This case study was written by Rose Bonner, a University of Plymouth graduate. Connect with Rose on LinkedIn.
Cultivator is a creative and cultural business development programme, led by Creative Kernow and funded by the European Structural and Investment Funds, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council.
This project, which is currently in its second phase, has been the outcome of a partnership between the University of Plymouth, Real Ideas, Cornwall College and Cornwall Development Company, and aims to enhance the creative sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by elevating and working directly with Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Cultivator hosts a number of services for eligible SMEs, including one-to-one consultations with specialist advisors, funding opportunities, employment bursaries, skills workshops, and networking events.
“A lot of people don't understand Knowledge Exchange, and this was another opportunity to push the message of how Knowledge Exchange is important and how powerful it can be for universities, businesses and for everybody involved in terms of generating ideas, projects, and opportunities for sustainable development within the sector.” - Liz Hemming, Cultivator Knowledge Exchange Manager, at the University of Plymouth
On 15 September 2020, Cultivator’s University of Plymouth team hosted a networking event to introduce staff from Creative Kernow and the University of Plymouth and provide the chance for both organisations to understand their individual roles.
“It was about breaking down those barriers of this vague wall of ‘what is the university?’ and encouraging Creative Kernow’s Creative Business Advisors to have direct conversations with academics” - Liz Hemming
After welcoming the guests and providing an overview of The Bridge and Creative Kernow, six speakers from across the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business discussed the opportunities and resources available at the University, namely Mike Phillips, Anthony Caleshu, Mandy Andrews, Rowena Passy, Jane Georgeson, Nigel Jackson, Andrew Prior, and Oliver Smith, each presenting a 5-minute pitch about their current projects.
Topics ranged from introducing the i-DAT research group, an Open Research Lab for playful experimentation with creative technology, to tips on persuasive communication and student involvement. There was also an allocated networking session to give attendees the opportunity to delve into the points outlined briefly during the event.
The event was closed with a virtual tour of the Digital Fabrication and Immersive Media Laboratories (DFIML), introducing the potential for Creative Kernow to utilise these facilities for future projects.
Delivered by Liz Hemming (Project Manager), Emma Dyason (Project Officer), and Alison Valerio, (Knowledge Exchange Officer) at Cultivator, the occasion ultimately set out to enhance working relationships and harness the resources and opportunities that the respective organisations offer.
- Build awareness of the University’s role within the current portfolio of externally funded Knowledge Exchange projects at The Bridge and opportunities available for Creative Kernow’s team and beneficiaries, as well as the University’s students and staff.
- Supply a forum to strengthen existing relationships and establish new connections between both organisations.
- Enable the Creative Kernow team to gain a further understanding of The Bridge’s student engagement/employability agenda and current schemes.
- Offer the chance for all attendees to learn more about the University of Plymouth’s cutting-edge facilities.
- Provide a platform for academics to exhibit relevant areas of research that might present future opportunities.
Adapting to change
Whilst these networking events would usually happen physically, the prevailing climate of the pandemic meant that this occasion had to move to a more virtual setting.
“With the current COVID circumstances, showcasing has taken a slightly different turn as we were supposed to be organising and attending physical events to really push the creative agenda across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Now, we are looking at online events and seeing what we can do to keep supporting the local economy. It's an exciting time to explore how we can do things differently across the sector - not just now, but in the future as well.” – Liz Hemming
The event took place on Remo, a digital conferencing application and emulated a real networking experience, with the opportunity to jump from table to table and chat with other attendees. Where it can often be challenging to unite people physically, the virtual platform made it more accessible to those further afield.
The success story
With 42 attendees, the networking event was a triumph, accomplishing all of the objectives that were established. Guests were able to learn from each presentation, network candidly with one another and engage in productive conversations to make valuable connections and fuel potential projects.
In a post-event survey, the feedback of the event was 100% positive, with relationships already being strengthened between both teams.
“It’s really good to see [the attendees] breaking down those barriers, opening up those conversations and making it possible for things to happen” - Liz Hemming
The success has proven the value that these events hold, boosting the prospects of more to come, both virtually and physically.
Cultivator is a business development programme that supports the creative industries in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Businesses are offered one-to-one consultations with specialist business advisors and are informed about the range of opportunities Cultivator can offer; including making connections to the academic and technical experts and cutting-edge resources and facilities at the University of Plymouth.
Discover more about Cultivator