NESTA has just released a new Manifesto for the Creative Economy

“UK policymakers too have failed to keep pace with [creative industries] developments in North America and parts of Asia. But it is not too late to refresh tired policies.”

It doesn’t seem aimed at influencing the government Spending Review (2015-16) which is now heaving itself toward a June completion. It seems more about briefing the relatively new Culture Minister (Maria Miller, in post for six months and floundering badly), and shaping the policies of whoever wins the General Election in 2015. As such it’s far more substantial than the “Manifesto” title suggests, weighing in at 128 pages, and with a wodge of tiny footnotes at the end. It opens with a useful summary of the UK’s post-1997 creative industries policies and various reactions to them among politicians and vested interests, and follows this up with a overview of the confusions over the UK’s creative industries employment statistics. A breakout page here summarises interesting recent research done in Brighton, which seems to show just how little creative industries business activity shows up at the level of national statistics…

“researchers have identified over 1,500 creative and digital media businesses in Brighton, and have used these companies’ SIC [UK tax] codes to study the extent to which the current DCMS [UK government] industrial classifications cover the sector. Only just over one quarter (27.2 per cent) of them are covered by the DCMS’s classification.”

The researchers also looked at…

“…the activities of the 60 respondents in the two software–related SIC codes [UK tax codes, recently] dropped by DCMS [from the cultural industries statistics], we find video games studios, web designers and developers, social network marketing companies, and digital agencies which combine technology and design capabilities to offer advertising and marketing services, and even BAFTA nominees.”

The local aspects of the UK response to creative clusters are addressed on pp.58-62…

“There have been many place–based interventions aimed at creating entrepreneurial networks where wider informal learning can take place. Universities have also tried to nurture some of these creative clusters, not least by providing incubators and facilities for creative start–ups and spin–outs. The track record of these initiatives is patchy to say the least.” […] importing “templates for ‘cookie cutter’ creative clusters and cities in some parts of the UK, with returns which are, as yet, far from clear.”

“the challenges of shoehorning creative businesses into mainstream innovation support mechanisms has led to the development of small–scale but more targeted initiatives aimed at encouraging creative innovation. […] they are fragmented and do not solve the fundamental mismatch between the needs of the creative economy and the approach of mainstream innovation support.” […] “innovative creative businesses with the greatest growth potential will often be those with the least time to meet [with advisors, or to value generic business advice]”.

“Seeking to take a budding or ‘latent’ creative cluster to its next level is a better idea than trying to spawn one from scratch.” [but] “discrete interventions will rarely be enough to support sustainable growth in a cluster — it is important to pay attention to the whole system. [what is also needed is to] “develop the dense web of networks that are conducive to clusters, innovation and growth” [while] “it is important to minimise the risk of capture by local vested interests”.