The research project, Bristol & Bath by Design, brings together experts from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), the University of Bristol, and Bath Spa University, drawing on expertise in design, creative arts, business and law, and mechanical engineering. They will work together to undertake the first comprehensive analysis of design in the region. It is hoped that the research project will offer valuable lessons for future policy and ensure the value of design as it relates to the economy.
The project was initiated by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Design Council. The Bristol and Bath area was selected for the study because it is a creative hotspot with strengths in the creative and digital economy. Together they offer a distinct regional focus with a population of 1.1m people. Further, each city has particular specialisms in which design is a vital element, for example aerospace and defence design, animation, gaming and media in Bristol, and architecture, publishing and graphic design in Bath.
The interdisciplinary team will be led by Professor Stephen Hoskins, Director of the Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE Bristol. His primary areas of research are related to 3D printing and digital technologies and their potential for the arts. He is also a practising printmaker who has been involved in the creative arts and printing industry for over 35 years, including 20 years running a company.
He said: “This dynamic collaborative partnership of universities and key sector organisations will measure the quantifiable impact of design in the Bristol/Bath city-region across sectors and scale: from engineering and product design to multidisciplinary studios, fashion, heritage, and applied design; from designer-makers and microbusinesses to large multinationals. We are thrilled by the creative sector support of this distinctive combination of econometrics, design history, field research and analysis which will create a robust map of the business of design – its volume, impact and cultural value – in the West of England, clustering around Bristol and Bath.”
Professor Rick Rylance, CEO of the AHRC, said: “The AHRC is delighted to embark on this new project with the Design Council. It is one of a number we are leading to understand the nature and contribution of the increasingly significant creative economy in the UK. The research will contribute to our support for design research, which is one of our strategic priorities, and we hope to be able demonstrate how design creates multiple economic and social benefits for the region through universities, businesses and policymaking. We are delighted to be working with the Design Council and other partners on it.”
John Mathers, Chief Executive of the Design Council, said: ‘The Design Council is delighted to be working with AHRC on this study, looking at the role and value of the design sector within the Bristol and Bath economy. Other research has shown how the creative economy underpins more industrial parts of the economy, and we hope this research will add something new to the picture, helping local and national policymakers to maximise the value the UK derives from its design strengths.’
The Bristol and Bath by Design research project launched at Watershed in Bristol as part of First Friday on Friday. It will also be launching in Bath on Friday 28 November at The Holburne Museum ‘Up Late’ from 4pm.