired a panel as part of London Tech Week exploring “export” with three of the Ones to Watch companies.

For me what’s most interesting is the impact of Covid, and how the traditional definition of Export has been replaced by a hybrid position – international reach being far more a digital than physical function (but with the adaptations of language and presentation and trust required by that shift).

My conversation with Dragonfly AI, Lost Horizon and Swamp Motel covers this territory from their own personal experiences – with agile business adaptation in a pandemic thrown in. The recording is here, an insightful conversation:

A final thought. I was quietly delighted that 20% of the Createch 100 were from Bristol / SW, reflecting the organisations and frameworks in the city which act as catalysts for that crossover (and I’ve put forward a proposal to explore as part of Bristol Technology Festival next month). The MyWorld initiative speaks directly to this strength.

The image is from the recent Charlotte Perriand exhibition at the Design Museum, a modular shelving system radical in its simplicity and use of (then) unconventional materials.

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Global Citizen

As part of an international strategy development project I’ve been looking at what might get retained in our processes and practices post-Covid. Personally I can’t see that I will ever return to the level of international business travel that characterised my pre-pandemic years. But a note I made in early 2020 about a sense of Global Citizenship revealed by those experiences has resonated in the current research, and in a clear emergent construct of the Global Citizen within an international policy environment.

In attempting a definition Ideas Forum reflects the idea that a shared personal responsibility exists which extends beyond our immediate location. Global Citizenship “recognises our world is an increasingly complex web of connections and interdependencies. One in which our choices and actions may have repercussions for people and communities locally, nationally or internationally.”

Oxfam is also (perhaps obviously) a proponent of the principle of an interconnected global society, and describes a Global Citizen as “someone who:

  • is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen
  • respects and values diversity
  • has an understanding of how the world works
  • is outraged by social injustice
  • participates in the community at a range of levels, from the local to the global
  • is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place
  • takes responsibility for their actions.

To be effective Global Citizens, young people need to be flexible, creative and proactive.”

As a personal manifesto this is a fairly compelling proposition.

There is a read across here to another interesting recent shift – the identification of the creative and cultural sector as an agent of change, an instrumental tool in seeking societal impacts beyond simple economic growth (c.f. my earlier work on the Cultural Compact).

For example, 2021 is the UNCTAD International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, recognising the Creative Economy as “an important tool for building a sustainable, inclusive and equitable future…. at a time when we need creative solutions for the world’s challenges.”

But looping back to the beginning these cultural exchanges are now more likely to be hybrid in nature – combined digital / physical initiatives – seeking to balance the digital benefits of efficiency and accessibility / inclusivity with the challenges of building complex relationships of trust and shared values at a distance.

With Watershed I’ve been exploring how a hybrid digital / physical production methodology could enable a distributed creative production team (spread across four continents) to explore global challenges simultaneously within multiple linked local contexts. More to come on this.

Other current projects include:

  • Inward investment / business development lead on the £50M MyWorld creative technology R&D programme, managed by University of Bristol
  • Model definition and delivery on the Creative Sector Growth Programme for WECA (via Watershed)
  • Inward investment strategy and campaign focused on Virtual Production for the Department of International Trade

Plus input to the Western Gateway concept and judging on the Createch 100 Ones to Watch.

The image at the top is from the current Ryoji Ikeda exhibition in London, his work starts from digital and data but always links back in concept to the physical.

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