In support of a UK Centre for AI and the Creative Industries

University of Edinburgh statement in support of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre proposal to the UK Government

 We fully support the proposal by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) led by Nesta for a strategic investment in a UK Centre for AI and the Creative Industries as a part of the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review. The supporting report makes a compelling case for this essential gateway to research and development in AI for the creative industries, access to training and skills development for businesses, and commercial development for AI creative start-ups. We welcome the encouragement to invest in clusters outside London.

We note that the Spending Review contained an announcement of “£45 million for programmes to drive growth through digital technologies and data, while improving online safety and security”. The Spending Review also included commitments to invest a total of £14.6 billion in R&D in 2020/21 and reiterates the Government’s commitment to invest 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027.

The creative industries have been one of the fastest growing parts of the economy in recent years. A Centre for AI and the Creative industries represents a great opportunity for the government to support the growth of a world leading UK sector in a digital technology central to its future. We therefore welcome this announcement and call on the Chancellor to prioritise the centre for AI and the Creative industries in this investment.


Why a UK Centre for AI and the Creative Industries is needed now

University of Edinburgh is part of a UK-wide effort to drive innovations between AI and the creative industries. We have seen first hand the transformative potential for creative businesses that access to these technologies can provide. 

2019 DCMS estimate employment figures show the creative industries seeing the largest increase in the number of jobs since 2011 across its portfolio. Growth in the number of filled jobs over this period was 34.5%. In addition, the Cultural sector (24.0%) and the Digital sector (20.6%) experienced faster job growth than the UK-wide average (11.4%). Together, Digital and AI, Culture and the Creative industries offer a powerful opportunity to reboot the economy.

There is a simple argument why the creative industries and AI are better off together than apart. Creative content is increasingly digital and live performances increasingly and events rely on digital content to promote and tell their story. AI disrupts and enhances the way digital images, sound and text are produced, distributed and consumed. 

A Centre will provide critical resilience by developing not only  a literacy in of new AI methods, but also help to anticipate the implications for future disruption of business models. 

This Centre would provide training and skill development in AI for the creative industries, support for creative businesses to develop AI tools, exposure for academic researchers to the technical issues of applying AI in creative settings, and commercial development for AI creative start-ups. 

Research shows that in recent years the most rapid growth in recent years has been seen in the creative digital and design sub-sectors (and that the growth of these sub-sectors are more widely dispersed than others, which means that there is high growth potential in many parts of the UK). Given the dominance of creative businesses globally and their attraction for students of AI and data science, it is of vital importance we invest in the pipeline of talent and knowledge between Universities and businesses to retain talent and harness new opportunities. 


 It’s time for a joined up approach to AI in the creative industries

We commend Nesta and the PEC on identifying this opportunity to build on UK strengths to extend our leading global position in each domain. AI and the creative industries are singularly and jointly of vital importance to Scotland and the UK’s economy. Interlocking them will enhance our world leading status in both the Creative Industries and AI. 

By acting on the evidence and targeting policies, the UK Government has the opportunity to promote recovery and rebuild the creative industries in a way which is more innovative, more ambitious and fairer.


AI in the Creative Industries today

Recent advances in machine learning have made these tools more accessible to creative businesses and individual artists. The oday’s capabilities arising from this – both creative and business – would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.

AI is now central to the way creative content is produced and consumed. Music and video services use AI to recommend creative content to users. Increasingly creators are using AI in their workflow. In advertising, businesses are using AI in analysis and also in creative campaign content. In animation, AI can increase efficiency in spotting errors in frames that otherwise have to be scoured and then amended manually. And artists today are using e Generative Adversarial Networks or ‘GANs’ as their medium, in the same way the Renaissance masters worked with paint on canvas. 

Rockstar Games in Edinburgh, creator of the second best-selling video game franchise of all time, uses AI to create characters and worlds that players can get immersed in. Machine Learning graduates from University of Edinburgh are employed by this company to work on some of the largest scale projects to be found in any entertainment medium. 

 Through working with University of Edinburgh AI researchers, Edinburgh International Festival is generating new artworks created using AI, and Edinburgh International Science Festival is piloting pandemic resilient festival services to maintain future business stability.

The University of Edinburgh is well positioned to take a view on this proposal as a global leader for more than five decades in AI. Our School of Informatics is the strongest in the UK, and is equal to the best in the world. We are at the forefront of the effort to bring together creativity and AI. This includes the Creative Informatics UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund cluster, and our work with the Alan Turing Institute to build a national capability in this area.


Professor Michael Rovatsos, Deputy Vice Principal Research, Director of the Bayes Centre and Personal Chair of Artificial Intelligence, University of Edinburgh

Professor Jane Hillston, Deputy Vice Principal Research, Head of School of Informatics and Personal Chair in Quantitative Modelling, University of Edinburgh

Professor Juan Cruz, Principal of Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh

Professor Chris Speed, Chair in Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Dr Drew Hemment, Chancellors Fellow & Experiential AI Lead, University of Edinburgh

Jarmo Eskelinen, Executive Director, Data Driven Innovation programme, University of Edinburgh

Janet Archer, Executive Producer, The New Real, Edinburgh Futures Institute/Edinburgh Innovations

Caroline Parkinson, Creative Industries Sector Lead, Data Driven Innovation programme, University of Edinburgh

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