What is a Superfused Business?
Creative Digital IT businesses are working in new ways, forming connections and relationships that are producing extraordinary economic growth.
Digital marketing agencies, content developers for apps, games and video and web service providers are all combining talents from different skillsets- including the computing and technology skills we know are important, but also arts and design knowhow.
This ‘fusion’ that we talk about is that combination of arts, technology and business savvy that is becoming more and more vital to innovative businesses.
I was the academic director of the Brighton Fuse projects in which we surveyed over 500 businesses and over 300 freelancers in the creative cluster of Brighton and Hove. We found that the sample of small businesses:
- Generated over £230million in sales in 2011-12, during the worst of the recession, and this was 32% of the population
- Employed 3162 people
- Were growing at extraordinary levels: 15.9% in revenues
- Were highly innovative- 99% reported some form of new product, service or other novelty.
But perhaps most revealing was the secret behind the highest growth firms. You guessed it.
We found the sample broke down into three groups: the specialised ‘unfused’ firms; the fused; and what we called the ‘superfused’. This last group were really strong on combining skillsets to deliver their services to clients.
Importantly the Superfused businesses were growing revenues three-times faster than the unfused group.
This means it is not only technical skills underpinning the new economy, but the arts and humanities too that drive economic growth. We found almost 50% of Brighton’s CDIT entrepreneurs were arts and humanities graduates.
How does this fusion work?
That’s a good question, and one that we are researching. We know firms in some Creative-Digital-IT sectors have always employed a mix of programmers, designers, artists and project managers- especially those producing digital content, like video games or animated films. But this practice is getting wider now, as firms find that it is no longer enough to offer only a few select services but a wider portfolio. Digital agencies for example provide Search Engine Optimisation, web design, video filming and editing, as well as more traditional media activities like public relations, which are being transformed through social media technologies.
This is also true for freelance individuals working in the creative industries, but that’s another blogpost…
The fact is we are still learning about how fusion works, where it works and doesen’t. This is why Creative Fuse North East is such an exciting opportunity. Our Brighton Fuse results raised great interest in the corridors of power, showing clues about the future of business and directing investment and policy, but still some people shrugged and said “Yes, but it’s Brighton isn’t it?”.
We are finding fused and superfused businesses in the North East.
We want to learn more about how they work, the range of their business, their performance and the nature of their challenges. Beyond Brighton Fuse we are researching the entire North East region, finding hot spots and micro-clusters in surprising places; we are discovering the clever ways that firms are managing the distance from London, which is still the primary market for CDIT businesses. We want to know about the difficulties these firms face and try to influence policy and connect them to resources that can help them to thrive.
I’m now a Professor at Newcastle University Business School, having moved here partly because I want to be involved with the Creative Fuse North East project, this is a big project with many local players and partners, and great opportunities.
Please fill out our survey to help add to our knowledge base, and come along to the events to join in the coming programme of innovations and superfused activity! To learn more about Brighton Fuse go to www.brightonfuse.com. Or follow me on Twitter: @jsapsed.
Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Newcastle University Business School