Please note: the first stage of this fund closed on 11 December 2015.
The Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales is a new strategic partnership between Arts Council of Wales and Nesta, following on from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts in Wales.
We want to encourage arts organisations to undertake innovation projects, using digital technology as a tool to help improve audience reach and engagement, or develop new business models.
Innovation is all about identifying a need, a problem, or an opportunity and then exploring the best possible way of addressing it. Great arts organisations are expert at what they do - they know the issues they want to solve or have ideas that will make their work better, or more effective. Using digital technologies could be part of a solution. This can be a new way of working for many arts organisations, so we want to support you to understand what’s possible, and to test out these approaches.
We learnt a lot from the original R&D Fund, and have used this learning to shape this new programme to ensure that:
- the innovation process is supported during the early stages - ensuring that challenges and opportunities are clearly identified and articulated;
- we plan for success from day one - business support throughout the process should mean that successful projects are ready to continue their work when this programme comes to an end;
- we create an environment that’s supportive and enables shared learning;
- we view this as a long-term process.
How it works
The Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales is a four stage programme:
- Identify Challenges and Opportunities
- Build Teams and Generate Ideas
- Research and Develop
- Embed and Scale
Each stage is designed to ensure that lessons are captured and shared along the way in an open, supportive environment. The process starts as an open call - anyone can take part in identifying challenges and opportunities, before applications are submitted to be part of the team building and idea generation stage.
As well as providing grant funding at different levels, the programme also includes additional support in terms of a comprehensive workshop programme and external business support from a pool of experts in the arts, digital and entrepreneurial fields.
Identify challenges and opportunities
Aim: To define a clear reason to undertake an innovation project
The first stage is an open process - anyone can take part and we are actively encouraging as many arts organisations as possible to get involved. It leads up to an application to take part in the next stage of the process - building teams and generating ideas.
We want to make sure that any innovation projects look to develop solutions to clear, tangible and where possible, wide ranging challenges or opportunities that the arts face. In order to do this, we need to make sure that we’ve clearly identified what the challenge or opportunity is, describing it in a way that deals with the problem, not just its symptoms. As well as this, we need to clearly identify how, through a rigorous evaluation and validation process, we might know if we’re solving it.
At this stage, we’re simply looking for opportunities and challenges that the sector in Wales faces. We’re not interested in how you might solve it or the technology you might use - that comes during the next phase.
When we talk about challenges or opportunities, we want to understand why change needs to happen. To give you some examples from our first phase of work:
UCAN Productions set out to make arts venues more accessible for people with visual impairments. Their members find it difficult to navigate venues independently, reducing their likelihood of attending performances. They wanted to see if technology might provide them with a solution to this problem.
Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru wanted to find a new way of making Welsh language performances accessible to people who are either learning or unable to speak Welsh. As a theatre company producing work in a minority language, they wanted to explore the opportunity to open up their work to a wider audience, possibly internationally, through the use of technology.
We’re looking for more challenges and opportunities like this that we can put through a research and development programme.
Build teams and generate ideas
Aim: To bring the right people together to generate ideas that could solve the problem
Once a challenge or opportunity has been identified, the next step is to build a team and start generating ideas about how to solve or take advantage of it.
We’re looking for eight challenges or opportunities to take through to this stage of the process - you can apply to be part of this group now.
In order to apply, you need to meet our eligibility criteria and complete the online application form. In summary you must:
- be an arts organisation or an organisation with an arts project;
- based in Wales
- have a challenge or opportunity related to audience reach/engagement or business models that you want to explore through a research and development project.
Applications close on the 11 December 2015 and we’ll be awarding around eight grants from these applications.
The successful applicants will start the team building and idea generation stage in February 2016. In this stage, you will receive a grant of £5,000 to help:
- refine your research proposition and draft a research plan, in collaboration with the Fund’s Research Manager;
- build your team, including your technology partner, in collaboration with the Fund;
- generate ideas and create some basic prototypes;
- turn this into a pitch/proposal for a full R&D grant.
This stage lasts for 12 weeks and will conclude with a pitching session in April 2016.
We’ll ask you to breakdown how you will spend the £5,000 in the budget, however, we do expect you to make at least £2,000 (inc. VAT) of this available to your selected technology partner to ensure that you can undertake prototyping activity.
As well as this small amount of funding, you’ll also get access to three workshops and a day of business support to make sure you’re thinking about the long-term future of your project from day one. We’ll support you to find the right technology partner for your project.
At the end of this part of the programme, you’ll get the opportunity to apply for full Research and Development Funding. This will be through a combination of application form and a pitch to funders. We’ll be awarding around four or five research and development grants to successful applications from this idea generation stage.
If you successfully apply to be part of this programme, you’ll be expected to:
- Attend each of the workshops, currently scheduled for w/c 8 Feb, w/c 14 Mar and w/c 25 Apr;
- work with the programme’s communications team to document and share your experience, making lessons about this stage of the process widely available to the rest of the sector;
Research and develop
Aim: To research, build, test and iterate ideas
At this stage, you can apply for up to £75,000 of grant funding, twelve days of business support and a comprehensive workshop programme to support your project.
The ten to twelve month research and development stage is where you work with your technology partner to build, test and iterate your idea, with real audiences and end-users.. For now, it’s only open to projects that have been through the Build Teams and Generate Ideas phase.
By the end of the process, you should have developed a robust proof of concept that can, with a small amount of further development (both business and technical) be rolled out to other organisations, either as a product, service or process.
Throughout this stage you’ll continue to get research support from our dedicated research manager, who will work with you to identify any skills gaps in your research and help to fill them with external or additional support where appropriate. What this support looks like will depend on the type of research you’re undertaking and the skills and resources you currently have available in house.
If you successfully apply to be part of this programme, you’ll be expected to:
- Attend each of the workshops;
- work with the programme’s research and communications team to document and share your experience, making lessons about this stage of the process widely available to the rest of the sector;
Embed and scale
The final stage of the process is to embed what you’ve learnt, consolidate your product or service and, where possible, turn it into something that can be scaled to the wider sector and beyond.
We’re in the process of piloting a scaling fund with organisations funded through the first phase of the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts in Wales and will build lessons from this into the final part of our work in Wales. This work will look at the kind of support that’s needed to take a good idea - proven through R&D - to market, including the different financial models that could be used to make this happen. We’re keen to experiment with risk based finance to see how ready arts organisations might be to accept this, and how ready funders are to issue this.
We’ll share lessons here as we go. Our first step is to offer two days of business support to each of the projects we’ve previously funded, allowing them to formulate clear business plans and identify their next steps. This process will also allow us to understand the kind of support they require and tailor our next offer to their specific needs.
We hope to offer a similar opportunity to new participants in the Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales, but we’ll wait until we conclude this pilot before making any further announcements.