Across three days of forward-thinking conference sessions, interviews with breakthrough companies and smart business networking, CreaTech 2020 delivered an ambitious and innovative digital experience as part of the first Virtual Cog-X Festival of AI and Breakthrough Technologies.
The tone was an optimistic one which, whilst acknowledging the difficulties encountered by creative organisations because of the pandemic, stressed the potential to find new paths back to growth through appropriate government support and fresh approaches to technology and business models. The CreaTech track proved one of the most popular of the 18 stages at CogX which attracted more than 47,000 registrations in total, and is believed to have been one of the biggest virtual technology festivals of its kind anywhere.
(Above: A session on the 'metaverse' was a highlight of Day One.)
The full CreaTech sessions, which featured a mixture of international creative industry leaders, fast-growing CreaTech businesses, investors, UK government ministers and creatives, are available on You Tube. You can view a playlist of the individual sessions on the CreaTech stage here. Links to individual sessions are also in the text below.
Below, we have picked out some of the highlights of the programme, which was hosted by the Creative Industries Council, and supported by Digital Catapult, Facebook, Moore Kingston Smith, and UKRI/AHRC.
Organisations taking part on stage included the BBC, Sky, TikTok, Facebook, Microsoft, Marie Claire, Frieze Fairs, Abbey Road Studios, Swan Films, Marie Claire, the Shanghai International Advertising Festival, the UK Advertising Exports Group and CreaTech companies from, among other sectors, music, TV, film, fashion, design and the performing arts.
Summing up the three day event, Janet Hull, CIC Organiser of CreaTech 2020, said:
"We ended CreaTech 2020 on an optimistic and respectful note. As Minister Stuart said, our UK creative talent leads the world. We have the creativity, ingenuity and determination to innovate and pivot.
"Our 100 CreaTech Ones to Watch demonstrate we have new leaders coming through. So I hope that the sense of creative community that we have built over the last three days on the CreaTech stage will continue to grow and serve as an ever-present reminder of what we can do when we set our minds to it."
To kickstart proceedings, Tim Davie, director-general designate of the BBC and the current CEO of BBC Studios and Industry Chair of the Creative Industries Council, praised the potential of the creative industries to generate economic value and encourage well being in communities right across Britain.
He said there was an acute need for a sector specific plan, alongside broader business support measures, to help the creative industries recover and rebuild from the damage inflicted by the pandemic and the economic impact of lockdown. The CIC is working with Government to develop a plan.
In her keynote speech, Creative Industries Minister Caroline Dinenage, said the DCMS is looking to deliver new help and incentives to the creative industries - such as through the launch of the 5G Create programme. In particular, she said:
"we want to encourage partnerships between creative and infrastructure companies, so that for example, specialist content companies can look at innovative ways of distributing that content over 5G."
London & Partners, the capital's promotions and investment agency, formally launched the CreaTech 2020 100 'Ones to Watch' list, with a session featuring Personify XP and Good Loop - both among the 100 showcased businesses.
The list celebrates UK organisations innovating by combining creative skills and technologies including mixed reality, sophisticated uses of data, smart mobile devices and artificial intelligence.
The majority of the Ones to Watch companies also participated in CreaTech 2020@Virtual CogX by exhibiting in the digital Expo, attending virtual sessions as delegates or speakers, and using the AI-driven event software to hold online meetings with business contacts.
A session on the emerging CreaTech sector, led by Digital Catapult, with the participation of AHRC, Sky, Bristol University and the StoryFutures Academy rounded off the first morning.
Attention in the afternoon turned to the investment landscape for CreaTech . This session was hosted by Moore Kingston Smith, which has been tracking and publishing data on investments in the CreaTech sector, and providing tips on how to raise growth capital for CreaTech businesses.
Next stop was a session on 5G and the Future: Spatial Computing and the Metaverse, helmed by Sol Rogers, Founder & CEO of Rewind, detailing the metaverse concept of shared 3D virtual spaces.
The day ended with an emphasis on the visual arts, entertainment and storytelling with sessions on: the future of art, with contributions from Frieze Fairs and the Whitechapel Gallery; AI & Entertainment with a focus on Sky's AI-enabled crime drama, 'Bulletproof'; and the day closing with a session hosted by the Royal Society of Literature on Living through Fiction.
(Above: Industry figures discuss the pivot from live to virtual in the creative industries in a Day Two highlight)
For day two, many of the sessions were connected by a common theme about how organisations have turned the challenges of the pandemic into new opportunities to experiment and evolve new business models.
Against the backdrop of increased television viewing during the lockdown, the UK Television - the Big Comeback discussed the potential and challenges for UK television companies to capitalise on this growth in the long-term.
It was followed by a session hosted by Facebook on the communities that have found increased relevance during the lockdown with contributions from Girl Gone International, This Mum Runs, and Delegate Wranglers.
In the afternoon, the emphasis was on fashion, advertising, the culture sector and the transition from live to virtual platforms that many creative organisations have been managing.
The fashion session, curated by the British Fashion Council and hosted by journalist Tamsin Blanchard, featured contributions from MyWardrobeHQ,TOBEFRANK, and Swarovski, with an emphasis on how fashion brands and retailers can take more seriously their commitments to sustainable working practices and consumption. The discussion followed the recent launch by the British Fashion Council of the Institute for Positive Fashion.
The new tools with which to engage audiences, including voice-driven technology, AR and chatbot, were explored in the following session, hosted by the UK Advertising Export Group, and featuring participants from Happy Finish, FX Digital and Factory 15. The session highlighted the growth opportunities and storytelling possiblities of the new technologies.
The potential for CreaTech organisations to find new audiences, as well as 'pivot' into new areas because of the lockdown, came to the fore in the next session hosted by Andrew Chitty, Challenge Director of the Audience of the Future Programme, at UKRI. The companies, Factory 42, Smartify and Fictioneers, described the impact of the closure of clients in the cultural space, such as museums, during the lockdown, and the ability to lauch new features that audiences could utilise on mobile devices from home.
The events sector has been one of the most affected by the lockdown, with large face-to-face business events unlikely to return while social distancing rules are in place.
In this Live to Virtual Session, three participants - from the events division at The Drum, Shangri-la Festival and Swan Films (maker of 'Grayson Perry's Art Club' on Channel 4) - discussed how they had embraced a 'test and learn' approach, experimenting with new formats to offer virtual events, or organise TV film-making in different ways.
Neil Crombie, Co-Founder of Swan Films, cited how 'Art Club' had innovated with techniques, such as encouraging subjects to create some of the filmed segments using mobile phones, to develop a more participative form of arts programme, in which members of the public were able to tell the stories behind art rather than a critic-presenter dictacting the show's narrative.
(Above: A presentation from TikTok reflected the international outlook of CreaTech 2020 Day Three)
The final day of CreaTech began with an international focus, with several sessions looking to China and other markets for insights.
Richard Waterworth, UK General Manager of TikTok, the fast-growing Chinese-owned app for sound-on entertaining videos, detailed the types of content proving popular with TikTok audiences, which in many cases have moved from songs to dances to memes.
The second session of the morning provided on of the main research-driven sessions at CreaTech, with insights from surveys into changes in behaviour and attitude from international markets since the pandemic began. The session included perspectives from Kantar China and McCann World Group.
The rest of the morning was rounded out with an interview with Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Export, who highlighted the tech recovery package which the UK Government is developing.
Neil Mendoza, the Culture Commissioner for Recovery and Renewal, was also in conversation with Ian Livingstone, Chair of Sumo Group and leading games industry executive.
A collaboration followed with the Shanghai International Advertising Festival (which was postponed earlier this year, and will now be held virtually from 21 - 24 July).
Twenty-four Chinese CreaTech businesses exhibited at CreaTech, and a number of insights from the Chinese market were presented to Cog-X attendees by a group of China-based experts from the Department for International Trade, Westwin, UM, and the Shanghai International Advertising Festival.
Participants highlighted the role of 5G in enabling the broadcast of the speedy building of hospitals in Wuhan, China, during the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has increased public interest and knowledge about 5G. The role of big data in developing health codes for regions across China which allowed the progress of the disease to be monitored whilst avoiding the need for blanket lockdowns in areas with few infections was also acknowledged.
The sessions from the final afternoon covered the gamut of creative industries from theatre and performance to publishing and a double helping of music and tech.
The first segment, 'All the web's a stage', brought together participants from the Young Vic, the actor Adrian Lester and the writer Lolita Chakrabarti.
In the next segments, representatives from publishing power brands such as Marie Claire discussed the virtual beauty shoot and executives from Vanity Fair and Newsweek, discussed the disruption to publishers' business models which has been accelerated by the impact of the pandemic.
The two music and tech sessions which completed the programe took different tacks. In the first session, the artist Taryn Southern, who uses AI to create music tracks, and Oxford University's Professor Marcus du Sautoy, who has run machine learning experiments with music composition, explored the relationship between science and creativity in creating music.
It featured advice from Lewis Silkin, Abbey Road Studios, Music Ally, and the rights clearance business ClicknClear.