Waste of time and effort?

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.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

6 replies on “Waste of time and effort?”

  1. There’s a bigger pot further down the road (autumn 2012) I think, so perhaps teams who have developed ideas will have a chance to resurrect and finnese them in the interim.

    It’s less of a waste of time than the Digital Participation fund from June 201o which was pulled completely only once everyone had worked up and submitted applications (including yours truly). Most infuritating.

  2. Yes there is a huge amount of nonsense in that scoping exercise.

    I’d be quite interested to see the list of projects that was successful, to see if they were sharper and better considered.

    I think the issue is that many Arts Orgs saw this as ‘another potential stream of funding’ rather than a funded R&D exercise. Whilst the fund made its objectives and criteria quite clear, I found that a number of arts orgs I discussed it with seemed unable to assimilate them.

    I’m not certain that this type of project, intended to pilot approaches that could benefit multiple arts orgs, could actually be driven by an individual arts org. And that requirement seemed to be at the heart of confusion that I saw.

  3. Dave – yep, a lot of the things we saw seemed better suited to the forthcoming digital fund (last I heard it was autumn 2011). See Jake’s 2nd para on the thing we came across most often.

    Jake – aye, looking forward to seeing what projects come out of this. Not heard anything (official or otherwise) from anyone on that score yet – a few folks seem to be wondering about the status of their applics.

  4. @Dave – The tricky thing about re submitting them is that there was no feedback so no idea WHY an idea was pushed back.

    and for the record:
    we helped/advised/told people not to submit on 3 or 4.
    Worked up 3 quite well.
    and were named on another 2 or 3.
    all rejected.

    do we know ANYONE who has been successful at this stage ?

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