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Designers Republic Singapore Feature

Spotlight on Sheffield

By The Drum | Administrator

March 6, 2008 | 6 min read

The cutting edge

Creative Sheffield was formed in April 2007 and, as it approaches its first birthday, the organisation has announced plans that suggest 2008 will be a defining year.

In January, it announced an ambitious economic masterplan that aims to create 30,000 new jobs, to build a £1.5million new business district and to work with Manchester and Leeds to generate the UK’s second economic growth pole.

Creative Sheffield chief executive, Ian Bromley, describes it as “the most authoritative business plan any UK city has seen,” adding that “Sheffield had the highest level of employment growth of all UK core cities during the ten years to 2005, with 73,000 new jobs, which shows the track record to deliver on our ambitions.”

One sector that looks set to benefit from the Economic Masterplan more than most is the CDI. Having enjoyed 19 percent growth since 2002, the CDI have been identified as the cornerstone of Creative Sheffield’s plans.

Blazing a trail

Brendan Moffett, marketing director at Creative Sheffield, believes the city’s rich and diverse creative community are a reflection of what Sheffield can offer. “With companies such as ZOOTech and Warp being based in Sheffield, and with bands such as the Arctic Monkeys, Reverend and the Makers and Richard Hawley all blazing a trail, we are very well placed to attract some of the most exciting and interesting businesses here.

“It is the right time for the CDI sector to come here: Sheffield city centre has a uniquely youthful population, with 43 per cent living there aged 20-34 years, compared to a national average of just 20 per cent.

“Coupled with this, the two universities are firmly committed to producing high calibre graduates to meet the demands of the growing CDI sector.

Remember that Sheffield Hallam university’s ‘Playstation’ degree was developed directly with Playstation and Sony themselves.”

As a sign of its commitment and in anticipation of the continued growth of the sector, Creative Sheffield is spearheading the Sheffield Digital Campus development located adjacent to the newly refurbished Sheffield Railway Station, in an area that is being referred to as the Digital Square Mile. The Campus will consist of 600,000 sq ft of grade A office space over three phases and will be a home for the CDI, film, design, interactive media and games companies.

Already underway is Electric Works, the first of five buildings that will form the Sheffield Digital Campus. The first company to have signed up to move into the new building is web 2.0 specialists, andymayer.net. Founder Andy Mayer says: “We were attracted to Electric Works for the networking opportunities it offers, sharing ideas with other companies in the creative community. The building is designed to bring the CDI community closer together and we anticipate Electric Works attracting the best minds in the sector.”

Exciting work spaces

The building, which offers hi-tech serviced and non-serviced business space to the region’s creative and digital industry, opens for business this autumn and is managed by Creative Space Management (CSM).

CSM MD Toby Hyam says: “Electric Works offers new types of exciting work spaces for the creative and digital industries as they work in a different way to other sectors. For instance, the building will have a 24-hour club that members can access and where they can work, meet and hold events.

“Electric Works will attract companies as small as one or two people right up to those with 50-plus staff, but all will have in common the need to work alongside other creative and leading edge technology experts.

“Electric Works is setting out on the path to become the hub for the region’s CDI sector which Creative Sheffield has championed recently in its Economic Masterplan. This sector’s growth is vital to the region’s economy, and Electric Works will become the nerve centre for the CDI community.”

Following Creative Sheffield’s announcement that it was putting the CDI sector at the core of the city’s economic future, events are set to become a regular fixture of the Sheffield calendar.

One such event is Utopia, a one-off project to promote and celebrate Sheffield’s Creative and Digital Industries (CDI) with the support from Creative Sheffield, Sheffield Digital Campus and Electric Works. It took place last week and attracted around 360 people to the Millennium Galleries and Winter Garden.

On show was the BAFTA award-winning ‘Dog Altogether’ from Warp Films and design work from agencies such as the Designers Republic, TADO and Finger Industries.

The Designers Republic’s Ian Anderson believes Sheffield has a lot to offer those working in the CDI. “Creativity is not bound by geography,” he says.

“We are not part of some regional ‘scene’. That notwithstanding, I’d say that for the gifted, the talented and the original, Sheffield is a remarkably good place to be located. The people are great, the city is inspiring and the costs of running a business are competitive. For the narrow-minded, the anodyne and the derivative it’s probably as bad as everywhere else.”

In addition, Sheffield is increasingly asked to host various major national and international events. One example is Doc/Fest, which is becoming a must-attend event for documentary film makers and producers from around the world.

“The focus on the Creative Industries that is happening in Sheffield right now is a very positive development,” says Doc/Fest’s Heather Croall. “One sector of the Creative Industries I am most impressed with here is in the area of digital/interactive media and games.

Affordability

“There’s a really good number of award-winning games and interactive media companies here. In general they are small to medium size companies and in many ways it has been the affordability of Sheffield that has allowed them to grow.”

Another event is Art Sheffield 08, which is attracting some very positive national press, and Sensoria, a new music and film festival to be launched in April. There is also Lovebytes (digital festival), Off The Shelf (literary festival), and Art in the Park, plus the Vivienne Westwood exhibition is being shown at the Millennium Galleries in May, the only other place it has been shown is London.

Moffett says: “The Masterplan has given us a clear focus, we’re playing to our strengths. Sheffield has a long history of design and innovation. Moving to a creative knowledge based economy suits us, with the backing of our two excellent Universities.”

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