Introducing the Screen Industries Growth Network: perspectives from the Director

The Screen Industries Growth Network – or SIGN for short – is a new initiative to support the games, film, TV and related digital media sectors in Yorkshire and the Humber. Led by the University of York, SIGN is very much a collaboration with our partners, Screen Yorkshire and eight of the region’s other universities (see our partners page for more information on who we are working with).

Our goal is to empower those who work – or want to work – in the screen industries, and to enable those industries not just to survive in the post-Covid era, but to thrive. We want to help businesses and freelancers in the region to become more resilient, more agile, more diverse and more inclusive. We’re very excited about embarking on this journey and look forward to working with you as we move forwards. We won’t hold back from identifying and tackling the big issues, and we recognise the scale of collective responsibility in embarking on such an undertaking at this particular moment in time.

Thanks to funding from Research England (part of UK Research and Innovation), the University of York and our partners, we have the funds to make a real difference to all those in the Yorkshire and Humber region that are involved in the creation and dissemination of digital stories and experiences. We’ve set ourselves a number of challenges. We want to help create a more diverse workforce, more inclusive participation and greater social mobility in the screen industries. We want that to be the case at all career levels, from new entrants to industry leaders.

We want to pave the way for the production of more diverse and innovative content, for more diverse audiences and users. We also want to ensure that the industry is able to draw on better trained and more creative talent, with up-to-date skillsets. We aim to provide new and established businesses and individual managers with an enhanced understanding of leadership and entrepreneurship.

All of this is more urgent now that we are moving beyond lockdown. We can’t allow the pandemic to dictate all that we do, but nor can we ignore its current and ongoing impact.

In particular, we can’t ignore all that it has revealed about the precariousness of many creative businesses and of the people who work in those businesses. The crisis has made long-standing inequalities even more glaring. We can’t go back to the ‘old normal’: we have to find new ways of working, new ways of doing business, new ways of including and looking after a diverse workforce. SIGN is committed to contributing to that process.

With such a strong university partnership leading this initiative, we think it’s vital that our work is underpinned by robust, evidence-based research and analysis. We want to contribute to the debates about policy and industry practice in a thoroughly informed manner. We want to understand and act upon the latest developments in digital creativity and enabling technologies.

We want to draw upon best practice in the development and delivery of inclusive and innovative professional training. We want to ensure that SMEs, micro businesses and start-ups are able to benefit from the latest thinking about business models, workflows, innovation and routes to market. Above all, we want to produce research that is both cutting edge and genuinely beneficial for those who work in the screen industries. In part, this is about understanding the social, cultural and economic value of those industries, and finding ways to add greater value at all levels.

One means of helping us to achieve these goals is to help develop much stronger and more supportive networks, across and beyond the screen industries, within and beyond the region, and at all career levels, involving all types of roles and areas of expertise. Organisations like Game Republic, Screen Yorkshire and Film Hub North, are already doing much in this respect. But there is always more to do and we will work with organisations like these to help make the Yorkshire screen industries cluster even more meaningful, with genuine benefit for all involved.

SIGN builds on well-established strengths across the partnership. On the one hand, there is the industry expertise and understanding provided by Screen Yorkshire. On the other hand, there is a real commitment to impactful research, knowledge exchange, professional education and widening participation across the university network. We are also able to draw on a wealth of industry expertise, sector champions and highly experienced mentors, both within the region and well beyond. The University of York in particular has done much to pioneer industry-facing research in the field of digital creativity, and is strongly committed to the development of the next generation of creative talent, for instance through its Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media.

Please join us on our journey, whether you are an expert or a learner, an established influencer or just setting out on your own career path. Please work with us to help businesses and freelancers in the region become more resilient, more agile, more diverse and more inclusive. Please help us to establish a ‘new normal’ of which we can be proud.

Andrew Higson
Director of SIGN