GUEST BLOG: Science and art – not chalk and cheese

It’s really rather depressing that some people think that art and science are as different as chalk and cheese. Science being the chalk, as it’s precise, tangible and mostly used with blackboards and art being the cheese, because it goes well with wine. In truth separating these two elements maybe be helpful when drawing up a school timetable but it’s really quite harmful when we are looking to innovate.

Renaissance man

During the renaissance, before science and the arts had fully matured into the apparent polarising state at which they exist today, they coexisted naturally. Leonardo Da Vinci the ‘Renaissance Man’ was both the world’s greatest artist as well as the greatest scientist - unsurprisingly he is also world’s greatest innovator.Not only did he create the Mona Lisa but he also invented the helicopter in 1483, predating Airwolf by over 500 years.

Of course I don’t expect you all to become ground breaking polymaths overnight just so you can innovate. It’s far more practical for technologists and scientists to collaborate with creatives and vice versa.

Growth of creative industries and the digital economy

Over the last 10 years we have seen the UK take advantage from its world renowned Creative Industries to help grow its Digital Economy. That’s why creative and cultural clusters such as East London and Brighton and now probably better known for their digital start-up scenes than they are for their vegan cafes.

Maker culture

At a grassroots level we see art and tech innovation at the core of ‘Maker Culture’ – a community of creatives and technologists working together in a shared-space, making stuff. Think of them as mini “innovation factories” – there are lots of them dotted around the country and they’re rapidly growing in numbers.One of the most notable and entrepreneurial of these is Manchester’s Mad Lab, who will be running a “mini Mad Lab” at Innovate 2016.

The UK’s multi-million pound Visual Effects industry

On a far grander scale is the UK’s multi-million pound Visual Effects industry (VFX) which probably best demonstrates the virtuous cycle of artistry pushing technology and technology pushing artistry. In this space the collaboration between technologists and creatives is essential to ensure you go above and beyond your customer’s expectation.So perhaps unsurprisingly, London has become international centre of the VFX industry and is home to notable companies such as Framestore, Double Negative, The Foundry and, more recently Industrial Light and Magic have opened a R&D office here. We are lucky to have representatives from some of these companies talking at Innovate 2016.

The emerging Immersive Technology sector

Going forward, these collaborations between arts and tech means that the UK is already at the forefront the emerging Immersive Technology sector (augmented reality, virtual reality, etc.). In fact, we are well placed to become world leaders – this is why Innovate UK and the KTN will be launching Immerse UK, an industry led UK wide network focusing on this area, at Innovate 2016.

We hope with all this going on at Innovate 2016 it will enlighten you to the benefits of working with the UK’s world leading Creative Economy.

Author profile:
Tom Fiddian, innovation lead, creative economy at Innovate UK