SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

SPRU research cited in WEF White Paper on human potential

A report authored by SPRU academics has been cited in a new White Paper by the World Economic Forum (WEF), titled ‘Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (published 4 January 2017).

The research - ‘The Fusion Effect: The economic returns to combining arts and science skills’ - revealed that companies harnessing both art and science skills outperform their competitors in terms of sales, employment, productivity and innovation. Growing 8% faster than their science-only competitors, they are also 2% more likely to bring radical innovations to market.

Policymakers have long prioritised supporting companies to access the skills they need for growth but there has been no measure of what skills combination is most desirable. The government is currently promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) rather than STEAM - with the addition of Arts - in spite of a burgeoning creative economy.

Drawing on new evidence, ‘The Fusion Effect’ recommends that policymakers support the growing STEAM education movement alongside calls for greater investment in the UK workforce’s STEM skills.

Adopting this argument in their “agenda for leaders to shape the future of education, gender and work”, the WEF White Paper references ‘The Fusion Effect’:

“Simply increasing the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates within the framework of currently existing education systems is not a silver bullet for mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While increasing the STEM-literacy of the population is certainly very important, currently these subjects are often taught in a way that reinforces a disconnect between sciences and humanities and existing education gender gaps, and focuses on theory over application and experiential learning. Even within STEM-specific fields, employability will depend in part on strong creative, critical thinking and non-cognitive skills.”

‘The Fusion Effect’, published as report for the UK Innovation charity Nesta, provides analysis of the contribution of employees’ science and arts skills in relation to companies’ performance between 2010 and 2012. The report estimates that 3.5 million people are employed in such businesses which, despite accounting for around a tenth of UK companies, employ roughly a fifth of all workers.

Author Dr Siepel says:

“It’s exciting to see the WEF recognising the impact of creative skills; our education system needs to produce the range of skills required to compete and innovate in the rapidly changing global economy.”

‘The Fusion Effect’ has been cited in Parliamentary evidence (Goldsmiths, University of London in response to the Higher Education Bill), a submission to the Canadian Cultural Policy review from the Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences and a Universities Scotland briefing on support for UK creative industries, as well as in the media (see Forbes: ‘Why Art And Design Could Help Solve Britain's Productivity Puzzle’).

Dr Siepel has also published an article in The Conversation on these findings: ‘How to be human when technology is driving the new industrial revolution’.

The research by Dr Josh Siepel, Dr Roberto Camerani, Dr Gabriele Pellegrino and Dr Monica Masucci (BMEc) builds on the ‘Brighton Fuse’ initiative, which discovered the importance of fusing the arts, humanities and design with digital technology to achieve growth and innovation and points to a future business model that could be further developed nationwide.

Further reading:

Nesta report: ‘The Fusion Effect: The economic returns to combining arts and science skills

World Economic Forum White Paper: ‘Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The ‘Brighton Fuse’ research initiative

The Conversation article: ‘How to be human when technology is driving the new industrial revolution’