Government unveils ambition to boost creative sector by £50bn: What it means for creative businesses

30th June 2023

The government’s long awaited creative industries sector vision has been launched with an aim to grow the creative industries by £50bn and support a million more jobs by 2030. Dan Martin looks at what it could for creative businesses, particularly those in the Bristol Creative Industries region. 

Describing the sector as “a global British success story”, prime minister Rishi Sunak’s foreward to the full vision document says:

“As well as projecting our values on the world stage, the creative industries drive our economy at home. The contribution they make has often been underappreciated. These industries generate £108 billion a year. Employ over 2.3 million people in every corner of the country. And there is a real sense of energy in the sector, which has grown at more than 1.5 times the rate of the wider economy over the past decade.”

The vision promises to drive growth by “facilitating innovation and investment, alongside building a skilled workforce”. It includes £77m in new government funding.

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer said:

“The imagination and ingenuity of British designers, producers, content creators, writers and artists are spearheading growth right across our economy.

“The government is backing our creatives to maximise the potential of the creative industries. This sector vision is about driving innovation, attracting investment and building on the clusters of creativity across the country. And from first days at school to last days of work, we will nurture the skills needed to build a larger creative workforce to harness the talent needed for continued success.

“Working with the industry this vision is helping the UK creative sectors go from strength to strength – providing jobs and opportunities, creating world leading content and supporting economic growth across the country.”

Funding for the creative industries

The vision outlines the following funding announcements:

Creative Industries Clusters programme

The government says it will invest at least £50m in the next wave of the Creative Industries Clusters programme. It will be used to identify and support at least six new clusters specialising in creative subsectors, helping entrepreneurs and businesses in these areas innovate with new technologies, secure investment, and access global markets.

Bristol and Bath is currently one of the clusters supported by the programme through Bristol & Bath Creative R&D.

Alongside the creative industries

sector vision, it was announced that 300 creative companies across the UK have received a share of £13m in government grants to help them innovate and reach their high growth potential.

Create Growth Programme

The government will increase the budget of the Create Growth Programme by £10.9m, bringing it to a total of £28.4m until 2025. It says the increased funding will enable it to double the number of regions it covers to 12 and support 2,000 businesses to commercialise their ideas and access resources, knowledge and private investment to scale.

The West of England is one of the six regions currently part of the programme. The other regions are Greater Manchester, East Anglia, North East England, South East and East Midlands.

Alongside the creative industries sector vision, Innovate UK announced 108 creative industry businesses across the six current regions that get a share in the latest £3m of funding from the programme. It includes the following 13 companies from Bristol and the West of England:

The next round of funding (£4m across the six regions) launches in autumn 2023. Keep an eye on our funding guide for the latest information.

In the West of England there is also a support scheme as part of the Create Growth Programme run by Watershed and West of England Combined Authority. It includes training, workshops and a £2,500 grant to spend on mentoring, consultancy and coaching.

The second cohort for the support scheme launches in May 2024. Register your interest here.

Creative Catalyst

Creative Catalyst is a £30m programme to help creative businesses commercialise their creative ideas.

Alongside the vision, Innovate UK announced a new partnership between the Creative Catalyst Programme and Creative UK. It will engage with key senior industry stakeholders and create exciting funding opportunities for small and micro businesses to address important industry challenges.

It also announced that the first Creative Catalyst sector-specific competition will focus on MusicTech. The £1m competition will launch later in the year.

Finally, Innovate UK announced over 200 creative companies across the UK that have received a share of £10m of innovation funding from the first round of Creative Catalyst. As part of the programme, the successful companies also will receive business growth support, join a peer network to encourage collaboration and have access to international missions to help expand their global ambitions.

The government said the majority of the funding has been provided to companies outside of the Greater South East including Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Cornwall.

Keep an eye on our funding guide for the latest information on the grants available through Creative Catalyst.

UK Games Fund

The UK Games Fund, run by UK Games Talent and Finance Community Interest Company, launched in 2015. It provides grants for prototype funding of up to £30,000 and supports graduate talent development.

The creative industries sector vision announces £5m in additional investment for the UK Games Fund which it says “will provide UK games studios with larger grants for content funding, supporting development of intellectual property that will allow companies to attract investment and reach their next stage of growth”.

Supporting Grassroots Live Music

The government will expand Arts Council England’s Supporting Grassroots Music Venues Fund by providing an additional £5m over two years to support around 400 grassroots music venues.

Music Exports Growth Scheme

Funding for the Music Exports Growth Scheme, which provides grants to support touring and help emerging musicians break into new global markets, will be expanded to £3.2m over the next two years. 

The most recent round of funding provided £500,000 to 28 UK artists including Bristol singer-songwriter Katy J Pearson.

Tax reliefs

The government referenced the announcement in the Spring Budget which reforms audio-visual reliefs into expenditure credits with a higher rate of relief than under the current system.

The vision added that the government is “considering the case for further targeted support for visual effects work, and will provide an update on this later in the year”.

Other investment

On securing investment the vision says:

“While parts of the creative industries are attractive to investors, many entrepreneurs and creative businesses find it hard to access investment. The value of creative businesses commonly lies in their intangible IP, which can be hard to value, and project-based business models often create peaks and troughs of activity and revenue.

“Moreover, some products such as music or films can be ‘hits’-based, with unpredictable consumer demand. These factors, coupled with a lack of market intelligence and data, can make creative businesses appear a risky proposition to investors.

“These challenges are felt more keenly outside of London, with early stage equity finance and venture capital investors much less prevalent. The government and industry will work together to improve data on investment into the sector, to improve benchmarking against other sectors, and to better understand new and emerging business models and their finance needs.”

It said creative businesses can access the British Business Bank’s regional investment funds which offer loans from £25,000 to £2m and equity investment up to £5m.

The Bank’s £200m South West Investment Fund launched in July. Aimed at businesses in Bristol, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, the fund provides:

  • smaller loans from £25,000 to £100,000.
  • debt finance from £100,000 to £2m.
  • equity investment up to £5m.

Find full details in our funding guide for creative businesses.

Skills and education in the creative industries

The creative industries sector vision pledges “a creative careers promise” to “build a highly-skilled, productive and inclusive workforce for the future, supporting one million more jobs across the UK“.

The vision adds:

“Over the previous decade, the creative industries’ workforce grew at almost five times the rate of the rest of the economy, and it has the potential to continue growing rapidly. There are a huge range of roles in the creative industries and collectively they are the jobs of the future: more resistant to automation, highly-skilled and highly rewarding.

“The sector also has high levels of project-based working and reliance on freelancers, who make up over a quarter of the total creative industries workforce (about double the whole-economy average).

“A skilled, inclusive and productive workforce is vital to ensuring creative businesses can adapt to changes, compete commercially and identify new areas to innovate and grow.”

Skills and diversity is a major challenge for the creative industries. The BCI-commissoned A Creative Force to Be Reckoned With report found that increasing diversity and inclusion is a significant priority for six in 10 (59%) creative firms in Bristol, but almost half (48%) said they want help finding diverse talent from underrepresented groups.

The government says it will:

  • Ensure that young people can access high-quality creative education.
  • Inspire the next generation of talent to consider a career in the creative industries.
  • Publish the Cultural Education Plan later this year, which will “set out a long-term approach to support cultural education and creativity in schools in England” to “tackle disparities in cultural engagement and support career pathways into the creative economy, including opportunities to engage with industry both in and out of school”.
  • Work together with industry to understand current levels of access to high-quality specialist arts, music and creative media provision for 14-19 year olds across England and explore options for enhancing access to existing and new providers.
  • Work with industry to ensure post-16 technical skills routes work effectively for the creative industries. This will include supporting the rollout of T-Levels in creative subjects and increasing provision and take-up of high quality creative apprenticeships.Support lifelong learning in the creative industries and enable the sector to retain and retrain the existing workforce by working with local and regional partners to maximise the opportunities of skills bootcamps and to develop local skills improvement plans across England.
  • Enhance support networks and resources for creative freelancers.
  • Ensure fair treatment, working practices and opportunities for all creative workers.

The vision highlighted Bristol Creative Industries member Boomsatsuma as a good example of creative skills training. It said:

“Boomsatsuma has identified opportunities to build on traditional models of education to better support creative employers. With a portfolio of 10 flexible further and higher education-level courses, Boomsatsuma aligns its offer with skills shortages faced by creative businesses across South West England, including rapidly growing Createch businesses in the region that are utilising digital and tech.

“Young people are nurtured through a system that guides them from school to college to a degree and into employment. It particularly suits young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not want to go down the conventional university route.”

Another example of giving young people the skills they need to access careers in the creative industries is the Bristol Creative Industries internship programme which supports 18-24-year-olds from underrepresented backgrounds.

As part of the programme in partnership with Babbasa, 14 creative companies from the BCI member community are providing full time paid placements to applicants in roles covering advertising, marketing, design, animation and digital.

Graphic from the vision document:

skills for a creative career

What the creative sector vision means for businesses in the Bristol Creative Industries region

Dr. Susan McMillan, an award-winning television producer and executive dean of Boomsatsuma, is a member of the Bristol Creative Industries board. She said:

“The Bristol Creative Industries board is looking forward to helping the city, its creative businesses and its education and training providers achieve the goals of the creative industries sector vision. The UK’s creative industries are so important to our future economy, generating £108bn a year, employing over 2.3 million people and growing at more than 1.5 times the rate of the wider economy.

In Bristol, creative industries employers make a unique contribution to the city’s identity and global reputation – think Aardman and the BBC Natural History Unit, as well as the multitude of creative companies producing everything from games to software.

“The report proposes that, as a sector, we can do more to unlock the growth potential and create opportunities for young people and the next generation of creative talent. Bristol Creative Industries is already doing that through our successful internship programme which is helping members access new and exciting creative talent. We plan to build on this success over the coming years.

“We are looking forward to working with our members on future initiatives to grow the sector, meet its skills needs for future talent and explore how the creative industries can contribute to addressing the big challenges of our day.”

Summary of creative industries sector vision goals

The vision has the following goals for 2030. Click the links to go to the relevant sections.

Goal 1: Grow creative clusters across the UK, adding £50 billion more in Gross Value Added (GVA).

Objectives are:

2030 innovation objective: increased public and private investment in creative industries’ innovation, contributing to the UK increasing its R&D expenditure to drive R&D-led innovation.

2030 investment objective: creative businesses reach their growth potential, powered by a step-change in regional investment.

2030 exports objective: creative businesses grow their exports and contribute to the UK reaching £1 trillion exports per year.

Goal 2: Build a highly-skilled, productive and inclusive workforce for the future, supporting one million more jobs across the UK.

Objectives are:

2030 education objective: a foundation of education and opportunities to foster creative talent from a young age.

2030 skills objective: stronger skills and career pathways generate a workforce that meets the industry’s skills needs.

2030 job quality objective: all parts of the creative industries are recognised for offering high quality jobs, ensuring a resilient and productive workforce that reflects the whole of the UK.

Goal 3: Maximise the positive impact of the creative industries on individuals and communities, the environment and the UK’s global standing.

Objectives are:

2030 wellbeing objective: creative activities contribute to improved wellbeing, help to strengthen local communities, and promote pride in place.

2030 environment objective: Creative industries play a growing role in tackling environmental challenges, helping the UK reach the targets set out in the Powering Up Britain plan.

2030 soft power objective: creative industries increase their reach to global audiences, strengthening the UK’s soft power and positive influence on the world.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on the creative industries sector vision, email Dan.


About Bristol Creative Industries

Bristol Creative Industries is the membership network that supports the region's creative sector to learn, grow and connect, driven by the common belief that we can achieve more collectively than alone. 

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