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Creative Industries: Now, Next Week, and the Long Game

by Creative Fuse North East’s Principal Investigator Jonathan Sapsed, Member, DCMS College of Experts

DCMS (Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) is scoping out priorities across its Areas of Interest Groups and have asked the College of Experts for their key trends to address in the short, medium, and long term. As with all prioritisation exercises this can get cringy because it feels like almost all the trends deserve immediate attention all the time. Of course, there is limited capacity to focus to have a genuine effect and in some cases we would benefit more from monitoring trends and not acting too early. But there is still quite a full plate for the short-term!

I’m approaching this as someone whose main interests and knowledge relate to the creative and cultural industries areas, although I refer to some of the broader ones. My priorities, and I must stress these are mine and not DCMS’s, are:

Short Term (1-3 years):

– Assessing the effects of post-pandemic online working for creativity, culture, wellbeing and location

– Misunderstanding of investment opportunities in creative industries

– Need for increased connection across regions for creative business

– Need for increased creative and cultural R&D and work opportunities in regions outside the South-East

– Need for increased business support for rural creative business


Medium Term (3-5 years):

– Balancing arts, design and managerial skills development with STEM

– Resetting international partnerships and trade relationships


Long term (5+ years):

– Online culture and social/economic division

– Ethics of AI and data analytics

Briefly speaking, these are the reasons:


Short Term (1-3 years):

– Online working in the creative and cultural industries has expanded greatly and we still don’t know the effects of this on the creative process, the pros and cons for collaboration, the degree to which audiences and consumers will be inclined to purchase and experience online products and performances and the same for in-person venues. There are opportunities for innovation and threats to existing business models. There is also mixed evidence on how the pandemic will affect location choices of creative businesses and professionals.

– The nature of creative industries innovation is not well understood by investors across debt finance, venture capital and even some public programmes. Creative innovating firms lack recognised means of signalling quality like patents so better methods of evaluation are needed. This can be seen in our recent study of Creative Industries Council data, just accepted in Journal of Cultural Economics. See:

– The South-East remains the core of the creative economy yet talent and quality are everywhere. From our research in both the Brighton Fuse and Creative Fuse North East we can see that there are opportunities for win-win collaboration across regions, but better connection is needed to understand the possibilities. Cross-regional connection could be achieved through a range of activities, like ‘sand pit’ style action research with awards for collaboration, for example.

– Increasing numbers of rural creative businesses and professionals contribute to growth but we know from our Rural CreateNet action learning sets in Creative Fuse that they need support and are less conscious of resources that are available, as well as having relative disadvantages like patchy broadband and transport infrastructure. Data is sparse on rural creatives, there are some surveys and interested research organisations so a systematic review of this fragmented knowledge base would be timely. There will likely be major specificities as well as general opportunities and barriers.

Medium Term (3-5 years):

– Multiple studies over the last decade have shown how important arts, humanities, design and managerial skills are in combination with STEM skills in the creative economy, yet the skills pipeline for the former disciplines seems at perpetual risk. This entails a reduced diversity for graduates and ultimately the creative industries workforce and entrepreneurial pool. Diversity is not only an EDI priority but it is a fundamental driver of innovation in creative industries- see economists Caves on ‘infinite variety’ and Schumpeter on ‘new combinations’.

– Creative firms are reporting that Brexit has increased the difficulties in exporting and importing creative and cultural work through greater bureaucracy and costs. Relationships with other countries may need rebuilding and there is a risk of reducing the UK’s ‘soft power’. There are also opportunities to forge new partnerships with European as well as global nations for cultural exchange and trade.


Long term (5+ years):

– The legal and social effects of social media are increasingly concerning, with everyday division and abuse. What this means for social relations, especially with increased online communication is an important long-term agenda.

– The ethics of data usage and the expanding capabilities of Artificial Intelligence are long-term priorities that will continue to challenge existing values and would potentially shape future technical advances. Well-meaning entrepreneurs in AI are themselves calling for more research on this that would go beyond the current GDPR requirements.

So those are the priorities from my perspective, influenced by stakeholders on my radar and from years of action research in the creative industries. There are clear links to the current agenda on Levelling-Up as well as recovery from the pandemic and Brexit. In general, it is always surprising how little data we have on what we would like to know, and while the emphasis has been on large sample surveys in recent years we also lack rich case studies of creative and cultural business achievements, especially outside the South-East. I hope that work will redress this to provide the texture and nuance to understand the development and growth of exemplars to inspire others.



Professor Jonathan Sapsed
Principal Investigator, Creative Fuse North East
Co-Investigator, Creative Industries PEC
Member, DCMS College of Experts