A couple of interesting tweets from Roger Tomlinson regarding the ACE/NESTA Digital R&D fund. He noted that 459 applications were received, asking for in excess of £28.5m. The fund has just £500,000 to distribute to roughly 10 projects.
Roger asks whether this establishes a need. I’d say no. The level of response to the fund only establishes a want. This is the first new, well-publicised fund to come out post-cuts (as far as I’m aware) so it’s no surprise people jumped on it ravenously.
To find out how much of a need there is we could do with knowing what people were asking for. After all, the overwhleming bulk of the ideas put forward in the initial scoping exercise were vague, incoherent and/or just plain rubbish. What’s the betting that was the case with the final applications?
Roger also points out that this process has proven to be a waste of resource for over 400 arts organisations, technology partners and academics.
Of course he’s right. It begs the question, is anyone to blame for this state of affairs? I don’t think you can blame ACE/NESTA for making this fund available and promoting it far and wide, although the inevitable upshot of that is that people are encouraged to submit applications they shouldn’t bother with.
Can you blame the applicants for bad decision making? Maybe (see comments about quality of ideas above), but then I spend a fair amount of time writing unsuccessful proposals – not intentionally, you understand – that’s just the way things go.
That said, you need to pick your battles/applications. At Made we were approached by a good number of arts organisations who were interested in this fund. We gave advice where we could (dissuading most from submitting applications) and ended up being named as a potential technology partner on one (unsuccessful) application. The thing is, I was under the distinct impression that this fund was really only suited to those with certain attributes, needs and capacity.
At the roadshow about this fund that I attended, a good number of people left after the first session saying that this fund wasn’t for them and that they had more important priorities. They saw R&D projects as outside the scope of their activities but were interested in learning from the outcomes of the fund’s activities. I think that’s sensible.