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The Creative Industries need their own industrial strategy

Our seven priorities

Six months have passed since Business Secretary, Greg Clark stood up at the Royal Society to announce a new ‘industrial strategy’. Clark’s statement has been followed by speeches on energy, manufacturing and research; but of creative industries, relatively little.

The new Secretary of State at DCMS has been equally low key: with the exception of the announcement of a pilot for £60m in new funding to boost production of ‘under-represented’ genres of online and television content, there have been no clues as to how an industrial strategy for creative industries may be taking shape behind the scenes. So now, seven months after the Brexit vote, what can we expect from today’s industrial strategy announcement?

If they are looking for sector specific answers, we would have pointed out that the creative industries are dynamic, borne out by its continued growth - 34% increase in GVA between 2010 and 2015. It doesn’t need micromanagement – and the practicalities of intervention in hundreds of thousands of micro-businesses that that would entail would make that impracticable at scale. We don’t believe that the public sector can make smarter decisions about the direction of future investment in creative products, services and technology than the businesses involved in the sector, and therefore any strategy should not seek to define areas for new growth.

Our experience, built up over two decades of research and engagement in creative industries, suggests that industrial strategy should look instead to address structural barriers to growth that have a particular impact on creative industries – inefficient allocation of capital for new product development, research and innovation; risk of physical displacement; access to talent; and increasing diversity in the workforce – whose removal would have benefits across the wider economies and in communities across the UK.

Here are our seven big ideas for a strategic framework:

  • To exploit our remaining access to European Investment Bank funds. This would secure capital to match fund and underwrite private investments in creative and digital capital industries, with a view to creating an ‘evergreen’ fund, on the lines of the co-investment model developed in London.
  • To enforce planning and land use policies, as well as reform taxation of business premises (on the basis of a land value tax). This will assure the continuing supply of affordable retail and industrial space for creative industries, allied with provision of affordable housing to enable both those of the 2.8 million people who work in the creative economy at risk of displacement, as well as young people looking to add to that number to find accommodation near those sources of employment.
  • To reform the visa system to allow employers to continue to attract the world’s best creative talent – the UK’s role as a cultural and creative entrepot is critical to its continuing international success, particularly in a world where harnessing growth in new markets in Asia, Africa and South America is critical to its future success.
  • To exclude overseas students from any measures of net migration, and reform visa rules to make it easier for them to remain in employment or continue their research in the UK on graduation.
  • To define a clear long term funding settlement for university teaching and research to provide certainty in planning for individuals and institutions alike.
  • To review funding and regulation of apprenticeships. The would ensure that they offer the flexibility needed by many smaller creative employers who are currently prevented from using this mechanism as a way to further increase employment in the creative economy.
  • To launch a Royal Commission on Creative Education to mitigate the negative effects of years of underinvestment in and downgrading of the status of arts and design subjects in schools.

- Iain Bennett, Associate Director