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Technology and creative design are a winning combination, study finds

Fusing technology and creative design in research and development benefits economic growth, a two year study has concluded.

Too often the arts and humanities are seen as “soft” subjects with little relevance to technology, says a report on the findings that recommends a more interdisciplinary approach to university courses.

Analysis of 500 companies operating in “Silicon Beach”, the creative, digital and information technology sector around Brighton, found that the two thirds of organisations that combined technology with creative design in their work recorded significantly higher growth. Involvement with universities was also an important factor.

“The number and means of channels of engagement through which organisations engage with the local universities has a significant effect on innovation activity,” says a report on the Brighton Fuse study, funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council. Firms that worked with the two local universities – Sussex and Brighton – tended to be more innovative.

The companies were divided in the study into “fused” firms that said they combined creative design and technology, “superfused” companies that put an even greater emphasis on a multidisciplinary workforce, and “unfused” ones that did neither.

While “unfused” firms recorded declining sales, “fused” companies were growing by 3.8% and the “superfused”  by 8.8%.

The report says: “This fusion is becoming prevalent in the Creative-Digital-IT economy. For example, digital marketing today combines not only the search engine optimisation and data analytics to understand contemporary buying behaviour, but also an understanding of the sensibilities of what consumers like, desire and aspire to.”

The findings underlined the importance of the arts and humanities in digital industries.
“By integrating these creative arts with science, technology, engineering and mathematic skills, businesses are pursuing a powerful growth agenda,” the report says.

But integrating disciplines was not easy. “Our educational systems favours specialisation, separating arts and science students as if they were volatile chemicals,” it adds.
Because students pursued separate subjects at university and even socialised with others in the same discipline, many business were still structured around isolated disciplines and cultures, recruiting graduates from the same background.

The Government and industry need to encourage schools, universities and businesses to integrate disciplines to help produce an interdisciplinary workforce, the report says.