Has the creative sector been overlooked in the rush to develop the tech sector?

Back in April, The Director magazine published an article http://www.director.co.uk/magazine/2013/04_April/Cover%20story_66_07.html featuring Doug Richard of Dragon’s Den fame. He argued that business must “pay more than lip service to the £36b pa industry that’s the envy of the world”. Amongst his key points:

  • He runs schools for creative start-ups at Somerset House in London
  • The industry generates £70,0000 a minute for the UK economy and £1 in every £10 of exports
  • Many great e-businesses are powered not so much by technology but by creativity – whether the content is, for example, literary or fashion
  • Many tax breaks and incentives support the technology and science sectors only
  • There’s a preconception that creative people cannot be business people

At that time, the Government started to rationalise how the creative sector is defined – with wails of distress from the crafts sector (comprising 23,000 businesses) which is in danger of being excluded. This is despite the explosive growth in “home manufacturing” driven by the double whammy of the fashion for vintage/repurposing and new cottage industries as well as innovative new technologies such as 3D printers.

The current national curriculum programmes of study for art and design at key stages 1 and 2 have been “disapplied” with effect from 1 September 2013 and are no longer statutory. This means that schools are free to develop their own curricula for art and design that best meet the needs of their pupils (in preparation for the introduction of the new national curriculum from September 2014).

The official figures back the views of Mr Richards:

  • The creative industries accounted for:
    • 1.5 million jobs
    • 5.1% of the UK’s employment (1.4m people)
    • In 2011, there were 106,700 creative enterprises (5.1% of all UK enterprises)
    • London’s creative industry is the capital’s second largest sector, worth £$32 billion per year, generating 16% of the city’s annual gross value added (GVA).
    • Nearly 400,000 people work in London’s creative industries – 77,000 people are directly employed in film, video and broadcasting
    • The Advertising industry generates £6.2 billion annually for the UK economy London hosts Europe’s largest cluster of marketing services business – employing over 100,000 people

Over in Tech City (that much-publicised burgeoning cluster of new hi-tech businesses in East London) you can’t fail to notice quite how many of these exciting new businesses have a significant “creative” element. Whether it is developing online games or providing marketing related services. Think London (now http://www.londonandpartners.com/business/) used to do a grand job of highlighting the world famous creative cluster in London.

Working as I did, much of last year, with D&AD http://www.dandad.org/  – the association representing creatives in the advertising and design sectors – it occurred to me that the creative sector has so much more to offer than the superficial consumer communications that they were branded with yesteryear.

They have a unique insight into how to get the best from “creative” people – surely something that all businesses need to master in these knowledge-worker days. They also have lofty ideals about how design and communications can help shape society’s views and response to things as important as sustainability, corporate responsibility and consumer empowerment. And last year it was the creative industries that initiated a work experience and apprenticeship programme with The Evening Standard so they are looking to the next generation of talent as well. A refreshing change from the greed of the other major City cluster – the financial sector.

Perhaps there is an argument for focusing a little more on developing what we already have rather than competing with the likes of Silicon Valley for something we hope will grow as big?