About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Impact of the Digital R&D Fund on Scottish arts organisations

What impact has our Digital R&D Fund had on Scottish arts organisations? Why not ask the National Galleries of Scotland as they prepare new material for their second app on the back of the success of ‘ArtHunter’- their first mobile app was supported by the R&D Fund to encourage people to unlock additional content by finding and ‘capturing’ works of art in galleries from Orkney to Ayrshire as well as the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Or the National Piping Centre, as they were preparing to live stream the Glenfiddich Piping Championship from Blair Castle at the weekend.

Or the Scottish Documentary Institute, who have last week been nominated in three categories for the Scottish BAFTAs for their film I Am Breathing, and are raising awareness and funds for research into motor neurone disease through their portable fundraiser widget which has facilitated a Global Screening Day and has led to the film being screened more than 270 times in 43 countries.

Ten projects have been supported through the Fund, the result of a partnership between Creative Scotland, the Arts & Humanities Research Council and Nesta.

In my first month in the job as Programme Manager for Scotland I’ve had the opportunity to meet the people behind the projects, from both the arts and culture side and the technology partners who make it happen. It would be easy to think that the investments are all about the tech – the apps, the video on demand players, the websites and the widgets.

But it’s really about finding ways to reach new and bigger audiences, engage them in new ways or explore new ways of doing business and bringing in new income streams. It’s about changing the way we work and finding partners with different skillsets, ideas and passions to help us achieve our ambitions and goals. It’s about these ten cultural organisations being willing to take risks to innovate, to test, to see what works.

So what have we learned so far?

  • Things rarely go according to the initial plan, as a lot of the thinking and development is iterative – be prepared to change your timeline.
  • Sometimes an organisation’s policy or practice will need to change to allow the innovation to work, for example using mobile phones in a gallery or during a performance – senior managers and trustees need to buy into the process and respond to challenges and requirements as they emerge.
  • And the first steps on the road of digital solutions taken by arts organisations through participation in the Digital R & D Fund are never the last…

For now, we think the digital world opens up new possibilities for arts organisations, bringing more power to our collective cultural elbow…


Lorna Edwards

Lorna Edwards

Lorna Edwards

Development Manager

Lorna worked across Nesta's creative economy and public service innovation programmes and managed the Digital Research and Development Fund for Arts and Culture in Scotland.

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