The CreaTech conference on 11th June, 2019, as part of London Tech Week, was the third annual event hosted by the Creative Industries Council to showcase the interaction of creativity and technology - and the biggest yet.
Below, is a brief summary of headlines from presentations in the first part of the conference. There is a summary of takeaway points and quotes from the afternoon breakout sessions here.
The event opened with Tim Davie, Co-Chair of the Creative Industries Council and CEO of BBC Studios, describing CreaTech as "this spark between creativity and technology" where "we'll see huge economic growth... Exciting things are happening."
Davie said the UK's creative industries contributed more than £100bn a year to the UK economy (see infographic), employing more than 2m people in the UK and growing at twice the rate of the UK economy as a whole.
He updated the audience on investments following the Creative Industries Sector Deal, agreed in 2018 between the government and the CIC. These investments include a £33m fund for the Audience of the Future challenge to back immersive technology projects.
Davie also welcomed a new exports strategy, launched at CreaTech by the Creative Industries Trade & Investment Board, which aims to grow the value of the UK's exports of creative services and goods by 50 per cent by 2023.
The event also featured the publication of the 'Ones to Watch' report showcasing 50 UK-based CreaTech businesses and projects aiming to innovate to transform products, services, and experiences and acheived a diverse range of commercial and non-profit results.
The report draws on a new model of CreaTech innovations which shaped the programme and choice of speakers for the day.
Many of the 50 organisations listed in the report participated in the conference onstage or as attendees.
The first of these onstage was Sol Rogers, CEO & Founder of Rewind, who articulated why virtual reality enabled narrative to develop 'from storytelling to story living', with viewers transported to feel as if they were present in experiences rather than being told about them.
For instance, a virtual reality space walk was described by one NASA astronaut as better than NASA's own training facility.
Rogers said that virtual reality had reached the 'other side of the hype curve' with developments making the technology more user-friendly and affordable. These developments include new generation hardware such as Oculus Quest, an increase in the AI capabilities of Google Assistant which makes it sound more human (for instance, when phoning restaurants for bookings), the growth of 5G, and the rollout of augmented reality headsets.
He pointed to VR provider Magic Leap's Magicverse concept - in which multiple layers are placed over the physical world, which could eventually be used to open up the possiblities so that future consumers could draw a screen on any surface (removing the need for carrying a phone).
In her presentation, Christina Weaver Jackson, Innovation Policy Manager at Facebook, demonstrated the use of virtual reality to address real world problems, build empathy, and to share experiences.
Her examples included a VR training experience used in hospitals in the UK and the US, which enabled doctors to practice treating child patients.
Weaver Jackson outlined projects from Facebook's Creator Labs which pairs VR film-makers with non-profits, such as the award-winning film, the 'Evolution of Testicles', about the difficult topic of cancer in men (find out more about the film here).
Ministerial support for the sector came from Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, who described technology and creative as complementary and mutually beneficial.
The Minister said:
"There are almost limitless possibilities at this intersection, and all of us here need to ensure that the UK is the place to capitalise (on these)".
An example of a UK-based organisation that is exploring new possibilities followed in the form of a presentation by Bill Bush, Executive Director of the Premier League. The organisation is facing competition for audiences from competitors such as the NBA and NFL (as well as from pirated content) and it is using innovation to help add new ways for people to experience soccer.
These include creating and sending CGI images of a goal to devices round the world within a few seconds of its being scored and launching the Epremier League, in which the UK's best players of the FIFA video game compete for honours.
The Premier League has a huge following in China, and the next speaker, Anderson Liu, Founder & CEO of Westwin, a China-based company (formerly known as MSN China) which advises on cross-border marketing.
Liu stressed the importance of understanding the Chinese market and its characteristics such as the widespread use of payment apps, such as Alipay or WeChat Pay, and recent trends in the Chinese retail sector.
He cited the example of Peppa Pig, the children's animation series, which has become popular in China in recent years, generating billions of episode views and significant merchandise sales.
The remaining sessions drew on companies featured in the 'Ones to Watch' report, which was collated by Springwise, the innovation specialists, with support from London & Partners, Digital Catapult, and the GREAT Campaign.
The first of these sessions included presentations by Alex Book, Chief Strategy Officer of Arcade, a company which specialises in connecting people to place - often via mobile augmented reality; Christopher Waggott, Co-Founder & Director of Common Works, a studio which works at the intersection of art, interaction design and emerging technologies; Kostas Koukoravas, Founder & CEO of Intelistyle: and Vaughn McKenzie-Landell, CEO & Co-Founder of JAAK, which has developed a Blockchain-based system for managing intellectual property rights initially used in the music industry. You can read more about these companies in 'Ones to Watch'.
The concluding segment before the delegates moved into the event's breakout sessions was a panel interviewing 'Ones to Watch' innovators on the best ways to collaborate.
Chaired by Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult, the UK technology innovation centre, the panel included James Bidwell - Chair of Springwise; Anna Lowe - Co-Founder & Director of Partnerships at Smartify (described as 'Shazam for the art world'); Alexander Kitching - Co-Founder & CEO of Lume which has pioneered development of virtual rooms around complex data sets; and John Cassy, Founder & CEO of Factory 42, the production studio which has provided immersive experiences content and TV for partners including Sky, the BBC and Pearson.
Key quotes from the panel included.
From left to right in picture:
“Twenty years ago I used to talk about the 'geeks' and the 'luvvies' . But I don't think that divide between creatives and technologists exists any more." - Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult.
“In the future I’d like to see more CreaTech companies applying their thinking to climate change issues. We won’t have any creativity or tech if we don’t have a planet.” - James Bidwell, CEO, Springwise.
“The government has been very smart in protecting and enhancing the creative industries by investing in immersive technology. I hope we can show the Treasury that this is worth doing.”- John Cassy, Founder & CEO, Factory 42.
"We're not trying to disrupt the sector. For us it's about stewardship & developing their digital resilience." - Anna Lowe, co-founder of start-up Smartify on the company's approach to collaborating with the museum sector.
“Being part of Digital Catapult’s Augmentor Programme is what allowed us to go from (being) a project to a company,” - Alexandre Kitching, CEO of virtual reality platform Lume.
You can find an overview of the six break-out sessions that followed this panel here.
CreaTech 2019 was supported by Facebook, Kingston Smith, and Imagination.