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What Do We Need To Stimulate Growth in the South West’s Creative Sector? – Part 1

The creative industry sector is one of the largest wealth generators for Bristol, Bath and the surrounding area, with both cities having been recognised by NESTA as having established networks, and being ranked second out of the nine top creative cities outside London. Given the international success and reputation of some of the creative firms that reside in the south west of England, the SW LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and CBI (Confederation of British Industry) have placed growth in the creative sector at the heart of their economic development strategy.

In the first of four roundtable sessions commissioned by the SW LEP and organised in partnership with Bristol Media and Creative Bath, we seek to understand the business dynamics that exist within the UK’s creative sector, what spawns start-ups and the environment they need to thrive.

In attendance was Paul Appelby, chair of VID Communications and West of England LEP, Sammy Mansourpour from The Agency, Adam Powell Bath from Spa University, Dave Jarman from Bristol University, Ben Trewhella from Opposable Games, John Grinham advisor for SETsquared, Nicky Robertson from Mendip Media, Dave Kelly from Strom Consultancy, Richard Godfrey and Paul Cross from iPrinciples and Greg Ingham from MediaClash.

The UK and SW Creative Industry Landscape

Saman Mansourpour (The Agency) said that “within the UK’s creative industry there is clear separation between product and service offerings. Service businesses have always enjoyed a “low barrier to entry”, but whilst start-ups can get to proof-of-concept fast, they need management input, funding and infrastructure to get to the next level and deliver at scale.

Paul Cross (iPrinciples) noted that the US model for venture capital investment is far better than in the UK, having taken 8 companies from Bath to San Francisco, looking at incubators and meeting venture capitalists. “Investors here think mainly about revenue, but if you fail in the States the question is ‘what did you learn from that failure?’”

Richard Godfrey (iPrinciples) noted that there is a lack of understanding that start up projects will “fail” in purely monetary terms, but this is vital to innovation, experimentation and learning. Framing objectives and brokering relationships with funders is a key role.

The creative sector inhabits a dynamic landscape where technology, knowledge and the will to innovate combine to create great opportunities for small creative businesses. Companies should expect to expand and contract, regularly pause to review how things are, what’s missing, and what inputs they need. That’s the time to look for external interventions in the form of training courses, new staff, and non-executive directors. So in summary the creative sector requires one essential lifeline, and that’s regular access to a hotbed of talent.

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