Arts University Bournemouth


There is immense potential for the creative industry and Dorset to transform, to leverage its super-specialism and become a pioneer of innovative cross-sector collaboration.

By Professor Emma Hunt, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Arts University Bournemouth (AUB)

Creativity is blurring industry boundaries. Its natural alignment with other sectors, particularly manufacturing and engineering, digital, creative and cultural, means businesses of the future will increasingly look at more creative ways of operating, homing in on the recruitment of creative graduates in the process.

At AUB we are playing a key role in the development of the Local Industrial Strategy (LIS), carrying out in-depth work on the role of creativity in the digital economy and the skills needed to support modern industrial practices for the future.We’re very aware of the huge changes in the employment landscape. The way in which people will work in the next ten to 20 years will be different to the practices of the past, and we believe that this should help shape the LIS.

This focus is already reflected in AUB’s curricula and courses which not only support the creative and cultural industries but other disciplines and sectors too. While our staff and students are already critical ‘makers’, they also have excellent high-end industry and digital capabilities.

Our staff contribute to our research agenda as well as the cultural fabric of the region. In this regard we’re already ahead of the game, providing well-equipped employees and freelancers that meet creative and design skills demands of the future.

What will set Dorset apart is our approach to collaborative learning, working with industry partners and investing in cutting edge industry technology. This will enable our research and knowledge exchange to focus on real world issues linked to major economic challenges such as sustainability and how these then link to the wider economic base of the region.

Delivering this is critical if we are to meet the grand challenges of the LIS. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing many industries, but creativity cannot be replicated as easily with robotics or AI, and therefore creativity is a key skill alongside innovation and ideas generation.

We need the mindset and skillset developed through a creative education to think creatively and innovatively, to look at the synergy with new technologies so we can consider how to do things differently and more productively.

Mobility challenges and an ageing society are opportunities to consider how design can improve the lives of others. Our research group, AUB Human, has been looking into how design can help navigate the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society.

Another example is how we ‘design out’ problems, such as when we partnered with the RNLI on a community led project, ‘Design Out Drowning’, which explores the value of a design-led approach to reduce the number of incidents of drowning in inland waters such as canals and lakes.

AUB is actively supporting the Place and People agenda of the LIS which is tightly connected with the skills agenda and the need for high-level graduate retention in the region. This can be linked back to the growth in creative industries and the business environment.

Our professionally accredited Architecture courses consider the impact of good design on people in terms of the place in which they work and live. AUB Human is also challenging the circular economy, looking at sustainability in an economic and environmental way, and how this is possible through good design processes and a renewed emphasis through design education.

Dorset’s LIS needs to sharply focus on improving local skills retention so that our home-grown talent can be shared and built upon, particularly important given the opportunity presented through Bournemouth and Poole’s standing as the UK’s top areas for high growth creative and digital businesses. This is a work in progress, with our new Innovation Studio acting as a catalyst for graduate retention and new creative business start-ups.

With just a small proportion of our students staying in Dorset, we need to do more to retain skills and halt the brain drain of future creatives to the large global recruiters. We must ensure this aspect is built into the LIS as a priority to retain local talent.Our ambition is to make Dorset a leading creative and cultural industries centre, with AUB as the anchor institution. Acting as an agent for cross-sector knowledge, data sharing and fertilisation, we must actively support economic development through research, innovation and consultancy. We need to extend out from the creative sector, working in partnership, not competition, with other industries.

Closely aligned with place and intrinsic to Dorset’s future modern economy is its branding. Historically, the region is primarily associated as a place with outstanding coastline and as a popular retirement and holiday destination.

Dorset is fast moving into new territory with the potential for younger generations to embrace the county as a centre of emerging new clean and digital industries, and as a vibrant and exciting place to work and live. The fact that the natural assets of our countryside, coast and landscape make it an excellent place to live as well as work should complement, but not lead Dorset’s offer and brand. Dorset really does have, and can have, it all.

The role of culture must not be limited to one industry sector or having an arts-based university. Instead it is more about the impact this has on the general environment and conditions for work and productivity. If we make the area a vibrant and exciting place to work, with a compelling cultural backbone as well as impressive natural assets then we will begin to see how we have a county that is immensely appealing

.Our region is ‘super-specialist’. We have a specialist arts university (AUB), specialist agricultural college (Kingston Maurward College), specialist chiropractic university college (AECC) and, the RNLI College.

Further specialisms located within the multi-disciplinary educational offer at Bournemouth University and Dorset’s two Further Educational Colleges further develop this sense of super-specialism; enabling Dorset to embark on unique cross-sector initiatives to resolve some of the grand challenges in our society.

We want a resilient economy with potential for more growth and innovation. With the LIS, we have an opportunity to develop a new and exciting narrative about Dorset. We are embracing a multi-disciplinary work approach supported by super-specialism. We are innovative cross-sector industry makers with a pioneering approach to leveraging the potential presented through creativity and the modern industrial economy.

The creative industry should be prioritised within Dorset’s Local Industrial Strategy, given its significant economic contribution and cross-over with other industries as well as environmental and sustainability issues. AUB is well placed to be the natural voice for the creative and cultural industries and has much to offer Dorset’s Local Industrial Strategy.