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2. Evidence and Lobbying: How the UK’s Creative Industries policy and research ecosystem developed during the 2010s

Published onNov 29, 2023
2. Evidence and Lobbying: How the UK’s Creative Industries policy and research ecosystem developed during the 2010s

Introduction: A brief history of the UK’s Creative Industries policy and research ecosystem from 2000-2010

The Creative Industries were first mapped by the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 1998, the same year that Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury (then UK Secretary of State for DCMS) published his seminal book ‘Creative Britain’ (DCMS 1998; Smith 1998; 2013). This book, and the Government’s mapping, looked to make a newly defined sector - comprising those businesses that were dependent for their success on “artistic creativity” - more central to UK policy making. This was not only because of the economic advantages of doing so but because they recognised that many creative sub-sectors also produced social benefits within their local communities, and at a national level. Coming shortly after the landslide victory of Tony Blair at the 1997 General Election, this mapping exercise drew from a feeling of economic and social optimism within government – but it also reflected Smith’s very distinct interest in this area of the economy, alongside that of a small group of advisors working with him (Gross 2020). 

In 2001, this initial mapping was updated and the sector was re-defined as “Those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (DCMS 2001). This was partly in recognition of the legal framework to protect Intellectual Property – essential for monetising the innate creativity of the sector and particularly important to emphasise in the early 2000s, as music streaming services - initially in the form of peer-to-peer file sharing services like Napster - were being developed, challenging commercial and legal orthodoxies (Mark 2023).

Over the subsequent years the academic and political interpretations of the sector became more debated and nuanced, both in the UK and abroad. The developing academic debate can be seen by looking at the expanding literature over this time period (cf. Pratt 2008; Work Foundation 2007; United Nations 2008), while the increasing level of political debate is indexed by the number of times the sector was mentioned in UK Parliament over this period (Fig 1). Political interest in the sector was also emerging elsewhere in the world, including notably in South Korea and Australia (Flew and Cunningham 2010; Yong Jin 2012).

Fig. 1. Mentions of the Creative Industries in Hansard, the official report of all Parliamentary debates, from 1/1/2000 to 31/12/2009[1]

As might be expected, alongside this increasing scholarship and political debate, several sector-focussed groups and organisations were set up over the course of the 2000s to provide creative businesses and communities with different types of support. Some of these were international – such as the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, which promoted creative co-operation in cities around the world.[2] Some were much more domestically focused: the Creative Rural Industries Consortium was created in 2006 to promote culture and creative networking in rural areas in the UK.[3]

2010 marked an important milestone in the trajectory of the UK’s Creative Industries, with the publication of the first mapping of “creative clusters” by Innovation Foundation Nesta (Chapain et al. 2010).[4] This highlighted the benefits creative businesses gained from being physically close to one another (‘clustered’) – for example, that co-location made them more able to share staff and services. The research also confirmed that London was not the only creative hotspot in the UK, identifying nine others. 2010 was also the year that the remits of both Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council were inherited by a new organisation – Creative Scotland – part of a move towards a Creative Industries approach in Scotland: the arms-length body would from that point fund organisations across the screen and arts sub-sectors (Creative Scotland 2023).[5] Conversations about the Creative Industries were not only progressing in the UK. At the European level, the European Commission published a Green Paper in 2010 which overtly embraced the creative sector entitled ‘Unlocking the potential of cultural and Creative Industries’ (European Commission 2010). It highlighted other European efforts to support the Creative Economy, for example those policies being introduced in Estonia and those endorsed by the Nordic Council.

The remainder of this paper tracks the development of this policy-facing ecosystem, and the evidence base it sought to bring into existence, across three key organisations: The Creative Industries Council (founded 2011); The Creative Industries Federation (2014); and the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (2018). It ends with some reflections on what has been gained through this process and some lessons to take forward.

CIC: The Creative Industries Council (2011)

The Creative Industries Council (CIC) was set up by the UK Government in 2011 to provide a singular industry and government forum that could support partnership working, stimulate policy and industry change. Its launch marked an important moment in the history of the UK’s creative sector; in many ways it was the culmination of the previous decade of research and policy work. The Council was announced as part of the UK’s Government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, which “identified ways to increase economic growth in key industries such as music, film and video games” (UK Government 2011a). This plan was published alongside the announcement of new Creative Industries focussed tax incentives in the 2011 Budget, which was delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.[6] This was the second budget of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government that had been formed the year before. The first budget had introduced sweeping spending cuts to bring down the UK’s deficit, and this second budget was focussed on “reforming the nation's economy, so that we have enduring growth and jobs in the future”, with a particular interest in growing enterprise, explaining the newfound focus on the Creative Industries as a now demonstrable high growth area of the economy (BBC 2011).

The foundation of this Council suggested that the sector had ‘come of age’ and was now recognised as a strategic priority. Equally, it hinted that the new coalition Government saw the opportunity to formalise and publicise their relationship with the sector as a way of marking a break with the previous thirteen years of Labour leadership. This is indicated by the language used in a parliamentary debate at that time.[7] The Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the arts in the House of Lords, Baroness Bonham Carter of Yarnsbury, described the Council’s remit as to “engage with the industry in—this is crucial, and here I steal a new Labour term—a joined-up way”. The response from the Labour party peer Lord Macdonald of Tradeston all but confirms this suspicion, at least from the perspective of those in his party:

My Lords, as I recall, the term “Creative Industries” was first coined by the new Labour Government back in 1997 to define activities that deserved strong support. The subsequent growth over the years until 2010 was, I believe, among the finest achievements of Labour in power. No doubt this debate—I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, on initiating it—will help make the measure of Labour’s success more familiar to your Lordships.

The same debate also suggests the importance of evidence in making the case for such a Council: Baroness Bonham Carter overtly links its creation to research from Nesta which indicates the potential economic contribution of the Creative Industries “could grow to £85 billion by 2013 creating 150,000 jobs”. Such links make clear that the sector and its associated policy ecosystem were viewed, at least within the political establishment, as something of a New Labour project.

Beginning its work in July 2011, then, the Creative Industries Council was chaired by Business Secretary Vince Cable and consisted of leading figures from across the sector alongside the UK Government’s Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey (given the nature of the coalition government it was critical to have representatives from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties) (UK Government 2011b). Since its launch, the Council’s Terms of Reference (Creative Industries Council 2022) have clarified a more comprehensive set of ambitions, to:

●      Enable close working between industry and government on issues relevant to the Creative Industries;

●      Represent, champion and support the Creative Industries;

●      Highlight the significant impact the Creative Industries make to the UK economy;

●      Address key concerns and opportunities for the Creative Industries with a view to boosting their growth and competitiveness;

●      Develop and promote practical action and policies to address key priorities for the sector;

●      Address social and cultural issues affecting the sector.


The council met once in 2011, and meetings have been recorded two to three times each year thereafter (although its Terms of Reference suggests aiming to meet three to four times per annum). Edited meeting notes have historically been published by the Government to ensure transparency (DCMS n.d.), although notes from recent meetings have not yet been made available.[8] 


Work on the Sector Deal and Sector Vision

The two most notable successes of the Creative Industries Council are the ‘Creative Industries Sector Deal’ (2018) and ‘Creative Industries Sector Vision’ (2023) – both papers with growth objectives and policy supports agreed between the industry members of the Council (as the sector’s representatives) and the Government of the day.

The Creative Industries Sector Deal was one of a number of Sector Deals made as part of the Conservative Government’s Industrial Strategy in 2018 (DDCMS/BEIS 2018). These deals were partnerships between government and industry aiming to increase sector productivity, with the first Sector Deals in life sciences, construction, artificial intelligence, and the automotive sectors. In the Creative Industries Sector Deal, commitments were made under four themes: places; ideas; business environment; people. Each of these themes referenced the Government’s ambitions (e.g., one ambition in the ‘Business Environment’ section was to “Boost job creation: higher than average growth rate implies 600,000 new creative jobs by 2023”). The Deal then set out the action the Government was taking to help achieve this goal (e.g. “we will establish a new Creative Industries Trade and Investment Board, with at least £4m from existing Department for International Trade budgets to support exports in 2018/19”) as well as an action that ‘industry’ had agreed to take (e.g. “Industry will help to train and educate SMEs and microbusinesses on how to police their content and products online and investigate partnerships between small and large players to assist in enforcement”).

The way in which the Sector Deals required commitment from industry made the Council indispensable. They were involved from the outset - the Council championed the Creative Industries as a priority for a ‘Sector Deal’ in the first place, their influence undoubtably enabled through having Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and DCMS Secretaries of States as Co-Chairs (Creative Industries Council 2017). Others could also advocate for the sector’s inclusion – for example, the Creative Industries Federation was making this case directly to policymakers in DCMS and BEIS. However, the CIC was structured in such a way that Government could include them as co-signatories of the Deal (as they would also be for the later Sector Vision) (DDCMS/BEIS 2018). Put simply, given the extremely high number of freelancers and micro businesses in the Creative Industries, having an official forum which brought key industry players together enabled the sector to benefit from this type of Government scheme. If the Council had not existed, it seems likely that the Government would have defaulted to working with those industries with a few leaders that it could more easily negotiate with – the UK automotive sector for example.

The Council was equally critical to the later Sector Vision, although this wasn’t an overt part of a larger industrial strategy programme. This is because the Vision followed a similar model, making £77m of spending commitments (Fig 2.) alongside other actions and ambitions that needed to be co-signed by the Council as industry representatives (DCMS 2023).


Fig. 2. Spending commitments made as part of the ‘2023 Creative Industries Growth Moment’ in the Creative Industries Sector Vision (DCMS 2023)

Working groups

From its earliest years, the Creative Industries Council had a number of detailed working groups which focussed on issues ranging from internationalisation to skills, to access to finance (Creative Industries Council 2013a). Throughout the lifetime of the CIC the topics covered in these have varied. For example, in 2014 the working groups were on access to finance; international; education and skills; infrastructure; and intellectual property (Creative Industries Council 2014). In 2022 they were on regions and clusters; education and skills; intellectual property; R&D and innovation; diversity; trade and investment; and research and evidence (i.e., the Technical Working Group).

These groups not only allowed the development of the detailed thematic work which fed into the Sector Deal and Sector Vision, but have provided an ongoing environment in which civil service officials can discuss emerging ideas with industry representatives. This is in part because, whilst the Council’s meeting notes are published, these working groups have been able to operate in a more independent and private manner. It is also because membership of these groups has historically included experts who are not members of the Creative Industries Council itself, as agreed by the Chairs of each group (including the author of this paper).

The Apprenticeship Levy is one example of a critical policy changed by the intervention of a CIC Working group. The Levy was initiated by the UK government in April 2017, and required all employers paying a wage bill of more than £3 million per year to pay 0.5% of their payroll each month as a levy tax unless they reinvested this money back into their workforce in the form of Apprenticeship training (The Apprentice Academy n.d.). However, there were issues in making this work for the Creative Industries – a point that the Council was critical in making to Government: it was misaligned with existing voluntary training options, and vouchers could not be shared with the SMEs that make up the majority of the sector, as indicated by the 2018 parliamentary debate on the subject (UK Government 2021).[9] However, their Skills and Education group (and a sub-group they set up on T-Levels and Apprenticeships) was able to do the close working with policymakers that was required to secure opportunities to run more flexible apprenticeships which better suited the needs of the sector.

Over time, these working groups have gone through several changes, with the most significant being a recent move away from sitting working groups to task-and-finish groups identifying specific ambitions (for example a group working towards a cross-industry Diversity charter or a cross-industry Climate Charter). This suggests a desire to build from the working groups’ successes up to this point and to better harness their power. This is further suggested by the fact that, in 2018, the international working group was developed into an independent Creative Industries Trade and Investment Board, with a remit to “promote UK creative industry exports and inward investment” (Creative Industries Council 2023). More recently, as part of the Sector Vision, a Climate task-and-finish group was set up to work on an industry-led Creative Climate Charter (DCMS 2023).[10]


Defining the Creative Industries

The Creative Industries Council has only occasionally funded and commissioned its own research (for example, in 2022 the industry members worked with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre to commission a paper about how and why local authorities and LEPs in England are supporting the growth of the creative industries in their areas (Fleming 2022). However, the earliest published minutes recorded from Council meetings (from 2013) demonstrate an ongoing interest in data and measurement (Creative Industries Council 2013b).

Critically, the Council supported an updated definition of the Creative Industries in 2014, which has been used by the UK Government since this time (DCMS 2014). This definition adopted Nesta’s Dynamic Mapping approach, which considers whether a sub-sector has a high percentage of their workforce employed in creative occupations (Bakhshi et al. 2013). This change brought to the fore the skills challenges facing the sector, and the fluidity of roles both between Creative Industries sub-sectors, and between the Creative Industries and other areas of the economy.

This definition includes the following sub-sectors:

●      Advertising and marketing

●      Architecture

●      Crafts

●      Design and designer fashion

●      Film, TV, video, radio, and photography

●      IT, software and computer services

●      Publishing

●      Museums, Galleries and Libraries[11]

●      Music, performing and visual arts.


As with previous UK versions, this definition includes both for-profit businesses and non-profit organisations; for example, it includes firms such as fashion label Burberry and Aardman Animations, the producers of Wallace and Gromit, as well as the BBC and the National Gallery. As such, the Council has always had representatives from publicly funded organisations as well as individuals representing either private companies or groups of companies.

Whilst this has been the dominant definition of the Creative Industries used by the Creative Industries Council, Westminster policymakers and in British scholarship for eight years (allowing the Government, researchers and industry bodies to interrogate broadly comparable data on GVA and employment), other definitions of the sector do exist in the UK, including that currently used by the Scottish Government (2023; Brook et al. 2020). More broadly, the definition has been the subject of academic debate since its first usage. Definitional debates are by no means specific to the Creative Industries, and it is possible to articulate many different reasons for these discussions. One of these specific to the sector is a discomfort with the focus on capitalistic production rather than social or cultural value (Mould 2018); another, that notions of creative intensity draw analytic and policy attention away from the support work that goes on inside organisations and along the value chain (Bennett 2020);[12] a third - common in discussions regarding the publicly funded arts and/or the software sector, including amongst those sitting on the Creative Industries Council - is a suggestion that the sector is just too broad for cohesive policy support.

One point of interest about this move to a skills-based definition was that, in theory, it allowed greater discussion of the creative workforce, and to this end went hand-in-hand with a greater consideration of the Creative Economy. The UK definition of the Creative Economy encompasses both those sectors that are part of the Creative Industries and those working in creative occupations outside of the Creative Industries - for example, designers working in the manufacturing sector (Fig 3.). However, given the focus on industrial strategy in the UK, most of the significant commitments at the UK level have been made using the language of the Creative Industries rather than the Creative Economy, as this has aligned best with the Government’s overall approach and, indeed, was best supported by the existence of groups like the Council (UK Government n.d.).

Fig 3. Defining the Creative Economy in the UK (Pinoncely and Washington-Ibieme 2019)


Remaining areas of concern for the Creative Industries

By the mid-2010s the UK Creative Industries sector was more clearly defined, had built political capital, and was supported by a growing research base and a number of sector organisations. However, given the sector’s size and importance to the UK economy, many in the Creative Industries felt they were still ‘punching below their weight’ in the political sphere. Specifically, conversations between some sector leaders had begun to focus on the ability of the sector to lobby in those areas where they disagreed with the Government (from May 2015 this was a solely Conservative Government, rather than a coalition Government). As the Creative Industries Council was initially chaired by a Government minister, and latterly co-chaired by an industry representative and at least one Government minister, it was inevitably best suited to areas where Government and industry both believed investment or change was needed - for example, in growing creative clusters, or increasing exports. However, there remained areas where the views of many in the sector diverged more dramatically from that of the government of the day (Cameron 2014; Easton and Di Novo 2023). Although independent membership bodies had existed for many of the creative sub-sectors for decades (e.g. the Publishers Association, which was founded 1896 (Barker 1971) or UKIE, the membership group for the video games industry, which has its origins in the 1980s (UKIE 2023), a significant group of individuals had begun to feel that they needed to work in a pan-sector alliance to convince the Government to change tact on critical issues like education. This group “bemoaned the fact that UK creativity is the one calling card that defines us internationally but we were all still working in silos and not as one coherent voice” (Kampfner 2015).

Another area of remaining concern was the availability of research on the Creative Industries. Sir Peter Bazalgette’s (2017) independent review of the Creative Industries for the UK Government noted that “Countries around the world already regard the UK as a leading authority on Creative Industries policy and metrics. Our measurement and mapping tools continue to generate interest from countries such as South Korea, Australia and Norway”. This was undoubtedly true - by the mid-2010s the UK had built an impressive library of Creative Industries research, and UK consultancies, universities and charities were supporting nations around the world with their own research on this subject. As such, in his paper Bazalgette recommended that “Government, academia and industry should establish a Global Creative Industries Observatory within the UK to cement our position as the leading international authority on Creative Industries strategy and policy for, and measurement of, this sector”.

However, others in UKRI (the non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom that directs research and innovation funding), the Creative Industries Council, broader industry and in the research sector felt that the level and quality of evidence in the UK was not yet good enough for a new organisation with solely an observatory function. A growing number of university departments, charities like Innovation Foundation Nesta, and consultancies like BOP Consulting, were focused on the sector. However, funding for research on the Creative Industries was still not as readily available as that in other areas. In a paper on cultural policy Hasan Bakhshi, at that time based at Nesta, wrote that “There are enough evidence-related, including statistical, challenges here to keep a culture department and cultural policy analysts busy for some time” (Bakhshi and Cunningham 2016). The same might equally have been said for other creative sub-sectors or other key policy areas. Moreover, whilst discourse around the geography of the sector, skills in the sector and intellectual property had been rapidly growing, there were still some areas which were relatively unexplored by academics, in particular in the area of internationalisation (Fazio 2019). The referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union in 2016, and subsequent ‘Brexit’ in 2020 only made the need for detailed data and thoughtful analysis on trade and migration more urgent.

These two remaining questions - how to give more independent lobbying heft to the sector and how to improve the quantity and quality of independent research - led to the founding of two organisations over the 2010s. As a founding team member of both of these organisations, I want to discuss here how they aimed to solve the issues already raised in this paper and consider the lessons others might learn from their experience.

CIF: The Creative Industries Federation (2014)

The speech made at the launch of the Federation indicates the place of the sector in public discourse in 2014. By this time the Creative Industries were garnering interest from policymakers, as demonstrated by the presence of the (then) Chancellor of the Exchequer - George Osborne - alongside representatives from all of the major political parties (Pratt 2014). Still, the speeches made that night highlighted how those who had founded the Federation felt that the Creative Industries were still struggling to turn this interest into the policy action they felt was required. Speaking at the launch event at London’s Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, John Kampfner, the Federation's first Director, said: “Why are the Creative Industries so successful worldwide yet struggle to be heard at home? Why is creative education so denigrated when it is providing the next generation of talent?” (Kampfner 2014).

The Director’s speech at the launch party also indicated how the Federation’s approach would contrast with that of the Creative Industries Council: “The Federation will bring together the public arts and commercial creative companies”, Kampfner said, “it will be fearless in challenging politicians and the industry to understand that Britain’s success is imperilled if we fail to invest in our arts and cultural education”. As suggested by this, the ambition of the Federation was to give “fearless” political clout to a sector that had at that time been the fastest growing part of the UK economy over the last decade - meaning that it would publicly and privately lobby the government of the day for improved conditions for the sector. Like the Creative Industries Council, the Federation also made a key part of its mission the bringing together of the publicly funded parts of the sector with those that were more commercially focused. As Kampfner put it, “these different sectors are absolutely interdependent on each other - you can’t have a successful commercial sector without investing in education, training and publicly funded organisations”.

The desirability for such a voice from industry’s perspective can be seen not only by looking at the impressive board which set up the Federation, but also by the fact that more than 200 so-called “founder supporters” funded early development before the membership scheme launched in January 2015 (Creative Industries Federation n.d.).


Policy priorities

As indicated by Kampfner’s speech, from its foundation the Federation focused on those areas where the views of many in the sector differed most dramatically from the Government of the day. In its first year, these foci included public investment in the arts (and their importance for the wider creative sector), and the concerning trends around fewer children, particularly at school in England, taking creative subjects (education is a devolved priority in the UK) (Easton 2015; Easton and Neelands 2015). Of course, across the lifetime of the Federation these priorities would shift and change, with other priorities including Public Service Broadcasting, Higher Education policy, the impact of Brexit, freelancers and diversity (see Fig. 4 for a 2017 snapshot of these priorities).

There was no uniform way in which the Federation collected or responded to these priorities - the Policy and Research teams worked alongside the membership team to understand sectoral concerns (mostly through in-person meetings with members, although surveys were intermittently used), but the team also made their own judgements about those areas of policy most likely to impact the sector. The majority of priority areas were driven by the membership’s frustration with the Conservative Government’s policy direction - although work on diversity and freelancers were focussed on both industry and policy change (Easton 2015b; Easton and Cauldwell French 2017).

Fig. 4. Creative Industries Federation priorities from 2017


Core activities

In order to ‘make the case’ in these priority areas the Federation prioritised two activities.

First, it looked to produce its own evidence which could attract industry, policy, and media attention. This research would be published alongside clear policy recommendations that the sector could rally behind. That is why the Federation published its first piece of research just five months after launch: a partnership with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) which showed that, at that time, 36.5% of top engineers had art or design as an A or AS level and 35.4% played a musical instrument (Easton 2015a). Using this evidence the Federation suggested that a lack of proper arts education might damage civil engineering as much as it hurt the Creative Industries and suggested ways in which the Government could turn the tide on the dwindling numbers doing arts subjects at schools. The ‘Creative Education Agenda’ combined a clear call for action with criticism of the Government’s current approach, and new evidence which not only pushed forward the debate but also enabled the research to get media traction (Richens 2015).

Across its lifetime the Creative Industries Federation followed this formula and published research in conjunction with policy/industry influencing campaigns on a number of subjects. In fact, in just its first year, the Federation published three additional papers: ‘Creative Diversity’, ‘How public investment in arts contributes to growth in the Creative Industries’ and submitted evidence to the Government on the BBC (Easton 2016). The latter two of these responded to critical areas of concern regarding the direction of the Government - namely that austerity measures had limited much-needed investment in the arts and that the Conservative Government's long standing distrust of the BBC might lead them to change how it was funded and disempower the organisation, and harm the wider sector as a result. The focus on industry in the piece on arts funding was not an accident; this was a strategic choice as it was felt this would best chime with the ambition of the Conservative government to boost productivity and grow the economy.

The other major priority for the Federation was its policy work, which initially focused on conversations with leaders in the Government and the opposition, as well as high ranking officials. These would often be synchronised with the research agenda - for example, following the launch of the paper on creative education the Federation held a high level private roundtable with Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP at the Institution of Civil Engineers, which brought together representatives from across the creative sector, as well as individuals from the engineering sector who had been part of the original research. Other political events in the first year of the Federation included a Creative Industries hustings with representatives from five political parties; a speech by Ed Miliband MP (then Leader of the Opposition); an event with the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan; four events with then-Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, and a speech by Scotland’s then-Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP.

All of these public events were supported by numerous conversations behind closed doors with relevant elected politicians and senior officials, and were initially enabled by the existing networks of Federation leaders (including the board and Chief Executive), although the team quickly built their own relationships. One thing which made this level of access possible was the way in which the Federation enabled policymakers to consider a large area of the economy in a single interaction. Whilst those policymakers working, for example, in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (like long-running DCMS Minister, Ed Vaizey) might have had capacity to build individual relationships with each trade body, time-poor MPs were attracted to the idea of being able to understand the concerns of many sub-sectors in one meeting or address a large group of sub-sectors at a single event.

Other priorities - outside of London and broader representation

In the first years of the Federation there was also a recognition of the need to ensure that those creative organisations based outside of London felt they had a voice on the policy issues that mattered to them. This was historically lacking in the UK context, which is perhaps unsurprising as - according to the available definitions - London and the Greater South East (London, East and South East of England) represent 54% of Creative Industries employment, 62% of CI businesses and 74% of CI economic output (GVA), despite being home to just 26% of the British population (DCMS n.d.; 2022a; 2022b; ONS n.d.). It was also the case that membership of the CIC had primarily been dominated by national organisations with London headquarters. To try and ensure better representation for those in clusters outside of the capital, in their first year of operation the Federation held seven events outside of London - in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, East Anglia, Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle Gateshead (Easton 2016). This was also in recognition of a contemporary political push for investment outside of the capital (e.g. the Chancellor George Osborne coined the term ‘Northern Powerhouse’ the year the Federation launched) (Alliance MBS 2023).

At the same time, the Federation’s focus on partnership working with members increased. One benefit of this was it enabled the Federation to hear from a greater diversity of creative businesses about the issues they were facing. The strength of the Creative Industries Council was that it provided a forum with a small number of leaders who could present a sectoral view to the Government. However, this small group could inevitably never represent all Creative Industries companies’ views, and the Federation’s operating model meant they could in theory represent a greater diversity of practitioners - meaning they actively aimed to involve people who did not feel represented by the CIC, for example those at a variety of points in their careers (e.g. just starting out or nearing retirement), freelancers, those who were not white, and those who were working class.

In addition, the Federation could also represent a group of organisations which were not technically creative businesses themselves, but nevertheless whose business models were based on the activity of CI businesses - for example, law firms specialising in Intellectual Property, or the large numbers of higher and further education (HE and FE) institutions who are training the creative practitioners of tomorrow. In the first few years of the Federation, a HE and FE working group was set up, chaired by then-Vice-Chancellor of University of Arts London Sir Nigel Carrington, to specifically take forward this cohort’s concerns. Of course, ensuring members were aware of the work the Federation was doing was also incredibly important as the organisation was, at this time, solely funded by its membership.

Over time, the purpose and focus of the Federation shifted and changed. The most notable change came in September 2019 when it was announced it would be merging with Creative England, becoming ‘Creative UK’ (a move which finally took place in 2021). Creative England was set up in 2011 as the first national development organisation for the Creative Industries, consolidating a number of regional screen agencies, and had been primarily an organisation focussed on providing practical training opportunities and funding (Creative UK 2022; Oakley and O’Connor 2015). This merger aimed to combine “the industry insights and advocacy work of the Federation, with the practical support and investment work of Creative England” (Creative UK 2022).

Creative PEC: The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (2018)

Coming four years after the launch of the Creative Industries Federation, the rationale for the creation of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (Creative PEC) was clear - many UK policy-makers and industry leaders (including those represented by both the Creative Industries Federation and the Creative Industries Council) felt they didn’t have the evidence they needed to make the best arguments and decisions possible when it came to Creative Industries policy. Put simply, the political need for research was outstripping the growth in the number of academics working in this area, as well as the level of research being published by consultancies and membership organisations like the Creative Industries Federation.

This provided justification for funding a Centre aiming to incentivise a jump in the level of evidence on the sector, announced in the 2014 Creative Industries Sector Deal (the writing of which had made visible the gap in evidence), with funding secured ahead of this date as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (DDCMS/BEIS 2018).

How to achieve robust and independent evidence, in an under-resourced research area, was less clear. An observatory model didn’t fit the bill, for reasons previously discussed. At the same time, with such limited resources it was clear that funding towards new research would need to be carefully channelled, avoiding the frequent pitfalls of missing political timeframes or framing research in a way which didn’t make sense to policymakers.

Centre design and workstrands

After a tender process, won by Nesta alongside a set of University partners, the Creative PEC was launched publicly in November 2018 with the express intention to achieve a “step-change for three main stakeholders – industry, policymakers and the wider research community – in the quality of evidence for the Creative Industries, tasking some of the best researchers across the UK with answering some of the most pressing questions about the sector” (Nesta 2022). This meant the Creative PEC was explicitly embracing a triple-helix model of innovation (although not necessarily using that expression), by prioritising University-Industry-Government (U-I-G) interactions (Etzkowitz and Zhou 2017).

The Centre was designed as a network of over 30 co-investigators covering multiple disciplines and based in 10 research universities, spanning the nations and regions of the UK (Fig. 5), with a central team led by the Director at Nesta. The Creative PEC, it was agreed, would also commission and co-commission work from other experts outside of the consortium, in recognition of the quality of research taking place across the UK and across different types of institutions.

Initially the work of the Creative PEC was both structurally and publicly organised by five work strands:

  1. Creative Clusters and Innovation, led by Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at Sussex University

  2. Skills, Talent and Diversity, led by the Work Foundation, Lancaster University (and latterly by Work Advance, a consultancy created by leading academics from the Work Foundation)

  3. Intellectual Property, Business Models, Access to Finance and Content Regulation, led by CREATe at Glasgow University

  4. Arts, Culture and Public Service Broadcasting, led by The School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University

  5. Creative Industries and International Competitiveness, led by Newcastle University Business School.

Each of these work strands had a nominated lead at the appropriate institution who was charged with overseeing those pieces of research in their work strand’s themes taking place across the consortium, as well as supporting the commissioning and co-commissioning of research in those themes outside of the Creative PEC. Each work strand lead, alongside the Centre Director and Research Director, also had a place on the Creative PEC Management Board and worked closely with the Creative PEC’s Policy Unit on prioritisation and communication.

Over time, the Creative PEC would publish a rearticulated version of their themes with a focus on making them accessible to an external audience (Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre n.d.). These simplified themes were:

●      Geography of the Creative Industries

●      The Value of Arts and Culture

●      International, Trade, and Immigration

●      Skills, Jobs and Education

●      Intellectual Property and Regulation

●      R&D and Innovation

●      Diversity and Inclusion

●      Business Models and Access to Finance

●      Public Service Broadcasting

●      Cross-cutting


Fig. 5. The Creative PEC Consortium in 2018[13]

Approach to policy impact

The Creative PEC saw the key to its success as not only ensuring it produced quality academic research, but in enabling the Director and Policy Unit to guide funding directly to those pieces of research that could answer policy-critical questions within the timeframe in which they needed to be addressed. The Policy Unit was intended to have strong and trusting relationships with policymakers, ensuring the research could have impact, but also allowing for embedded policy work within relevant departments.

The Policy Unit also introduced a campaigning approach to the Creative PEC: having consulted industry and policymakers on priorities, they went about drawing up a timeline of when critical political decisions were likely to be made. The fact they were funded by the Government itself helped to facilitate many of these initial conversations. The Policy Unit then used this information to develop a ‘Policy Campaigns Planner’, which organised the year into a number of campaigns in which multiple pieces of research would be published on the same subject over a short time frame. These were timed to feed into specific policy opportunities.

An example of this is the Creative Places campaign of July 2021, in which the Creative PEC published seven pieces of content over a week, including a summary policy briefing (Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre 2021). The timing of this campaign was decided to ensure there was time to feed the published papers and their recommendations into an upcoming Spending Review, as well as the UK Government’s flagship paper ‘Levelling Up the United Kingdom’ which was published in February the subsequent year (and which did ultimately reference PEC research) (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities 2022).



Industry Champions

As a research centre, the Creative PEC wanted to work not only on behalf of the Creative Industries but have industry insights and representation embedded within the Centre design. To meet this need, the PEC agreed with the CIC that they would have a representative on each Working Group, but in recognition of the need to consult with the breadth of the sector, the Creative PEC also introduced a network of Industry Champions. These Champions were a diverse group of around 80-100 creative practitioners from across the UK, chosen on the basis of their unique experiences in their roles - so one might be a freelance designer just starting out in Glasgow, another might be a person heading up HR for a creative multinational in London.

The Creative PEC used meetings and surveys to allow the Champions to feed in on research priorities. In addition, the Creative PEC convened Industry Panels to advise on particular policy research questions, give feedback on specific insights and to advise on policy recommendations. In these panels a group of 8–20 Champions would be briefed on existing research in an area, and then would be asked for their personal experience of the issue as someone working in the industry. Panel subjects included Higher and Further Education; the importance of local development policies for creative businesses; the need for business model innovation in creative content industries in the post-COVID-19 world; the impact of COVID-19 on diversity in the Creative Industries; recovery and growth for creative freelancers; and placemaking (Burger 2020; Chandler 2021; MacFarlane 2021). The insights from these panels were then published on the Creative PEC website under Chatham House rules (meaning the Creative PEC published summaries of the discussions, but didn’t identify who made any particular comment). These panels also formed the basis of partnerships with external organisations. For example, the Creative Diversity All Party Parliamentary Group partnered with the Creative PEC on an Industry Panel looking at the impact of COVID-19 on diversity in the Creative Industries (Burdger 2020).


Move to the RSA and Newcastle University

The Creative PEC was initially funded for five years as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund through the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Following the conclusion of this funding, the AHRC decided to re-invest in the Creative PEC, awarding it an increase in funding (amounting to £11m) over another five years. However, over the PEC’s lifetime the overall strategy of Innovation Foundation Nesta had radically changed, and as part of this upheaval the organisation had moved away from working on the Creative sector (Nesta n.d.). As a result, a competitive funding round was launched to find a new home for the Creative PEC (including those members of the centre hired by Nesta who might want to move with the organisation).

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London and Newcastle University won this tender process. On announcement of this the Creative PEC Director Hasan Bakhshi, MBE (who stayed on at the Creative PEC), said:

Over the past five years, the Creative PEC has helped bring about a step change in the quantity and quality of evidence available to inform policies for the Creative Industries. As well as publishing new research, we have embedded our researchers in the design, planning and implementation cycles of policies. In our next phase of work, our ambition is to work with our colleagues at Newcastle University and the RSA to undertake this “embedded knowledge exchange” activity in both our Northern and Southern Hubs (Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre 2023).

Key changes to the Creative PEC from its first to second stage include a smaller consortium, a greater focus on commissioned and co-commissioned research (as opposed to work being produced by the consortium) and a better resourced Policy Unit, as well as a novel two-hub model (which is still emerging).

Lessons from the UK’s Creative Industries political ecosystem in 2010s

As should be clear from this paper, the story of the Creative Industries in the UK is not finished, not least because both the Creative Industries Federation/CreativeUK and the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre are at new stages in their evolution. However, there are lessons that those looking to the UK Creative Industries ecosystem may want to take from their foundation.

These are as follows:

1.     Forums that work in partnership with Government may not be the best lobbyists: the creation of the Federation is testament to the fact that an independent body may be needed alongside a Government-chaired advisory group, as only an independent body can publicise those areas where the view of industry differs more dramatically from the Government of the day.


2.     Building relationships with high-level political actors across parties is a key part of ensuring that the sector’s needs are represented in parliament. By working across Creative Industries sub-sectors you may be able to garner more high level attention than any single industry could achieve.


Funding for new independent research in the Creative Industries is not enough given the limited resources available to pursue research on the sector. Research organisations in this area should consider how they build strong links with industry, and how they focus as well as time publications to ensure they can be used by policymakers. A campaigning approach may be useful in achieving this and an excellent relationship with policymakers will be essential. 

[1] Find references to “Creative Industries”- Hansard - UK Parliament (01/01/2000 to 31/12/2009). Available at: (Accessed: 11 September 2023).

[2] See UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Available at: (Accessed: 9 August 2023).

[3] Creative Rural Industries Consortium. Available at: (Accessed: 9 August 2023).

[4] Nesta had been created in 1998 as the first publicly supported national endowment in the UK with one of its ambitions to “advance public appreciation of the Creative Industries, science and technology” (Smith 1998: 8). Its importance to Creative Industries discourse is not the focus of this paper, but it is mentioned throughout and discussed briefly in the glossary (Annex 1).

[5] At first glance, the timing of these initiatives might suggest they were a response to the results of the General Election of that year (in which a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition Government took power after thirteen years of Labour leadership). However, Nesta’s work would be better understood as a continuation of their ongoing prioritisation of this research agenda, rather than the beginning of a new area of study, and the creation of Creative Scotland had been announced several years before (Museums Association 2007).

[6] 2011 Budget: A strong and stable economy, growth and fairness (2011). HM Treasury. Available at: (Accessed: 11 September 2023).

[7] Creative Industries - Hansard - UK Parliament (2011). Available at: (Accessed: 11 September 2023).

[8] See: Creative Industries Council, GOV.UK. Available at: (Accessed: 11 August 2023).

[9] Apprenticeship Levy: Creative Industries - Hansard - UK Parliament (2023). Available at: (Accessed: 14 September 2023).

[10] N.B. the author is a member of this group.

[11] SIC codes 91.01 and 91.02 (representing Museums, Galleries and Libraries) were included after consultation, despite having creative intensities below the necessary threshold. One reason they may have a lower creative intensity is due to large numbers employed in facilities maintenance in Museums, galleries and libraries (DCMS 2016).

[12] For example, SIC codes 91.01 and 91.02 (representing Museums, Galleries and Libraries) were included only after consultation, having creative intensities below the necessary threshold. One reason they may have a lower creative intensity is due to large numbers employed in facilities maintenance in this part of the sector (DCMS 2016).

[13] Author’s archive

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