Scotland has space to create and innovate

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Scotland is providing ever-increasing opportunities for people in the creative industries sector, says Olga Kozlova

The creative industries in Scotland now span around 18 sub-sectors, ranging from architecture, music, theatre, television to visual arts, fashion, dance and the games industry. It is an incredibly diverse field.

These industries shape, and make, a significant contribution to our culture, communities and economy. They improve how we live and generate income, provide employment opportunities and often act as a catalyst for regeneration.

Latest Scottish Government figures estimate that almost 130,000 people are working in a creative industries sector worth more than £12 billion. There is no doubt that this is a sector that punches well above its weight and Scotland’s higher education institutes are playing a pivotal role in this.

As you would expect, our art colleges have always been a hotbed of creative innovation and enterprise, but you also look to see the profound impact that Dundee’s Abertay University has had on gaming design and development. Heriot-Watt University, too, with its school of textile and design in the Borders is helping this creative output to thrive.

This energy even extends beyond the scope of these 18 creative sub-sectors, into more traditional disciplines such as our universities’ ability to produce a continual stream of highly creative design engineers who fuse the creative mindset with engineering skills.

Converge Challenge has creativity at its heart but acknowledges that the true sense of creativity stretches beyond the concepts of these industry sub-sectors. The fact is that all participants in Converge are creative, regardless of their academic specialism. This is what drives the agenda.

Look at design engineering, for example. Converge has provided the pathway for many product design engineers to take advantage of business mentoring and support to bring their ideas to fruition.

A prime example of this is Victoria Hamilton, a product design engineering graduate from the University of Strathclyde. Ms Hamilton started her company, VH innovation, which specialises in providing a range of pioneering body joint protective products – the first of which to reach the market was an innovative kneepad for the trades and construction industry.

Ms Hamilton entered her design into numerous competitions and went on to reach the final shortlisting for the Converge Challenge Award, Converge Challenge Kickstarter and the Royal Academy of Engineering Innovation Hothouse Competition. Her design of the kneepad won the £5,000 first prize at the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards and she followed that up with a £50,000 win through the Young Innovators Challenge Competition.

On the other side of the spectrum is Pop-Up Scotland – a social enterprise out of the University of Edinburgh that is looking to bring art created by young artists closer to the general public by arranging exhibitions in unexpected places such as shopping centres. It won the £7,500 Converge Challenge inaugural prize for best social enterprise.

In Scotland, the ability to build a creative business has never been better. There is an excellent network of support available to anyone wishing to look at these options through the likes of the Cultural Enterprise Office, and its flagship Starter for 6 programme.

Its services help to create micro-businesses and give individuals the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. The Cultural Enterprise Office also complements the likes of other business support services too, such as Business Gateway. This produces a robust and seamless platform for the creative industries to get the support they need.

Likewise, Interactive Scotland provides solid support for our digital media sector, which has a significant part to play as we harness the surge in app developers and game producers looking to channel their growth nationally and internationally.Within all of this, our creative talent pool remains our greatest asset. We articulate our creative process extremely well to the world and it is this intertwining of creativity and innovation which is something we can be justly proud of.

It enables our thinking patterns and emotional intelligence to equip ourselves with bold, brave ideas and the tools to challenge old, and possibly ingrained, ways of thinking.

There is little doubt that lessons can be learnt from the creative industries that could foster and nurture a new dynamic creativity regardless of the industry and business sector you happen to work in.

Converge Challenge entries for 2015 are now being checked and categorised before our Elevator Pitch process in early June. How many entries will have creativity embedded into the process?

I’m guessing, all of them!

•l Olga Kozlova is director of Converge Challenge