Government promises £150 million for creative industries in new sector deal

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced its plans to invest in the UK’s creative industries with a new wave of funding but has focused on developing technologies such as virtual and augmented reality rather than creative education.

© Robert Ingelhart

The Government has vowed to invest £150 million in the creative industries as it launches a new sector deal with over a fifth of this money going towards “immersive” technology such as virtual reality.

The creative industries sector deal is part of the Government’s annual industrial strategy, and has been launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) alongside the Creative Industries Council (CIC).

Government defines the creative industries as including music, fashion, design, arts, architecture, publishing, advertising, video games and crafts.

The new deal looks to consolidate the “world-leading” status of the UK’s cultural and creative businesses and enable them to “thrive”, according to the DCMS.

Focus on virtual and augmented reality

It follows the Bazalgette review, which was conducted last year and looked to increase investment in the UK’s creative industries and create one million more jobs in the sector by 2030.

Most of the money from the deal – almost half at 48% – will go towards developing “immersive” and “interactive” tech, as well as research and development (R&D) in the creative industries. Improving creative education and skills are set to receive 1% of the money.

The £150 million investment is split up into: £39 million to support eight creative R&D partnerships between businesses across the UK; £33 million to develop “immersive” tech such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and “interactive” art installations; £20 million for a cultural development fund, which will allow cities and towns to bid for a share of the money; £4 million towards supporting creative businesses, particularly outside of London; £2 million towards tackling online piracy and teaching people about copyright; £2 million towards developing creative skills and education, including a creative careers programme in schools; and £1.5 million towards the games sector.

There is currently roughly £50 million unaccounted for. The DCMS has not confirmed what this money will go towards at the time of publishing.

Creative careers for students from disadvantaged backgrounds

The creative careers programme is being run with the Creative Industries Federation, which will launch a campaign in early 2019 that looks to encourage school students to take on creative jobs, particularly those from disadvantaged and minority communities, says Caroline Julian, head of policy and public affairs at the Federation. The campaign will focus on promoting creative sectors that have “skill shortages” and “where skills be in high demand in the future”.

Additionally, a new free school focused on film will be set up in Islington, North London. The London Screen Academy will offer places to 1,000 students aged 16 and over based in the capital, and will teach the creative diploma qualification from the University of the Arts London (UAL) alongside A-Levels.

A new trade board is also being set up specifically for the creative industries to increase exports made by the sector, and discussions will be had about reducing copyright infringement.

Matt Hancock, DCMS secretary, says: “Our creative industries will help develop the talent of the future, ensure people are rightly rewarded for their creative content and give our firms the support they need to compete on the global stage.

“Millions of people around the world enjoy our world-class artistic and cultural output and we want Britain to stay a frontrunner in these vibrant sectors,” he adds.


Analysis

The Government’s focus on investment into creativity has been welcomed by industry bodies such as the Creative Industries Federation and Design Council.

John Kampfner, CEO at the Federation, says that the sector deal is a “welcome first step”, while Sarah Weir, CEO at the Design Council, says that it shows that “the Government recognises the value of the sector to the UK economy”, but adds that the design sector’s contribution is “sometimes overlooked”.

While the creative industries have now been given more precedence in the Government’s industrial strategy – which has previously focused on science, tech, engineering and maths (STEM) skills and R&D – the deal seems to favour the tech-side of creativity over other forms.

Fine art, design and education left behind

VR, AR, digital installations, gaming and film, alongside large-scale R&D projects, receive most of the funding, leaving creative education, and sectors such design, arts, architecture, publishing and music falling behind.

The decision to set up a free creative school – focused on film – in London, also begs the question of how much the Government is attempting to diversify the creative industries and build it up in cities outside of the capital.

The cultural development funds do provide an opportunity for other cities to share a piece of the deal, allowing different local authorities to pitch for a portion of the £20 million, which will help them build up culture and creativity in their regions. However, it is not yet clear how many cities will be able to bid for this money, so we do not know how much money each city will be assigned – it could be significant in the millions, or negligible in the thousands.

Drop in students taking art and design at university

While many of the funding initiatives could be seen to help the design industry indirectly – awareness about copyright will benefit product and graphic designers, for instance, while most design disciplines are trying their hands at new tech such as VR and AR – the limited budget given to encouraging school students to take up creative subjects is not promising.

The last few years have seen a significant drop in the number of students taking art and design subjects all the way through the education chain, from GCSE through to undergraduate level. Last year saw 17,000 fewer students take creative subjects at university compared to 2016, while nearly 27,000 fewer school students took art, design and technology subjects for GCSE.

Surely then, as well as investing in the UK’s ability to be at the forefront of new tech, the Government also needs to invest in the young people who will pioneer and take this tech further in 10 or 20 years’ time?

Where will the rest of the money go?

Nearly £50 million of the funding is currently left unaccounted for – hopefully the Government will see the need to spend a large chunk of this on educational programmes, school talks from industry professionals, and also targeting and opening up opportunities for schools with a high proportion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and minorities.

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