Upon announcing the first cohort of Clwstwr funded projects, Director Justin Lewis shares his thoughts on Clwstwr’s aims for the future and making R&D a priority in South Wales’ creative industries.

Professor Justin Lewis

This is when it gets interesting. After months of setting up processes, putting on events, and many, many conversations, the Clwstwr team is delighted to be launching our first cohort of 23 innovative R&D projects in the screen and news sectors.

Our aim at Clwstwr is to create an innovation ecosystem in South Wales - and these projects will be an important part of that. They were chosen and developed from an initial group of 134 expressions of interest – a cornucopia of interesting ideas and engaging projects. There were far too many for us to be able to support this time around, but there is clearly a voracious appetite for innovation in our cluster and we’re keen to help that develop.

This first group of projects are diverse and wide-ranging. They encompass TV and film production, post production, games, VR and AR, the use of Artificial Intelligence in media production, social media, dance, education, new screen-based experiences, new business models, interactive documentary and new forms of news.

They tackle a range of issues, from child trauma and pain relief to citizenship and the democratic deficit. Some have the potential to make screen and news production smarter and more effective, while others may create entirely new forms of art, entertainment or news. Some focus on the development or use of new technologies, others on new forms of storytelling.

Most have the potential to create and develop intellectual property that is made in and based in Wales.

As we move towards what has been called ‘the intangible economy’ – where ideas, stories, design, experiences and R&D become increasingly important – this is vital to the sustainability of the screen and media sector and to the growth of the Welsh economy.

We’ll be working with all the projects as they test and refine their ideas. But we also need to learn from them. Research and development is well understood in science and manufacturing, but it is a less familiar concept in the creative industries. In the past, that has put creative sectors as a disadvantage when it comes to government funding.

It also makes it harder for the SMEs and freelancers that make up the most of the creative sector in South Wales to compete with the big, US based corporates who have a built-in capacity to do R&D. Part of what we’re doing is levelling the playing the playing field, allowing small to be beautiful and successful.

All the projects we’re funding have one thing in common: they will be demonstrating what R&D looks like in the creative industries, and showing why it matters. In the grander scheme of things, this will enable us to move towards a more sophisticated and inclusive understanding of R&D in the UK.

Find out more about the 23 funded projects here.