Growing the UK’s Creative Industries

The creative industries are the fastest growing sector in the UK economy, collectively responsible for generating £101.5 billion gross value added (GVA) to our economy – that’s a greater economic contribution than the UK’s automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined. But more than this, they drive and unlock innovation, deliver significant social impact, and invest heavily in the regeneration of communities throughout the UK. Despite these impressive figures, there is an issue when it comes to “growth,” with many creatives struggling to grow their businesses.  The Creative Industries Federation conducted a survey of over 1000 creative enterprises – businesses and creative freelancers – to look at what the issues and challenges are around growth.  The full report is available for download here https://bit.ly/2G0iVJt.  Below we have pulled out some key considerations and what Erin, Founder of WardWilliams Creative,  has to say about the nuanced subject of growth.

Growth and Creative Enterprises


“Creative enterprises share many of the challenges that are faced by the wider business community – lack of time, finance and funding, business support, and talent came out as top. But these challenges are particularly felt by those in the creative industries due to the high volume of self-employed workers, the micro size of creative enterprises, and the fact that Intellectual Property (IP) is their bread and butter. The creative industries rely on intangible assets, whichare far more difficult to value, communicate, protect,and export than tangibles, such as cars. This applies additional pressure to both creative enterprises lookingto grow and those looking to invest in and support their growth.”

A snapshot of survey data

  • Almost half (47%) of creative businesses selected lack of time to focus on growth as one of their main challenges and one in five (19%) selected this as their most significant challenge.
  • Two-fifths (38%) of creative businesses selected lack of finance as one of their top challenges, with one in five (18%) claiming it is their principal challenge.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of grant-funded organisations selected lack of finance/funding as one of their main challenges to growth, while over half (56%) selected lack of time as one of their most important challenges.
  • One in five (21%) creative businesses highlighted a lack of support and/or a lack of knowledge on where to find that support to grow as a key challenge.
  • More than one in ten (13%) creative businesses identified a lack of business skills as a key challenge. This is a particular issue for those on lower turnovers and freelancers.

Tough Decisions and Process

Erin contributed her thoughts on the challenges faced by creative industries when it comes time to grow and make tough decisions:

“Finding the right support is a huge challenge. Most creative businesses start out due to a passion for creating within a certain field. Usually they are focused on the innovation and creation sides of what they offer – so the business side gets tacked on when it’s necessary. Then, when the business is successful, the founder is exposed to situations and problems they may not have anticipated because they started out to create! Process is also a big challenge. When your business grows and the founder who up until now has been used to doing everything finds that the organisation is now too big for that to be possible, there is no process, no manual in place to guide them along the journey. Companies getting ready to grow need to get a process in place beforehand to minimise the disruption that rapid growth can lead to. At some point, there is a choice to be made by the founder. Do they want to continue to be the creative, which means handing the business side over? Or, if they want to continue to drive the ship, they need to step away from the creative side. It’s a hard choice but if they don’t pick one and try to do it all, the company can’t ever get past a certain size capacity and will be limited to one person’s abilities.”

Creative Industries Federation Report Recommendations

The report suggested the following recommendations 

  • Ensure creative enterprises continue to flourish in a post-Brexit UK
  • Safeguard and strengthen public investment and fiscal incentives to pump prime innovation
  • Recognise sustainable enterprise growth as vital to the growth of the UK economy
  • Tailor the finance and business support landscape to the needs of creative enterprises
  • Empower local authorities, city regions, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and industry to attract and support creative enterprises
  • Recognise creative education and skills development as a foundation for growth

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