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How UK CreaTech can be a world-beater

Dream, a live online performance set in a virtual forest, allows audiences to directly influence the performance from wherever they are in the world | Photo by Stuart Martin (c) RSC

5 min read Partner content

The Minister for Digital and Culture has backed UK ‘CreaTech’ pitch to become a world leader in the field

‘CreaTech’ brings together creative skills and emerging technologies to produce new ways of engaging audiences. Embracing technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, 5G, and other developing fields, CreaTech opens up new cultural possibilities as well as opportunities for growth and investment.

Much like FinTech or EdTech in the financial and education sectors, CreaTech is transforming the sector – building on the UK’s world-class creative industries which pre-pandemic contributed £116 billion in annual GVA to the economy. The Creative Industries Council – a forum bringing together government and industry – believes the UK can be at the forefront of that revolution.

Last year UK CreaTech companies raised nearly £1bn in venture capital investment, up 22% on 2019 and ahead of the £846m raised by Energy Tech in the same period, according to a new report commissioned by the CIC and produced by TechNation.

The Creative Industries grew by 43% between 2010 and 2019, and now employ more than two million people across the country.

The level of investment into CreaTech suggest that UK is emerging as a global centre of excellence. While third in the world behind China and the US, investment in ‘CreaTech’ makes up 9% of total UK tech investment compared to 6% in the larger markets. 

Speaking at a virtual event to launch The CreaTech Report 2021, Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital and Culture, said the creative industries, including CreaTech, offered “immense opportunities” for the future of the country as it looks to rebound.

“We can help to build a tech savvy nation, unleashing the transformational power of tech and AI, to level up digital prosperity across the UK and lead the digital  conversation,” said Dinenage.

“Our estimates show that the Creative Industries not only grew 43% between 2010 and 2019, but also now employs more than two million people across the country and contributed £116 billion in growth to the economy in 2019.”

Acknowledging that the past 12 months presented numerous hurdles for the sector, the minister said she was amazed by the strategies used to overcome these.

She added: “While the government has done all it can to support people and businesses through this difficult time, for example with the furlough scheme and the Film and TV Restart Scheme, I understand that the pandemic has upended the traditional business model. That being said, I have been blown away by the innovation deployed to deal with it.”

“This report shows that CreaTech businesses have been resilient and are growing investment despite the pandemic, and investors are interested in what we have to offer. But it also shows us where we can grow further and I am keen for us to capitalise on this.”

The report also highlighted that CreaTech innovation can be seen across the UK. CIC lead Janet Hull noted that more than 50% of investment into CreaTech went to businesses based outside London, contrasting with the London-centric nature of tech more generally.

The event also discussed the power of the wider Creative Industries to drive growth in regional economies across the UK. Dr Josh Siepel of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre told the event his research had identified 700 micro-clusters of creative industry activity across the UK.

He added: “This level of creative activity is much larger and broader than we expected – we were expecting 37, mostly in large cities – but actually, there are hundreds all over the UK, from Wales, to Kent, to the Orkneys.

Chair of digital and creative at Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Sarah Windrum said the West Midlands cluster had developed a focus on the games industry and gamification. 

“We’ve been looking at CreaTech in places like Coventry where we have been working on what the high streets of the future will look like and what role games will play in this,” she added.

She also talked about the importance of targeting the right support to creative clusters to capitalise on these growth opportunities. “But what we want to see when we talk about growth in our creative industries is that there is help provided, not only across the clusters, but in line with the level those clusters are at.”

Dr Siepel noted the development potential for clusters of all sizes. The evidence indicates that companies in micro clusters were not only keen to grow but that they had proved the ability to do so.

Head of insights at TechNation Dr George Windsor said companies operating in the CreaTech space were at the cutting edge of some of the biggest developments in not just creative but technology more generally, highlighting AI, blockchain and quantum as examples.

Digital Catapult’s head of immersive technology Jessica Driscoll said that, through its CreativeXR prototype funding programme, the organisation had helped produce 60 successful projects.

“An important part of the recovery and growth, however, requires an ability to reach out to communities that may not believe they are entitled to CreativeXR or need support in filling in the forms,” said Ms Driscoll.

“For this reason, we have entered into 39 community partnerships to reach new diversity targets and as a result 16 of our 20 groups were female-led last year.” Ms Driscoll also added that more work was needed to get research funding into the hands of SMEs and to “de-risk innovation”.

This position was one echoed by industry co-chair of the CIC and BBC Director General Tim Davie who said that the creative industries had been “catalytic” in driving economic growth, but that greater efforts could unlock the research and development potential of UK innovation and creativity.

“CreaTech builds on the success of the creative industries all around the UK and shows the creative industries leading UK innovation. But we can go further by breaking down silos. Things like unlocking R&D tax credits for the creative industries would drive growth and help address barriers to expansion.”

“The minister talked about a rallying call, this is a time we can work together to make a huge difference as a sector.”

For more information about the UK Creative Industries go to


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