Home Working in the UK Employment Basics Creative UK jobs: Britain’s creativity mapped for the first time
Last update on February 13, 2020

For creative workers and companies, the first ever map of British creativity has been published by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

This piece of work identifies the nation’s top ‘creative hotspots’ — areas which host ‘clusters’ of creative businesses promoting innovation and economic growth across their region.

The research is based on a new interactive online tool which uses business register data to map British creative businesses. For the first time, it allows users to see where creative businesses ‘cluster together’ to create areas of excellence and growth.

Britain’s creative ‘hotspots’

London is shown to be dominant across the creative industries, and the research identifies nine other creative ‘hotspots’ across the UK in Bath, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Guildford, Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford and Wycombe and Slough.

Stian Westlake, Head of Policy and Research at NESTA, says: ‘Britain is a world beater in the creative industries and this mapping shows the centres of excellence we have across the country. With the right policy interventions, such as the East London Tech City initiative, these creative clusters have the potential to become global hubs for high growth, innovative creative industries and create wider economic growth.’

The online tool allows users to zoom into any area of the UK – from a regional level down to local level – to scrutinise which types of creative businesses are located there. NESTA argues that better understanding of an area’s true creative strengths will make it easier for policymakers to create the right conditions for further growth, and to avoid wasting money on poorly considered interventions.

The wider picture of creativity in Britain

In addition to mapping creative clusters across Britain, the analysis presented in the report shows that:

  • The creative industries punch above their weight in terms of innovation at both the national and regional level. They also tend to cluster in the same places as other innovative industries such as High-Tech Manufacturing and Knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS).
  • Different parts of Britain present different profiles of creative specialisation: cities across the wider South are more diversified in their creative specialisation, whereas Northern and Midlands cities (Manchester excepting) have similar creative profiles.

Food for thought for policymakers

The report makes recommendations for policymakers which include maximising existing clusters rather than trying to build new ones from scratch; helping remove barriers to collaboration between cluster businesses, and encouraging universities to do more to promote innovation in increasingly tech-intensive creative industries.

Previous NESTA research has shown that creative businesses also stimulate innovation in other sectors of the economy through their supply chains. Businesses that spend twice as much on creative inputs to production such as software, design, advertising and architecture are 25 percent more likely to introduce product innovations.

In the decade to 2007, the creative industries grew on average by 5.2 percent per year, compared with 2.9 percent in the economy as a whole. NESTA expects the creative industries to continue to grow at double the rate of the rest of the economy in the next five years.

NESTA’s findings have been published in a new report ‘Creative Clusters and Innovation’, produced by researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Cardiff, and NESTA.