The Collaborative Arts Triple Helix project

The Collaborative Arts Triple Helix project (CATH) was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) ‘Creative Economy Knowledge Exchange’ programme.

CATH was based in the Digital Humanities Hub at the University of Birmingham (UB) and run in partnership with the School of Museum Studies at University of Leicester (UoL) between April 2013 and July 2014. The project facilitated, and conducted research into, ‘triple helix’ collaborations involving three sectors:

  1. Higher education (HE), including arts and humanities researchers and staff from the partner universities’ cultural collections
  2. Small cultural organisations (SCOs), including galleries, archives, country houses, theatre groups, a rugby club and a library
  3. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), including graphic designers, design agencies, and software developers

CATH has used a series of workshops to bring together academics, SMEs, and Small Cultural Organisations (SCOs) to work in Triple Helix collaborations. CATH established 19 teams, known as ‘triplets’, each of which included members drawn from all three sectors that applied successfully to use a £4,000 CATH voucher to develop a digital prototype suitable for public release or further development (e.g. a smartphone or touch table app, or a web resource).

The 19 £4,000 CATH vouchers were awarded to ‘triplets’ that were in sum staffed by 70 individuals drawn from across the three sectors. Each ‘triplet’s’ budget was contracted by the university via the ‘triplet’s’ HE member. Each ‘triplet’ established and managed the distribution of its spending collectively so, the allocation of funds varied across the ‘triplets’. Throughout the project, the CATH team studied collaborative research, setting out to address the following research questions:

  1. What are the barriers  that impede ‘triple helix’ collaborations involving HE, SMEs, SCOs?
  2. What are the benefits of working in ‘triple helix’ collaboration?
  3. What is the impact of a brokerage model on ‘triple helix’ collaborations?

Our research was conducted in 3 phases: (i) motivation and initiation, (ii) workflow development, (iii) impact and value. We selected 5 case studies from among the 19 funded ‘triplets’ that had been awarded a £4,000 CATH voucher and, during phase (ii), we used semistructured interviews and focus groups to conduct in-depth research into: how leadership evolved within collaborative teams; how workflow was managed; the use of terminology and technologies across sectors; and the impact that working in collaboration had on each partner organisation.