Scaling-up the UK’s creative business

Danny Boyle’s fantastic opening ceremony for the Olympics highlighted that Great Britain has a great heritage and we can really put on a show – given the right investment! The ‘Big Society’ fails to provide a suitable framework to rebuild and refocus our future, to re-launch UK plc on the global stage. In short, how are we going to make Britain ‘Great’ again?

We have the opportunity to build the world centre of excellence around a major ‘Creative Business’ initiative in which we must invest significantly to reshape, our home market, but also re-create a world-leading export-led economy.

1. Creativity – investing in an ideas-led economy

We excel in the creative arts and we have the opportunity to also lead the world in providing content for the growth of video across the Worldwide Web. We already have some of the world’s best creative professionals, but we risk just supplying the offshore ‘talent’ to non-UK media owners. We need to create a focussed re-assessment of the Tax and Investment regime that will bring ‘all of Hollywood and more’ back into the UK. This is not just about the on-stage experience; it is about developing the wider core skills that underpin the creative sector. Plus, it is also about back office, e.g. the commercial and legal framework that underpins the creative industry, such as copyright and patent law, especially in the era of the WWW. This reinforces the need to invest in the talent food chain that would make Creative UK plc perform as the world leading business it should be. To put it another way, we need to shift from ‘War War to Jaw Jaw’.

Let’s not forget that some of our most valuable assets are also based on sport. This is also the opportunity to invest in sport and the business of sport – sport is another type of performance art, with massive worldwide commercial appeal.

2. English is the ‘Lingua Franca’ of the Internet and the WWW

The currency in which we will build the ‘Creative Business’ idea is ‘English’. It is the language most in use on the WWW (but for how long?) which in turn is the language that connects cultures and facilitates international politics and business. It also means that we can mine and re-present our archive of English language works; from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Thomas and Rushdie. We also need to make the BBC Archives, the British Library and the National Sound Archives all more accessible; but we should also promote new works and encourage an international celebration of the English language. The UK should be the centre of excellence for the English language and the world repository for the physical and digital archives of all such works.

3. Education, Education, Education?

There are more highly qualified English users coming out of the voracious economies like India and China, looking to consume and export creative content, than is generated in the UK. The UK should not only lead through our language, but also through owning and leading the education around the expanding creative business.

In summary, facilitating the ‘Creative Business’ means restating the timeline for activating Broadband Britain. We also have the opportunity to shift from being passive gadget users to creating more designers of the next generation of devices and especially the content consumed through them. There are many significant societal benefits too; it is more understandable to spend money on this initiative, than to justify the intangibles derived from what we spend on Defence. A well-articulated idea has a more long term effect than any weapon.

A New National Identity – ‘The UK, the Home of Great Ideas’.

I offer two alternative national examples:

    Finland was the home of the mobile phone through Nokia, but it has been surpassed through more agile participants from other territories.
    The USA has Silicon Valley as their technology centre of excellence, with brands like Apple & Google seeking to own our digital identities. It also has ‘Hollywood’ which has already benefitted from UK-originated franchises such as ‘Harry Potter’ and shortly through the work of E.L James.

Just being smart in the age of the WWW is not enough, but being smart enough to invest in what makes the UK unique through this initiative is key to a significantly more fiscally secure and sustainable future.

* Geof Todd is the MD of TODD Creative Services (, an independent Ideas and Creative Consultancy, who believes that the UK needs to think and act in a smarter way to reassert itself as a major world entity. He is a life-long supporter of the Liberal Democrats

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  • Helen Flynn 26th Nov '12 - 3:01pm

    Hi Geoff
    Great piece. I could not agree more. It rather makes you question the relevance of the Ebacc, does it not, which does not include art or music!
    I have just written a paper for the SLF where I am talking about how to develop an education system based around skills to encourage innovation and creativity, amongst other things. You can find it here, if you have a moment.

    I am concerned that many of the Gove reforms are backward looking or merely structural rather than taking a strategic view at what our country excels in and where our USP truly lies.

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