Martha Bloom

Creative arts and STEM fusion in and around the UK creative industries: a multi-level study

University of Sussex
PhD awarded October 2021

I am currently employed as an economist/policy analyst at the OECD, where my work focuses on the economic, social, and innovation-based impacts of cultural and creative sectors on local development. I am very grateful to RADMA whose support enabled me to conduct my doctoral research on the topic of skills and innovation in the UK creative industries, supervised by Dr Josh Siepel, Dr Roberto Camerani and Dr Puay Tang, at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex.

Having worked in the creative industries myself for many years, I have witnessed first-hand the abundance of skill, innovation, and value that this sector brings to society. Yet, despite increased policy focus, the innovative potential of cultural and creative sectors is too often overlooked. Moreover, there remains a distinct dichotomy in attitudes towards STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills and creative arts skills, with the former considered the driver of economic and technological advancement and the latter considered primarily a form of entertainment.

In 2016 RADMA generously funded my PhD research, which aimed to document how a combination, or ‘fusion’ of Arts and STEM skills contributes to innovation. My papers-style thesis took a mixed methods approach and drew on literature from education, business management, innovation studies and economic geography to explore how the fusion of Arts and STEM skills at the individual, firm and interfirm levels can contribute to innovation. At the individual level, the thesis examined the relationship between STEAM (STEM+Arts) education and graduate employment outcomes in the creative industries using official data from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency. At the firm level, the thesis explored how the interplay of different forms of common and diverse knowledge shapes the way in which new knowledge is formed, through a qualitative case study of a major London based visual effects company. At the inter-firm level, the thesis examined the fusion of creative arts and STEM skills in the context of publicly funded R&D collaborations, using a dataset of all InnovateUK funded projects between 2004-2020. Overall, the thesis found compelling evidence that skills diversity increases the innovative potential of creative industries practitioners and businesses.

Alongside my studies, I worked as a Research Fellow in Innovation and the Creative Industries at the University of Sussex, a researcher for the UK Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), and as an independent research consultant. I have written research reports, policy briefs, blogs, podcasts and newspaper articles on why investment in creative higher education is imperative to support innovation, and have co-authored research reports and journal articles concerning topics including the clustering of creative businesses, the impact of COVID-19 on the creative industries and R&D practices in creative technology (Createch) firms. In my current role at the OECD, I have contributed to the OECD’s notes to the G20; international, national, and regional reviews of cultural and creative sector impacts and policies; and ongoing work to support implementation of the OECD Recommendation on Global Events and Local Development.