The incubator programme is a unique and ambitious part of the LCEP in helping us understand how we can provide support in developing new creative ideas, that prioritise opportunities for Children and Young People in Chelmsford.
The learning focus of this programme is therefore rooted in bringing up a generation of confident, resilient, and skilful people in a “rapidly changing world of work, where creative skills are in increasing demand from employers…Endowing young people with the confidence and knowhow to create, innovate and collaborate is one of the best investments we can make in the next generation.” (Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Engineering)
As a Local Cultural Education Partnership, our aim is to strengthen and build on innovative, inspired, and local partnerships that actively champion creative and cultural learning in Chelmsford. The LCEP incubator will play a key role in helping us understand how we can support collaborative ideas that stimulate and enhance the delivery of these creative and cultural opportunities.
Education and skills development are essential in order to maximise our nation’s full creative and cultural potential.
The creative industries were hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic with closures to theatres, museums and galleries, music and concert venues and other creative spaces leading to a loss of jobs and an uncertainty of what this implies for post-pandemic recovery. Recent figures released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, however, show that the UK had an estimated 2.29m creative sector jobs in the year to September 2021. Recognising the that the cultural and creative industries are a driving force for British economy, The Warwick Commission Report on the Future of Cultural Value , states that “sustaining growth within the sector has become a key priority”. To do this, it is important to identify and address key skills needs. This is an area in which, we aim to generate evidence on what is supportive for Children and Young People’s creative and cultural careers, pathways and skills for work. Learning about the things that work is equally important as understanding why certain things don’t work.
The LCEP incubator, is therefore a chance to engage a dialogue between creative and innovative practitioners, cultural organisations, educators, and businesses in nurturing new ideas and turning challenges into opportunities for growth. All of this is great, but the idea and knowledge of what an incubator is, is likely to be a new one for many of us.
So, what is an incubator?
The first generation of business incubators initially emerged in the 1960s in America but grew in the 1980s where start up businesses could develop their ideas. They “are organisations that support the entrepreneurial process by helping to increase survival rates for innovative start-up companies.” The incubation process provides access to relevant resources, training, funding, and expertise for businesses to carry their idea forward and develop it into a new venture. Creative incubators therefore aim to support creative businesses, artists, practitioners, and graduates in a creative environment to develop entrepreneurial skills.
“Creativity, cultural and creative industries, and creative economy are talked about as an important and growing part of the global economy, located at the interface of culture, business and technology.”  The last decade or so has a seen many creative incubators in various countries across the world including Poland, South Africa, and Indonesia to name a few.
What does a creative incubator look like?
As part of its Anti-Racism pledge, Somerset House is about to launch the 3rd cohort of their Black Business Incubator. It “aims to help early-stage Black entrepreneurs unlock their full potential and allow their creative enterprises to thrive”. London College of fashion provides another example of what a creative incubator can look like focusing on the fashion industry, called the Centre for Fashion Enterprise. The incubator’s objective is to help to produce “commercially viable and sustainable businesses” within the fashion industry which, is identified as a key creative sector in London, thus aiming for economic development and regeneration . Founded in 2015, Abbey Road Red is Europe’s first Music Tech incubator at the renowned Abbey Road Studios. Each of these examples demonstrate the importance of industry expertise and collaboration through the incubation process. Visualising what the LCEP incubator will look like and how we will engage children and young people is a key component for us.
An interesting case study, the IWOA Creative Incubator took five artists on a 4-month pilot programme that helped broaden “their career by partnering with businesses and organisations on projects that strengthen our community”. This collaborative process promoted partnerships with the community focusing on social engagement and the impact this has on personal creative practices. The LCEP incubator aims to engage Children and Young People with a particular focus on the creative and cultural industries as well as creative skills. We take into consideration a clear need for innovation and growth in the UK not only for the creative and cultural industries but for the wellbeing and creativity of the population. 
The 9-month incubator programme will highlight the importance of innovation and creative skills as an essential part of Chelmsford’s future workforce. We will invest in and support individuals and organisations through mentoring, Action Learning, collaboration, problem-solving and expertise. We look forward to hearing from a range of creative practitioners to explore this exciting avenue for change. Applications will be open on the 1st of June 2022 with a call for expressions of interest.