NESTA and Arts Council England recently commissioned a bunch of projects via the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture, aiming to connect arts and cultural organisations with technology companies in a way that can benefit the wider sector. Hoorah to that.
They had £500k to dish out to a handful of organisations. A grand total of 459 artists and organisations applied, prompting some (including myself) to suggest that a lot of people may have wasted their time and energy. Incidentally, most of the eight commissioned organisations are blogging intermittently at digitalrndfund.wordpress.com.
NESTA, much to their credit, have published ‘An analysis of applications for the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture‘. Amongst other things, it breaks down:
- The types of arts and cultural organisations that applied – mainly performing and visual arts plus commercial arts organisations and creative businesses
- Geographic spread – overwhelmingly London, with an interesting band around Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield
- Requested budget allocations
- The applications’ digital themes – a fairly even distribution with a slight lean towards UGC/social media and mobile/location/games
It’s all quantitative stuff, which is pretty interesting as far as it goes. What’s absent and would be much more useful, given the comments on this post, is some sort of qualitative feedback on the applications. Making that feedback available publicly would be even more useful. It’s very likely unfeasible to do that 451 unsuccessful applications, but I’d love to see some sort of simple grading on a scale along the lines of this:
- we’d have commissioned it if we had a bigger budget – worth pursuing through other routes
- great idea but wouldn’t trust the organisation to deliver it
- missed the point entirely
- batshit insane
I can’t see it happening, unfortunately.
Something else of note is that Birmingham apparently had one of the higher levels of application submissions and not a single one was successful. A very poor return from a city that hosted one of the Digital R&D Fund roadshows, the Hello Culture conference (programmed along the themes of this fund) and recently benefitted from the not-entirely-dissimilar DCD programme and 4iP.
Still, the report ends on an interesting note, with the conclusion stating that:
As a pilot, the high levels of demand suggest that the funding partners are right to consider how the fund could be scaled-up in future to meet the digital R&D needs of a larger set of arts and cultural organisations.