w w w. b r i g h t o n f u s e . c o m
skills had superior economic performance compared
The problems of fitting interdisciplinary, inter-sector
to firms that didn’t integrate as extensively .
innovative work into a world structured by sectors
These findings are consistent with a broad body of
and disciplines are illustrated during the Fuse survey.
knowledge highlighting the importance of knowledge
Approximately half the firms that self-report to be in
integration. This integration occurred despite most
digital creative economy are outside the traditional
systems of education, training, research and career
SIC codes used to capture them. These findings
development being very discipline based. The
support the current attempts to reformulate industrial
university research system, for example, is currently
categories and redefine SIC codes, but go further.
evaluated in ways that penalise interdisciplinary
Economic growth is driven by innovation, which
work . Clearly, interdisciplinary and disciplinary
requires integrating wider and wider sources of
approaches are complements rather than alternatives
knowledge. Improving SIC codes and classifications
and the qualitative research highlighted how a strong
is a step in the right direction, but the Fuse analysis
Arts & Humanities background could provide the
suggests the economy is constantly changing so,
basis for interdisciplinary collaboration. At the same
however accurate current SIC codes are, future
time, it showed how difficult it is for firms to effectively
innovation is likely to cut across them. Kinds of
encourage interdisciplinary integration.
firms, kinds of skills, kinds of knowledge and
Part of the problem is that people live and socialise in unfused professional, disciplinary and social communities. When these different cultures are brought together, it often exposes cultural mismatches rather than creative opportunities. Firms have to actively manage and encourage this integration and force it to work in projects.
classified together in single categories for very long. Digital innovations don’t just rely on digital skills, and people with digital skills don’t just work in digital firms and sectors.
2. Clusters and the geography of place
Outside work, events and creative spaces such as
The importance of interdisciplinary work in the
the Brighton Digital Festival are also important in
Brighton creative and digital cluster reflects the
bringing these unfused communities together. Given
complex and extensive division of labour that exists
this fusion generates significant economic benefits,
in modern economies. As Adam Smith highlighted,
a question arises about why all firms don’t do it:
as the economy grows and markets expand the
the qualitative research suggests the reason for this
division of labour is extended and jobs become more
is it is difficult, it requires a lot of work, and real
specialised. Importantly, he highlighted this occurs
interdisciplinary skills are in very short supply.
within organisations and between organisations
With cross sectional survey data there is a possibility that this correlation is reflecting statistical endogeneity rather than causality. For example, the relationship could be driven by higher performing firms using their higher profits to pay for interdisciplinary knowledge integration, even though this has no impact on performance. This is unlikely as we would intuitively expect weaker, not better performing, firms to be wasting resources on pointless activity. Moreover, there is a strong and robust research base showing the economic value of knowledge integration. While some of the effect may be driven by endogeneity, the effects are large enough that we can be reasonably confident the findings are robust.
Rafols, I., Leydesdorff, L., O’Hare, A., Nightingale, P. and Stirling, A. (2012), How journal rankings can suppress interdisciplinary research. A comparison of innovation studies and business & management. Research Policy, 41 (7). pp. 1262-1282.
kinds of innovation can no longer be meaningfully