24 June 2020
The use and influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the creative industries is growing. AI techniques are already recommending us TV shows or music on services such as Netflix or Spotify, but the potential applications stretch across many areas including fashion, art, computer games and filmmaking.
The importance of both AI and the creative industries for the UK’s economic future have been identified with both areas receiving sector deals, but our policies in these sectors are not joined up - without this they won’t achieve their full potential. Our new research, for the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), shows that the UK is strong in AI research relevant to the creative industries, but practical applications appear to be at early stages. More collaboration between AI researchers and creative industries must be encouraged.
The urgent need to support the many closed businesses and venues around the country during the COVID-19 lockdown, which has affected much creative activity, has also seen an acceleration in the adoption of digital technology. In the aftermath of the crisis, we will see greater focus on the role of digital in the sector and AI will be part of this.
Progress in AI is already affecting the creative industries and its role is set to grow as:
Artificial celebrities generated from a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN). Image taken from Karras, T., Alia, T., Laine, S. and Lehtinen, J. (2018)
These developments are particularly important for the UK given its strong position in the creative industries. It has been one of the fastest growing parts of the economy and fastest growing sources of employment in recent years. The UK also has one of the highest shares of the workforce in Europe employed in the sector.
The importance of the creative industries and AI for the UK’s future has been recognised with a sector deal on AI and a sector deal on the Creative Industries. However, there is limited information of the extent of activity that combines both. To address this, our new report aims to quantify levels of activity at the interface of these two connected areas to inform what the policy response should be.
The report uses data from scientific publication site arXiv, academic company collaborations on Gateway to Research and information on startup activity from Crunchbase. Key findings are:
Neural network reconstructing images from people's brain activity. Pierre Hughe Uumwelt exhibition, Serpentine gallery 2019. Image by John Davies.
The report finds that the UK has a strong position in the creative industries and in relevant AI research, but this is not fully reflected in levels of applications of AI in the sector. The development of new technical possibilities from AI does not, of course, mean sustainable business models can always be built around them. However, engaging with recent research breakthroughs in AI is not necessarily easy either.
The UK should therefore reduce the cost of exploring the synergies between AI research and the creative industries, for example by making it easier for creative businesses to access the extensive AI skills inside UK universities through funding PhD studentships. Building on the work of the Digital Catapult and the Createch initiative, this would allow what is technically, artistically and commercially possible to be discovered more quickly and easily, enabling the UK to reach its full potential in this area.
Conversely, with the rapid acceleration of global work in AI, if AI leads to widespread disruption of the creative industries, and the UK does not take action, there is a risk its position in the sector could be undermined. If the UK is to get the most out of its complementary strengths in AI and the creative industries it must support higher levels of collaboration between AI researchers and the creative industries.
This blog was originally published by Nesta on 16th June 2020.
Photo by Ferdinand Stöhr
The PEC's blog provides a platform for independent, evidence-based views. All blogs are published to further debate, and may be polemical. The views expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent views of the PEC or its partner organisations.