Hetty Crist

Hetty Crist

Deputy Press Secretary

Part of UK in USA

24th April 2012 Washington DC, USA

Art Imitating Science

The following is a guest blog from Bradley Keelor. Brad is a Senior Science and Innovation Policy Advisor at the British Embassy in Washington.

It was recently World Creativity and Innovation Week. This was started by a Canadian anthropologist in 2001 as a way to commemorate the birthday of Leonardo Da Vinci and generally celebrate creativity and innovation. As part of the Science and Innovation team at the Embassy in Washington, I like to think that I’m all over innovation. But this is trickier than it sounds. We sometimes have to stand back and try to figure out what exactly innovation means – in the past 5 or 6 years, it’s become this buzzword meaning “hot new technologies” or “high-risk research” or any one of about 31 other things somewhere in between.

Innovation and complexity guru Don Kash, one of my professors from grad school, defined innovation broadly as the act of bringing a new product or process to market. I like this definition. It’s easy to remember and not easy to refute.

Promoting UK innovation is easy – the UK is one of the most innovative countries in the world. Why? There are several reasons including its success with spinout, or startup, companies from university research; tax incentives for R&D companies; and the existence of organizations like the Technology Strategy Board, who are charged with supporting knowledge transfer from academia to industry.

The UK is also one of the most creative countries in the world. Three of my favorite bands (who are also all critically acclaimed) come from Britain – Blur, Manic Street Preachers, and Future of the Left. Last.fm, one of the first successful (and best, in my opinion) Internet radio services, was created in the UK. Many of our friends from Pennsylvania to Illinois to California are regular viewers of Downton Abbey and Doctor Who. To many Americans, the creative face of the UK is the UK that they see.

On the Science and Innovation team, we’re working to promote digital economy: the intersection of digital technologies with art and design. This is one of the cornerstones of the growth plans in the 2012 Budget in the UK, with new tax relief for creative digital industries like video games, film and television.

Early this year, we were contacted by George Mason University in Virginia to help find them partners for their Game Design program. They identified several UK universities with complementary research strengths including Coventry University, home of the acclaimed Serious Games Institute. The Science and Innovation Network has been able to facilitate this collaboration, which should begin with student exchanges in Spring 2013.

Thanks to the existing academic ties between British and American universities, continuing to build these kinds of digital design relationships between US and UK schools can really take off. The Cleveland Institute of Art (with the awesome domain name cia.edu) and the University of Akron are developing a joint degree program in Biomimicry, the ways that science can replicate nature, like how gecko toepads are among the stickiest surfaces in the world but release easily. Similarly in the UK, University of the Arts London operates six research centers in areas such as smart textiles, and has developed research partnerships with numerous universities across the UK. Independent art schools like CIA and have realized the importance of research to their faculty and students, and have begun to open research offices in the same way a research university would.

Bridges between science, innovation, and creativity are popping up everywhere. With more than 60 of the world’s top 100 universities in the US and UK, we’re well positioned to be at the forefront of an innovative economy. And the S&I Network is working hard to continue building links to benefit the UK and US.

About Hetty Crist

Hetty Crist served as the Deputy Press Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington. Educated at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle (the same as Jonny Ive!) Hetty has worked…

Hetty Crist served as the Deputy Press Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington. Educated at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle (the same as Jonny Ive!) Hetty has worked in a range of communications roles in both the public and private sector at companies including Microsoft, The Institute of Directors and The National Autistic Society. She joined the British Embassy in July 2010 having previously worked for seven years in government communications roles in London at both The Department of Health and The Foreign Office. In Washington Hetty was responsible for communications work around the UK Economy and the Eurozone, Energy, Trade, and UK domestic, legal and judicial issues as well as Consular and Corporate issues. Her work also included highlighting all that the UK has to offer through the cross-government GREAT Campaign and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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