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How we are supporting our thriving creative industries sector

If you were in any doubt about the potential for the creative industries to be an engine for economic growth and job creation, a new report has cemented their status as the fastest growing sector of the UK economy.

An independent review commissioned by the Government and led by the current Chair of ITV Sir Peter Bazalgette, has shown that the UK’s booming creative industries could be worth £128.4 billion to the national economy by 2025, and help to create up to one million new jobs by 2030.

Sir Peter has made a raft of recommendations to inform the Government’s Industrial Strategy as it works towards a sector deal with the industry in the coming months.

In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, research commissioned by the Local Enterprise Partnership bears out the national picture of rapid growth.

Between 2011 and 2015, the number of creative firms in the region grew by 26% from 990 to 1,250. Employment in the creative economy grew by 12% to almost 27,000 (which is more than 10% of all employment), and economic output was up 7% to £2.73 billion, or 10.6% of all economic activity.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are better placed than many rural regions of the UK and Europe when it comes to digital connectivity, thanks to huge investment in superfast – and now ultrafast – broadband, which has unlocked the potential of digital businesses and is attracting new ones.

We have a booming software and tech industry with nationally-recognised clusters, and one of the world’s best arts universities in Falmouth. Our local distinctiveness fuels a vibrant cultural sector, and research shows that creative people really value the quality of life that our region offers, and that the physical landscape continues to inspire creative output.

But when we talk about the creative industries, what do we actually mean? The Department for Culture, Media and Sport identifies nine separate industries as creative. These are advertising (including public relations); architecture; crafts; design; Film, TV, video, radio and photography; IT, software and computer services; museums; music, performing and visual arts; and publishing.

There is also a distinction between the creative industries and the creative economy. The latter includes people who are in creative occupations but not actually employed in a creative industry, such as a designer working for a brewery, for example. These actually outnumber people employed by creative businesses in our region and show just how important creativity is to driving growth and innovation in other sectors.

The key recommendation of the Bazalgette Review is the creation of a £500 million Creative Clusters Fund to support regional growth and narrow the gap between the South East of England and the rest of the UK.

He also focuses on innovation, and the need for more investment into creative industries research and development projects. Access to finance is a real problem for creative businesses compared to other sectors, and more needs to be done to develop a pipeline of talent.

Sir Peter says the UK should build on its reputation as the most highly skilled nation for producing screen-based content, and invest in exploiting new virtual and augmented reality technology.

Many of Sir Peter’s recommendations are aligned to the work the LEP is already doing to grow our creative economy. Last year, in partnership with the Creative Industries Federation, we hosted a major conference in Pool which identified a number of similar themes.

These including the need for access to finance, a creative careers campaign to inspire younger people, better business support for the creative sector (especially around intellectual property), more collaborative workspace across the region and better internship and apprenticeship schemes.

The LEP is investing in many of these areas. Next year, in partnership with the British Business Bank, we will be launching a new £90m investment fund for local businesses that will offer loan and equity funding and will make sure that that the needs of the creative sector are taken into account.

The LEP is a key supporter of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub and Skills Hub, which provides business and skills advice, and we co-fund the Enterprise Advisers Network to link businesses with schools so that young people understand the career options open to them.

But we need to go further, which is why the LEP is developing a clear and actionable plan of activity to unlock the full potential of our creative industries. This includes key interventions to target high growth areas such as the film and TV sector, investment in workspace, and more focus on export opportunities.

We are exploring the potential of Creative Enterprise Zones modelled on the existing Aerohub zone at Cornwall Airport Newquay and Goonhilly Earth Station, offering tax breaks and other incentives but geared to creative businesses.

And education is key, which is why we are calling for a broad and balanced school curriculum which equips students with the creative and technical skills that businesses are asking for. We need government to recognise the need for STEAM skills in education policy, which includes the arts alongside the traditional STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths. If you want to be a digital animator, it helps if you can draw as well as code.

As the Bazalgette Review points out, the challenge is for local partnerships of LEPs, councils, higher education and business “to develop long-term strategies which merit and receive tailored support from government and national agencies”. The LEP is up for that challenge.

Emmie Kell is board member lead for the Creative Industries for the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, and Chief Executive of the Cornwall Museum Partnership.

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Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, PO Box 723, Pydar House, Pydar Street, Truro, TR1 1XU
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