Posted Tuesday 23 January 2024
Kingston University and the University of the Arts London (UAL) have joined forces to help develop a Creative and Digital Innovation Cluster offering businesses across South London opportunities to access research-based expertise.
The BIG South London Creative and Digital Innovation Cluster is bringing together small and medium-sized enterprises, sole traders and graduates keen to establish a foothold in the creative industries or digital technology space. It aims to build on existing creative and industry networks, boosting connectivity within the business community across five London boroughs – Kingston, Richmond, Croydon, Merton and Sutton.
Associate Dean of Research, Business and Innovation at Kingston School of Art Professor Maria Chatzichristodoulou said the cluster would foster a vibrant community of like-minded creative businesses tapping into the latest insights from higher education providers to further their ambitions through upskilling, networking and sharing good practice. It would be a way to exchange knowledge and expertise between local businesses, higher and further education providers and other local and regional stakeholders, such as Local Authorities, in order to strengthen and grow the sector in Southwest London.
"By working together, businesses and academics will be able to shape how the cluster can maximise innovation and collaboration," she said. "We need businesses of all sizes to get involved, from smaller enterprises looking for a supportive network to larger, more established companies, so we can create an ecosystem of successful collaboration."
With the rapid development of home working combined with rising commercial rents, Professor Chatzichristodoulou noted more businesses now tended to work in isolation, which in turn amplified the importance of networking and sharing ideas. "Key benefits of the cluster include access to the latest academic research and facilities and expertise available at the universities involved," she said.
A special launch event for the cluster saw Professor Chatzichristodoulou and UAL's Associate Dean for Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise, Dr Marcus O'Dair, outline the support available to local businesses. Keynote speeches were delivered by Croydon Creative Enterprise Zone and Croydon Music City Manager Marcus Harris, who represented Croydon Council, and Yush Kalia from Dimension – a 3D production studio specialising in virtual content.
Dr O'Dair said the initiative was vital to ensure a thriving creative and digital business community in the area. "The cluster will enable businesses to work with partners from higher education and local government to identify ways in which, together, we can achieve even more," he said. "It's a vehicle for collaboration and sharing – ultimately, a chance to be more than the sum of our individual parts."
The launch event included a workshop, overseen by We Made That – a multi-disciplinary architecture practice that works exclusively for the public sector and charities. Group discussions and activities allowed participants to spend time reflecting on barriers and opportunities for business growth, sharing experiences and exploring what additional support was required to help the sector flourish.
Attendees included Duncan Raitt, director at award-winning animation studio Plastic Milk, who described the event as a valuable experience. "Joining the cluster as a member offers opportunities to network with other businesses, build community, learn from each other, overcome shared challenges and explore opportunities for collaboration," he said.
Future events will continue to provide an insight into how business clusters can support economic growth and build networks across the creative and digital sectors.