Building the Triple Helix: The Value of Brokered Digital Collaborations Between Museums, Academics and Companies

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Ross Parry, University of Leicester, UK, Richard Clay, University of Birmingham, UK, Lara RATNARAJA, University of Birmingham, UK, Johannah Latchem, University of Birmingham, England

The benefits of cross-sector collaboration on digital projects are as attractive as they are manifold. Partnership, in particular, between academic organisations, museums and commercial companies can be mutually fecund and gratifying - unlocking different approaches to problem solving, revealing alternative business models, identifying new forms of grant income and investment, as well as tapping leading edge research and technical expertise. And yet, barriers to collaboration loom for all three sectors - whether in the form of uncertainty over language usage, or questions of trust, reservations over the capacity to experiment, or caution around the protection of intellectual property.
So what are the ways that cultural organisations such as museums can enter into productive three-way partnerships with university-based academics and small commercial creative companies? And are there proven methodologies for supporting and managing these kinds of collaborations?
With these questions in mind, this paper draws upon the research of a year-long research project funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, to investigate the motivations for, barriers to and benefits of ‘triple helix’ research collaboration between small cultural organisations, higher education institutions and small and medium sized enterprises. The ‘Collaborative Arts Triple Helix’ (‘CATH’) project established 19 teams, known as ‘triplets’, each of which applied successfully to use a £4,000 ‘CATH voucher’ to develop a digital prototype suitable for public release or further development.
Within the wider context of current resourcing of digital projects in the museum sector, the paper concludes by making a series of proposals on how strategic agencies might – based on these findings – consider not only supporting ‘brokered’ projects, but implement funding programmes around cultural technology and digital heritage that are ‘stepped’ and offer a lower ‘first step’ of funding.

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