About the Digital R&D fund

The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts is a £7 million fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers.


To find out what projects we've funded so far please see Native: the Fund's learning magazine (please note this is a subdomain)


We want to see projects that use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or develop new business models for the arts sector. With a dedicated researcher or research team as part of the three-way collaboration, learning from the project can be captured and disseminated to the wider arts sector.
Every project needs to identify a particular question or problem that can be tested. Importantly this question needs to generate knowledge for other arts organisations that they can apply to their own digital strategies. We’re looking for projects that offer valuable learning and institutional knowledge transfer within the arts sector.

There are three elements to the fund. These are

The Fund is a three way partnership between Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Nesta, running for three years from 2012-2015. 


Themes of the Fund

The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts is looking for innovative projects under one or more of our key themes:

  • user generated content and social media: harnessing the power of the internet and social media to reach audiences and to give them a platform for discussion, participation and creativity

  • distribution and exhibition: using digital technologies to deliver artistic experiences and content in new ways through online and place-based environments, including exploring international distribution and exhibition

  • mobile, location and games: developing a new generation of mobile and location-based experiences and services, including games

  • data and archives: making archives, collections and other data more widely available to other arts organisations and the general public

  • resources: using digital technologies to improve the way in which arts organisations are run, including business efficiency and income generation and the way in which they collaborate with each other

  • education and learning: developing interactive education and learning resources for children, teachers, young people, adult learners and arts sector professionals

  • Big Data: Using the burgeoning availability of data to inform new business models. This is a seventh theme specific to the Call for Big Data and Research+ strands


In order to support potential applicants we are running two types of events designed to inform potential applicants about the process and to offer further development work and opportunities to network with potential partners.

 Briefing sessions
We have completed our briefing sessions for the R&D Fund however will be uploading a video from our final session shortly.  
Please note if you are hosting an event and are interested in someone speaking about the Fund or in running an event please do get in touch digital-rnd@nesta.org.uk  
Collaborative workshops
We will be hosting Collaborative workshops around the country to help organisations develop their projects further and to network with other organisations and academic researchers that are interested in participating in the Fund. The workshops are a full day of activities designed to develop your project further. The workshops are open to anyone interested in applying to the Fund however we would strongly suggest attending a briefing session prior to attending a collaborative workshop.  
Please note: the workshops are not mandatory and you can still submit an application to the Fund without attending one.  Please refer to the necessary eligibility criteria  for applicants and partners for the Fund.

We have now finished our collaborative workshops for the Fund therefore please email digital-rnd@nesta.org.uk  if you have any questions.
You can find out more about the Digital R&D Fund, including the application process, in this presentation from the Briefing events:
Digital R&D Fund Briefing event presentation


We expect organisations with arts projects and their partners planning applications to the Fund to consider digital accessibility right from the start. Project scoping, scaling, development and delivery need to be planned with digital accessibility in mind and practically deliverable. 

We are committed to being accessible, and want to make the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts application process open to everyone please contact us if you would like application in an alternative format.
The Fund will directly contribute to Arts Council England’s 10-year strategic framework, Achieving great art for everyone, addressing key development challenges of the organisation's Creative media policy and sitting alongside other digital programmes.
Nesta is keen to test how public R&D, with a strong focus on rigorous and systematic research, can bring wider benefits to the sector through the creation and sharing of useful knowledge to encourage innovation in public funding across a diverse range of creative industries.
The Fund is an important strand of the AHRC’s activities to encourage interactions between researchers and the creative economy that can generate significant social, cultural and economic benefits.