Creative Clusters and the 90%

Nearly 90% of the Creative Industries are composed of micro companies of under four people or sole trading freelancers, according to the latest industry surveys. So how will the Creative Clusters plans announced by AHRC, and at the heart of the Independent Review of the Creative Industries, engage with these small independent operators, and help the majority of the sector deliver on the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy goals?

What do Freelancers and Micro-Companies Need?

The Creative Industries Federation survey of freelancers in 2017  found there were three key things they wanted, across all the various sectors

  1. Access to finance
  2. Legal Advice and support
  3. Access to workspace

This is a good starting point but it also points to other major challenges within the Creative Cluster bids.

During the last three years BCre8ive Labs have discovered many commercial ideas, which were supported by companies ranging from Warp Films to Dubit, but which needed additional development and financial support.

The Pipeline Problems

In BCre8ive’s ‘Expanding the Creative Pipeline  three other areas were identified.

One, improving access or improving the talent pipeline to the creative industries is identified as a crucial aspect of the creative clusters’ strategy. However, the key areas of distribution and marketing are not specifically addressed. In the independent review a focus on building a new export focused aspect to the Dept. of International Trade, may go someway towards the latter.

The importance of the former can be seen in the current BFI’s enquiry into the state of independent film in the UK, where 900 films were released last year, but few received commercial distribution. . The latter is an on-going problem, which was partially addressed by a UKIE one day event on marketing for freelance games designers, but needs a more sustained and comprehensive approach.

Too Many Creatives Not Enough Connections

The fractured and insecure nature of the creative industries makes engagement for large centralised programmes of all types difficult. There are few effective networks, and none, which cover all the creative disciplines present across the diverse sectors. This leads to many thousands of graduates, and others, starting creative projects and/or careers in their Twenties and leaving by their mid-Thirties. A vast waste of not only talent but potentially highly commercial Intellectual Property (IP).

Therefore, building a long-term support network is critical. It needs to be cheap, if not free, to access, available online, and cover the whole of the UK.

How will Creative Clusters reach out to this disparate and uncoordinated set of potential partners?

In creating such a UK-wide structure Universities, and in particular their post-graduate, incubator, and alumni networks need to form a research and advice system for all creative graduates. In addition, funding for creative content development and exploitation needs to become part of the curriculum of all creative related courses, and not just STEM activities.

How will the various bids for money deal with the lack of finance for micro-companies and freelancers?

The Universities and Cluster Groups need to join with a wider funding network, and engage with such initiatives as the Creative Content Investment Forum on Nov 7 2017.

Supporting individuals freelancers, or micro-companies may lead to the odd success but the aim needs to be create a portfolio of projects, and activities, which will attract new monies and long term investment across the creative industries.

For a full overview of the problems facing investment in the creative industries read the following blog 

The Big Question

IP creation is at the heart of any creative project. Therefore, the vital question which needs to be addressed by the Creative Clusters is –

‘What will be the nature of the offer to the content creators with respect to IP and development support, which ensures not only their participation in Creative Clusters but also the economic growth envisaged by the Industrial Strategy which is paying for it?

Phil Parker


A version of this blog will appear on the AHRC website with respect to their Creative Clusters Programme

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