HMT Treasury Connects: CEO Caroline Norbury OBE on the value of creative clusters

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‘Treasury Connects’ is a series of events led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer bringing together industry leaders and stakeholders within the UK Government’s targeted growth sectors. Yesterday saw senior players in the creative industries (many of whom are Creative UK members), invited by the Chancellor to discuss how, by working together collectively, we can drive further growth in the creative sector.

I had the best job of course – co-chairing a discussion group with Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, to look at creative clustering across the UK; the challenges creative companies faced when they are looking to grow and the barriers that need to be addressed in order to drive more investment into the sector.  

My principal message was the need for alignment across the variety of policy and fiscal interventions that already exist – let’s not forget that mission-focused public investment drives private sector investment, after all. Research shows that 72% of creative sector SMEs believe they are under-capitalised and a staggering 62% of them believe that a lack of finance has restricted their growth. Yet we have a variety of fiscal and policy interventions: from creative sector tax credits to investment zones, to the much-utilised Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS); while this is by no means all that is needed, these elements provide some structural support and/or leverage for growth. This asymmetry needs to be addressed head-on. The networks and institutions that can tackle these barriers need support to take advantage of the UK Government’s appetite to drive private sector investment into our fast-growing sector; we are one of the UK’s best export stories and a huge source of soft power for our nation. 

I understand that the much-promised Creative Industries Sector Vision is due to launch soon and should provide a blueprint for how UK Government, the devolved administrations in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and regional administrations in England, can align and work together to power the growth we all know our sector is capable of. At yesterday’s event, the Chancellor made a commitment to address the increasing pressure on skills gaps; support new innovation, and crucially, address the need to get more investment into the UK’s creative businesses; driving our globally competitive position, and seeking to ensure growth across the UK is equitable and consistent. 

At the close of the event the Chancellor reminded the audience that he was once the Secretary of State for DCMS, and seemed somewhat wistful about the heady early days of his Cabinet Minister career.  What was clear was his learning, from that time, that success needs the leadership of many.  This was evident by the presence of not only Lucy Frazer, but also Gillian Keegan, the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Chloe Smith.  Without joined-up governments and a holistic approach, many of the barriers to growth will remain, but the good news from yesterday was a sense that maybe for the first time in a long while, it felt as if many of us finally had the ear not just of one or two ministers, but of the UK Government as a whole. Maybe our time has finally arrived!

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