Innovation charity Nesta has launched its own manifesto to boost the creative industry.

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Innovation foundation Nesta has published its manifesto of plans to encourage the UK’s burgeoning creative sector.

The ten-point plan is designed to encourage investment and development in the creative industries by promoting digital technology, both within the business community and throughout education -building a competitive business environment which is home to a suitably skilled and able workforce.

As the report points out, the creative economy accounts for around a tenth of all value added in the UK economy and supports 2.5 million jobs - more than financial services, construction or even advanced manufacturing. This has made it one of the fastest-growing sectors in the nation’s economy, with a workforce growing four times faster on average than the whole.

But the sudden rise of digital technology in the past few years has caught the industry unawares in many respects. Traditional business models have been thrown out of the window, the report says, leaving a number of creative businesses facing a period of uncertainty and vulnerability. If the government does not take action now, Nesta warns, there is real potential for an early lead in the industry to be lost to emerging markets and stiff foreign competition.

Policymakers would be expected to build a “creative innovation” framework under the plan to organise their support of the creative industries, making sure that future decisions are taken in line with an overall set of priorities and outcomes in mind. This will in turn make sure that government initiatives are presented and delivered in a structured way to encourage innovation within the industry.

Access to finance is one of the key areas which Nesta suggests must be improved to boost the creative sector. The report voices concerns that creative firms are at a disadvantage when applying for existing government funding schemes and insists that Westminster should make sure programmes are not prejudiced against the creative sector. For those businesses that have turned to alternative sources for funding, such as crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending, the foundation recommends that the government develop new regulations to protect firms who choose to use these emerging methods.

Building on tax relief offered to the gaming and animation industries under the last two Budgets, Nesta recommends attracting investors to the UK with further tax breaks within research and development. Partnerships with research centres around the world must also be encouraged, while the government’s Technology Strategy Board should see its programmes extended to involve more creative businesses.

But looking towards a sustainable future for the creative industry in the UK, Nesta also recommends a renewed emphasis on the marriage between digital technology and creativity in the education system. The foundation wants the government to sign a Schools Digital Pledge to give every teenager the chance to engage with digital design, whether games, apps, animation or otherwise, to inspire a passion for creativity that will eventually help nurture the creative professionals of the future.

Moves to push the creative industry up the political agenda and increase investment in the sector are always good news for freelancers and contractors in the field. In a fast-growing industry facing technological change and the risk of a widening skills gap, it appears there will still be a demand for expertise in the digital sector which freelance workers are well placed to exploit.

By Victoria McDonnell

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