In March this year, I was invited by the UK Science and Innovation Network (SIN) based at the British High Commission) in Canada to visit the cities of Montreal and Toronto. The purpose of my visit was to meet companies and organisations across the Creative Industries in both cities, to present our work at CIKTN in supporting technology enabled innovation and explore potential synergies and areas for future collaboration.
I set off with the high anticipation that accompanies a journey of discovery to somewhere new. Having grown up in the US, I was familiar with Americana (sights, sounds and high school) but was fascinated by the strong British, Irish, Scottish and French DNA of these diverse global cities.
My programme provided the opportunity to meet people working across the Creative Industries landscape, from small creative companies such as Moment Factory, University anchored innovation labs, media investment funds, knowledge exchange programmes, the Design Museum in Toronto and Mission Design in Montreal, city wide festival organisers such Luminato, hack labs and officials working to support and promote Montreal and Toronto’s wealth and well being.
The golden thread for all these conversations was the convergence of creativity and digital technologies as the basis for dynamic new business models. In particular, the central role that the creative industries can play in driving business and service innovation across both cities (as mirrored in the UKs own digital hot spots).
The tech/creative collaborations are reflected in the dynamic cultural economies and in the emergence of dynamic clusters of small companies and organisations, using a combination of content, design and technology as the basis for creating viable business models. Not only in the domain of entertainment and retail, but also in providing a range of services and solutions for other sectors and wider social challenges.
The potential to catalyse and apply creativity and technology to solve problems was most persuasively illustrated by SAT’s Living Lab, collaboration with St Justine’s children’s hospital which works on humanising health care for children.
My meetings highlighted the importance of the dynamic and growing ecologies of innovation in getting technologies to market, whether anchored to innovation labs and incubators or specific “creative” neighbourhoods – linking spaces, people, funding and markets across cities and beyond. Clearly this reflects our own CIKTN community and the experience of many of our members who are anchored both by location and their own social and professional networks.
As a visitor, it became clear that pathways (informal /formal /spatial) that link communities of creatives, technologists, researchers, users and consumers in a growing web of collaboration and connectivity, is a key driver to innovation. Often anchored in or around Universities, these pathways cross professional boundaries and silos, clustering around shared commercial, social or creative challenges.
New digital clusters such as Tech City in London lie at intersection of the creative industries and technology. These points of social and professional intersection are critically important in the design and delivery of successful enabling projects and activities. Exploring new ways to foster and catalyse collaborations and curate these pathways across silos and professional languages is one of our shared challenges and our greatest opportunities.
We will continue to build bridges with our Canadian colleagues over the coming months to explore how best we can work to curate new collaborations. Watch our newsletter for Canadian blogs and related activities going forward and guest blogs from many of those met including those now live from Nicolina Farella (SIN in Montreal) and John Preece (SIN in Toronto).
A special thanks to everybody I met, for their time and warm Canadian welcome. Particularly to Natasha, Nicolina and John for organising an excellent programme.