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What does growth really look like for the creative industries?

 Wednesday, 12th September, 2018

By Luise Yang, Research and Policy Officer, Creative Industries Federation

The Creative Industries are absolutely integral to our economy here in the UK. As the fastest growing sector of the economy, the creative industry is worth £92 billion in GVA, employs more than two million jobs and makes up one out of nine businesses.  

We also know that government now recognises the value and potential of our world-leading sector. Unveiled earlier this year, the Creative Industries sector deal - a partnership between government and industry - promises to invest more than £150 million to unlock growth for creative businesses. 

But what does growth really look like for the Creative Industries? We know that government tends to see growth through a traditional lens of high turnover and headcount. And we know that this definition does not work for the Creative Industries, given that 95% of creative businesses are micro businesses (less than 10 employees) and 35% of those working in our sector are self-employed (a significant portion of which are freelancers). 

This is why at the Creative Industries Federation, we decided to undertake a major piece of research on growth to understand and champion a more accurate and holistic view of what it means for creative businesses to grow. We wanted to examine the different types of growth profiles for creative enterprises across the 12 subsectors and explore what support is required. We also honed in on micro businesses and freelancers since this demographic is often left out of policymaking. 

For the past few months, we’ve collected over 1000 survey responses, held focus groups in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow, and conducted numerous interviews with intermediary support bodies. While we are still in the middle of writing our report, there are many alternative definitions of growth that have already emerged.

For example, through our survey we found that attributing social impact as one definition of growth was a key measure not only for publicly funded creative organisations, but also commercially driven creative businesses. This definition was also highlighted during our focus groups where participants spoke about the importance of recognising the social and cultural impact creative businesses and organisations have in society.

For many creative businesses growth is about being connected and adding value to a wider ecosystem. The prevalence of freelancers and micro businesses in our sector suggests that many opportunities for creative businesses are directly linked to one another via supply chains and networks. The traditional government definition of increased headcount not only fails to reflect how many creative enterprises grow, but also neglects to recognise the highly collaborative nature of the Creative Industries.

These are just a couple of the top lines from our report, which will be released in late October. 

For more on these results and to stay in the loop with all the latest from the Federation, make sure you sign up to our newsletter. With our landmark International Summit in October, a series of practical workshops launching in November, and plenty to keep us busy on the policy front, theres lots to look forward to. 

The Creative Industries Federation is the national membership organisation for all the UK’s Creative Industries, cultural education and arts. To join or find out more, contact