Creative nation: How the creative industries are powering the UK's nations and regions

Cultural industries Creative workforce Innovation Economic development Productivity United Kingdom
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Digitalisation, competition and automation favour those whose work is easy to scale but hard to imitate and routinise. The creative industries are such an example: they create stories and experiences that can be distributed across multiple media and easily exported; they supply services that enable their clients to stand out in crowded markets, and they rely on talent performing creative and artistic tasks that are hard to replace with robots and algorithms.

The sector is already a vital part of the UK’s economy, growing twice as fast as other sectors and employing over two million people. Technological developments like 5G connectivity, augmented reality and widespread artificial intelligence create further opportunities. This is why the Government has acknowledged the creative industries as a strategically important sector in its Industrial Strategy.

But do all regions in the UK stand to benefit from future creative growth, or will the rewards be reaped by just a few locations in London and the South East of England? Policymakers are rightly concerned about geographical imbalances in the UK economy: might these be exacerbated by growth in creative industries that have tended to concentrate in a small number of places? There are also questions about the sector’s contribution to productivity, another big challenge for UK policymakers. Intangible creative outputs may be easy to scale, but that same intangibility makes it harder for firms to appropriate the benefits and raise finance, thereby constraining the sector’s productivity growth.

UK policymakers have recognised these opportunities and challenges: initiatives like the AHRC’s Creative Clusters Programme, supported by the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, seek to address them by investing in the development of strong creative clusters outside London and the South East. In order to be successful, however, policies to support growth in the creative industries across the UK must be built on evidence – and this is what Creative Nation sets out to provide.

Creative Nation uses official, open and web data to map the creative industries in the UK: their evolution, contribution to local economic development, the strength of their support ecosystems – including research and networking – and their connections with each other. The report presents eight key findings based on our analysis of the data, and is accompanied by an open dataset and interactive visualisations to help users explore the data.

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