Hide and Seek: Where is design in the creative industries network of Northern Ireland?
Ms Michelle Douglas, Prof Karen Fleming and Prof Ian Montgomery (Ulster)
In almost all the official Northern Ireland documentation highlighting statistics and reviews for the creative industries, there is very little differentiation of the sector and little recognition of design as a distinct and essential factor in success. With debate focused on end-product, digital and manufacturing sectors, there is no policy or ministerial advisory committee that promotes the value of design in Northern Ireland. Nor is there physical space or a council to advise on design policy or academic research for the creative industries. Design spans several government department remits, but is most closely aligned with the creativity industries under the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure. This presentation examines understanding of design as a sector and why the visibility of it so vague in Northern Ireland. It is based on research of the eco-systems (networks, practices, operating environments, and sustainability) of small design driven practices (SME) based in Northern Ireland. The research investigated current Northern Ireland innovation and culture policy context, while exploring the contribution of micro creative businesses to the social, cultural and economic environment. It examined: how their ripples form?; what the support mechanisms are for their initiation, maintenance and growth?; and, what sort of early stage eco-system needs to be put in place within Northern Ireland society to nurture confident risk-takers entering in to the private sector? The presentation outlines key findings of the research, highlighting how the value of design relates to the regional advantage attached to creative industries growth in Northern Ireland, which should be considered when formulating policy in this area.