TEN UK firsts


Historically, the UK has been responsible for many world-leading innovations that have reshaped the creative industries. These include the first moving colour pictures, the first Teletext service, the first digital terrestrial television platform and the first SMS text. Below, we list just some of the more recent innovations.


1. 3d printing from cars to construction

3D printing, which enables the low cost design and construction of physical objects, has rich potential for creative sectors such as design, architecture and fashion. 

In the architecture sector, 3D printing is being used in both design and construction. The ETFE plastic roof canopy of the 6 Bevis Marks building in London features a decorative sheath that is the world’s first 3D-printed component approved for use in the construction industry, according to the canopy’s designer Adrian Priestman. Priestman claims that his sheaths are the first to be 3D-printed for a specific use. (Source:  Inhabitat.com).

The technology has also been used in what was believed to be the world’s first 3D-printed titanium car parts. An innovation to create titanium powder from sand enabled 3D printing of parts cheaply enough for low-to-medium volume design and production, according to engineers from Sheffield University. The process was created by Rotherham-based company Metalysis, a spin-out of Cambridge University (Source: The Engineer).


2. New Platforms for the arts

Digital transmission is opening up new possibilities for arts ventures to reach audiences. English National Opera collaborated with Arqiva, the transmission group, and rights holder, More2Screen, to deliver a world first to digital cinema audiences around the UK and Ireland. In Feburary 2011, Arqiva’s digital cinema satellite platform distributed the world’s first live opera to cinemas in digital 3D. The English National Opera performance of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia was directed by Oscar-winning film director, Mike Figgis. (Source: DCinema Today)

The general release of the ballet, Genesis, by Crystal Ballet, the UK company, also marked the first time a collection of dance pieces had been created and filmed specifically for download to personal portable devices, bringing ballet to a new, digitally-aware audience. It immediately went to number one on iTunes. (Source: Crystal Ballet)


3.Innovative Ads

The UK has a long history of technical and content innovations in the advertising sector.

In 2017 Channel 4 introduced the first video on demand ad with personalised audio that addressed the viewer by his or her name. The first advertisers to come on board were the film distributor 20th Century Fox, along with Foster’s and Ronseal.

UK-headquartered Blis has launched the first location based native advertising solution. Native ads engage users by matching the look and feel of an app’s user interface.

In 2012, the UK featured the first live Twitter TV ad break campaign. The studio, Fox, the media agency, Vizeum, and the broadcaster, Channel 4, collaborated on a global trailer premiere. Fox created a trailer to take over an entire adbreak. On the night, a “curated break” announced the trailer and invited the 2.4m viewers to share their thoughts through Twitter. Comments then appeared in the following ad break. The next day the agency helped re-broadcast Twitter reaction on digital posters. (Source: Vizeum).

Women's Aid, WCRS and MPC Creative/MPC VFX also collaborated on a digital outdoor campaign which used facial recognition technology. The campaign showed images of battered women. These remained bruised if people did not look at the screens, but healed if people took notice of the images, highlighting the importance of not ignoring domestic abuse.

The UK also developed the first sound-activated cinema ad: a campaign for Lynx (also known as Axe) developed by BBH, the UK-headquartered agency, and DCM, which asked audiences to shout to choose which of several alternative clips they wanted to see. (Source: Marketing Week)


 4. New magazine formats

Guap claims to be the world's first video magazine, profiling young talent within music, fashion, arts & business globally.

Launched by the team behind the British Journal of Photography magazine, FLTR, is the world’s first-ever weekly magazine dedicated to smartphone photography and published exclusively on the iPhone. 

Created by Apptitude Media, FLTR is designed to be an authoritative voice within the worldwide community of smartphone image creators. Content includes exclusive interviews with both amateur and professional photographers highlighting techniques, apps, devices, trends and accessories in smartphone photography. (Source: PPA)


5. first digital street magazine

The Big Issue in the North, the magazine whose revenues go to keep homeless people off the streets, developed the world's first digital street magazine.

It used technology on a printed card with a unique redemption code. Users typed this into a web browser or scanned it with a mobile phone to get their digital version of the title.The project won support from the International Network of Street Papers, which wants the movement to embrace technology. (Source: The Guardian)


6. first cinema transmission of a major exhibition

The National Gallery collaborated with Sky Arts, Picturehouse Entertainment and Seventh Art Productions on a broadcasting first. Its "Leonardo Live" saw the National Gallery’s landmark exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, transmitted live to cinema-goers and Sky Arts viewers across the UK. 

The show united the largest ever number of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings, including international loans never before seen in the UK. Via a partnership with By Experience, the film was then broadcast in cinemas round the world, providing a unique opportunity for people to see this once in a generation show. (Source: The National Gallery)

7.  First 3d virtual fossil collection

The British Geological Society launched the first 3D virtual fossil collection. In the UK, fossil type specimens are stored in a number of locations across the country and there is no easy way to search across the many different catalogues. The GB3D Type Fossils Online project has developed a single database of type specimens, held in British collections, of macrofossil species and subspecies found in the UK. This includes links to photographs and laser scans of the best to produce a selection of 3D digital models. (Source: JISC)


 8. First integration of Augmented reality into news editorial

The Independent was the first newspaper brand to fully integrate augmented reality into daily editorial content. The feature, Independent+, allowed readers to use augmented reality app, Blippar, to bring print stories to life with additional digital and multimedia content. The feature encompassed The Independent’s news, opinion, sport, arts & entertainment and other features. Users could also share their opinions through simple polling or voting tools. (Source: Press Gazette)


 9. World's first festival of original work

Started in 2007, the biennial Manchester International Festival is the world’s first festival solely composed of original work. The Festival commissions a wide range of work, all specially created for the Festival, including music, visual arts, theatre, dance, food and family events, some indoor and some outdoor, from internationally acclaimed artists. The work is premiered in Manchester, with many commissions going on to tour the world. (Source: Manchester International Festival)


10. Eco design breakthroughs

UK designers have been responsible for many developments in sustainable, environmentally-friendly design.  These include the first school to feature a revolutionary new heating system that uses the school playground to heat and cool its buildings. 

Commissioned by Hertfordshire County Council, designed by a Capita Architecture led consultant team, and project and construction managed by Mace, the Howe Dell School in Hatfield is expected to demonstrate how sustainable practice can be integrated into building design. (Source: Howe Dell)

UK designers also developed the revolutionary "paper" wine bottle. Greenbottle is a pulp-based packaging format developed by Suffolk-based entrepreneur Martin Myerscough based on a paper outer layer and a flexible plastic bag inside; the two layers can be separated and the paper-based part recycled. The company’s wine bottles weigh 65g compared to around 450g for a standard 750ml glass bottle and they are targeted at the ‘buy to drink’ market. (Source: Packaging News).

The wind-up radio, which has brought broadcasting to people without electricity was invented by a Briton, Trevor Bayliss.

You can suggest more examples of UK creative firsts by emailing us at info@thecreativeindustries.co.uk