The UK’s creative industries (CI) sector is expected to grow faster than the rest of the national economy in the coming decade, according to the just-published Creative Industries Foresight 2030 - a study by Business School for the Creative Industries, University for the Creative Arts [UCA], Farnham, UK.

The study - - authored by the school’s Professor Martin Charter, and by Dr Trevor Davis, an independent  industry expert and futurist, predicts the sector will grow to a gross value add [GVA] of £300 billion per year by 2030, from the £180 billion that was expected in 2020 pre COVID-19, while facing challenges in sustainability.

Newsflash: COVID-19 and CI

The study’s authors advise that the study's forecasts will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They added: "The pandemic has shown that the value of the CI sector is beyond its monetary value and is acting as a showcase for the ingenuity of UK creatives."

Examples include "technicians at creative universities using open-sourced 3D printing of personal protective equipment via open-source designs, advertising agencies producing TV adverts curating citizen-produced videos - and musicians producing customised songs for a price, online."

The authors add that CI will have "a central role economically and culturally in the UK and internationally when normality returns" or when the "new normal" emerges.

Its study was funded by Research England’s Strategic Priorities Fund and conducted over four months from January to April 2020 inclusive.

Based on desk research, workshops and interviews, the study sought to envisage what the CI sector might look like in 2030 and give a snapshot of the role that sustainability and Industry 4.0 are likely to play in it.             

It concludes that by 2030 more than 350,000 micro, small and medium size businesses will be operating in CI, 95 per cent of them employing fewer than 10 people, with exports exceeding £100 billion worldwide from some £46 billion today.

CreaTech growing fastest

Professor Charter said: "We found that the technology element of the sector, 'CreaTech' - creative technologies - is growing 10 times faster than the sector average and possibly accounting for nearly 40 per cent of employment in the sector by 2030."

CreaTech operates at the intersection of creativity and technologies such as artificial intelligence [AI] and augmented and virtual reality - AR/VR.

Professor Charter cautioned that with many technology companies entering the sector: "The boundaries between sub-sectors are becoming blurred."

Fragmentation of the sector is expected to continue, proving a challenge. "Fragmentation caused by diverse sub-sectors and creative practices results in multiple, overlapping initiatives for sustainability and Industry 4.0," Professor Charter added.

"That makes engaging creative businesses in policy-making a challenge. Indeed, many in the sector currently have little or no involvement in policy."

Reducing negative environmental impacts

Dr Davis said: "There is a need for the sector’s growth to decouple as much as possible from negative environmental impacts. Its CO2 footprint is already significant, with less visible creative activities, such as filming, adding to it.

"It’s common knowledge that the fashion industry comes with a high environmental cost. Less well known are the 10,000 tonnes of CO2 that can be produced by the shooting of just one major film.

"Full support for sustainability across the sector will be required if the government’s target of net-zero carbon emissions is to be met by 2050."

The study recommends a comprehensive review of sustainability initiatives, in tandem with better ways to share knowledge and practices across the sector, with education playing a significant role.

Dr Davis added: "Industry 4.0 technology is very likely to play a major role in supporting sustainability while helping to drive growth and productivity improvements."

The study states that a policy approach in which creativity flourishes rather than being "centralised, top-down prescriptions" is required in the face of sector fragmentation. And it calls for more young people to be involved in policy making.

Priority policy points

Priority policy points identified in the study for sustainability cover lower taxes for creative businesses that demonstrate improved sustainability; promotion of partnerships with environmental technology companies; incentives for "virtual consumption"; and a duty of environmental responsibility on every organisation in the sector.

Priority policy points identified in the study for Industry 4.0 cover tax reliefs for all CI, to assist with Industry 4.0 adoption; creation of regional and local investment opportunities for Industry 4.0 start-ups; a need for a professional education programme for Industry 4.0; a specialist visa scheme similar to the Global Talent Visa for research and innovation.

Immediate need

The study says there is an immediate need to address the sustainability and Industry 4.0 education, training and executive education requirements of the two million workers currently in CI.

One target for executive education is the British and international investment community, which is responsible for funding many starts-ups in CreaTech. Financial institutions "have a poor understanding of the sector," the study’s authors say.

They add that new indexes or scorecards are needed to reliably monitor progress in sustainability and Industry 4.0 in CI.

The study has been welcomed in a preview.

"Wow! Creative Industries meets Industry 4.0 and Sustainability," said Paul Huxtable, Ambassador at Good Design Australia "This is a refreshing and long overdue paper highlighting the interconnectedness between CI, Industry 4.0 and sustainability, and its important role in socio-economic development.

"It cleverly shines a light on the need to pivot traditionally siloed government strategies to more collaborative strategies delivering agility, resilience and growth in a rapidly changing world.

"We need design-led strategies now more than ever."


Note to the media - for more information please contact Martin Charter

Background information:

About Business School for the Creative Industries, UCA

Business School for the Creative Industries is the first of its kind in the UK and builds on UCA’s long tradition of collaborating with employers in CI to cultivate leadership, entrepreneurial and strategic planning skills.


About Professor Charter

Professor Martin Charter MBA FRSA is the founding director of The Centre for Sustainable Design, Business School for the Creative Industries at University for the Creative Arts (UCA), and is the author/co-author of Greener Marketing 1 & 2, Sustainable Solutions, System Innovation for Sustainability, Eco-innovate and Designing for the Circular Economy. A regular speaker in conferences worldwide, Professor Charter has worked - and carried out research - sustainable innovation and product sustainability for 30 years in academia, business and consultancy.

About Dr Trevor Davis

Dr Davis FRSA is committed to finding practical, inclusive solutions to social challenges that touch sustainability, innovation and the relationships between consumers and brands.

As an independent industry expert and futurist, and an IBM Distinguished Engineer, Dr Davis was a member of the IBM Industry Academy Trevor, where, starting in 2008, he had a leading role in realising the IBM Smarter Planet vision.

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