Creative Futures

Eleven stories celebrating the interplay of creativity and science and the importance of a broad, balanced education to equip young people for the jobs of the future.

Introduction from Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society

Research and innovation are vital to the long term sustainability of the UK's economy. We cannot compete on labour costs and we are not awash with natural resources, but we do have a world-leading science base. That is our competitive advantage.

The marriage of research and entrepreneurship has long been the bedrock of our economy. If we want to maintain that, we need to ensure we have an education system that is providing young people with the skills to equip them for the modern world of work.

When it comes to jobs, the market has always changed but we are facing a new wave of change driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence. Some jobs will change, some will be lost altogether and there will be many new jobs in industries that do not even exist yet. What we do know is that they will likely require a combination of creative and scientific skills. We are seeing broadening of skills requirements across all industries.

Today, our A-level systems are among the narrowest upper secondary systems in the world and they are getting narrower. If we want our young people to be able to get good jobs, and employers to be able to hire the people they need in the future, our children must leave school with a broader range of skills. There is no one right way to end up in a certain role, and narrowing your education too far cuts off your options. Meanwhile, jobs are no longer for life and broad skills are needed to support a lifetime’s career.

To deliver that requires an increasingly rounded education all the way through to the end of school. Forcing young people to narrow the range of subjects they are studying will also narrow their skills and options. This is not giving them the best start. 

Creative roles involve lots of science, while scientific roles involve lots of creative skills. The case studies in this booklet will hopefully give a sense of the complex interplay of creative and scientific skills that are required in the workplace. You can see how artefact conservation needs an understanding of chemistry and materials science; visual effects combine art and computer science; physics needs visualisation; architecture needs engineering. That is the future of work and if we want to thrive, we must prepare all of our young people for it by giving them a broader, more balanced and connected education.

Introduction from Rick Haythornthwaite, Chair of the Creative Industries Federation

It may surprise you to read that the creative industries in the UK are worth more to our economy than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined. It is the fastest growing sector in the last decade, employs more than two million people, and the work of the sector makes a difference to the quality of life of every single person living in the UK.

Despite this success, there are tens of thousands of roles within the creative industries which are currently unfilled or which require additional skills. Faced with the dual challenges of a restrictive immigration system post-Brexit and an education system which increasingly fails to value creativity, the talent pipeline for the creative industries is under threat. Urgent action is needed to rectify this and to ensure that the creative industries have access to the talented people they need in order to thrive.

Yet, it would be misguided to suggest that creativity and creative education only benefit those who go on to work within the creative industries.

Skills developed through creative endeavour, including problem solving, good teamwork, communicating creatively and developing innovative solutions to problems, are among those most in demand by businesses and employers right across our economy. With 87% of creative roles resistant to automation, it is these creative skills that will be essential to the whole workforce of the future.

This is not a one-way street, and the important role that cross-sectoral entrepreneurship, innovation and technology plays within the growth of creative enterprises cannot be underestimated. Creative thinking is a crucial skill for scientists, and the ideas and innovations generated by scientists increasingly inform the work of our creators and creative industries. It is damaging to think of STEM as separate from arts and culture, and limiting to believe that one area can exist and thrive without the other.

The Creative Industries Federation has been vocal about the need for government to recognise the critical importance of creative education, for the sake of our young people, for our creative industries and for the economy at large.

It makes complete sense that the Royal Society and Creative Industries Federation are working closely together on this vital agenda. Examples of collaborations between the arts and science stretch back centuries, and are as crucial as ever if we are to generate innovative responses to some of the most urgent challenges facing our world today.