The UK risks losing its leading position in the creative industries in the face of international competition, rapid technological change and the government’s indifference to the sector’s potential, members of the House of Lords have warned.
The creative industries should sit at the heart of the UK’s economic growth plans, says a report by the Lords communications committee. But it warns of missed opportunities and a failure among senior government figures to recognise the sector’s commercial potential.
Schoolchildren should be encouraged to combine study of arts and creative subjects with science and technology to meet the needs of the fast-growing sector, says the report, At Risk: Our Creative Future.
“The UK’s creative industries are an economic powerhouse and have been a huge success story,” said Tina Stowell, the committee’s chair. “But the fundamentals that underpin our success are changing, and rivals are catching up. The government’s failure to grasp both the opportunities and risks is baffling.
“International competitors are championing their creative industries and seizing the opportunities of new technology. But in the UK we’re seeing muddled policies, barriers to success, and indifference to the sector’s potential.”
The report points out that the UK’s creative industries were worth more than £115bn to the UK economy before the pandemic – more than aerospace, life sciences and the car industries combined. Global exports of creative services exceeded £1tn in 2020, more than double the 2010 figure, it says.
But the UK risks losing its leading position partly as a result of government policies “characterised by incoherence and barriers to success”.
The report identifies skills shortages among young people and a failure by careers advisers to flag up opportunities in the sector.
Employers are increasingly calling for a blend of creative and digital skills, it says. “This interdisciplinary approach needs to be encouraged at school. Yet there are too few incentives for students to study a combination of creative and Stem [science, technology, engineering and maths] subjects.”
The increasing digitalisation of the creative industries has led to a growing need for individuals with both creative and technical skills. Dinah Caine, a creative industries expert, told committee members it was crucial to have an education system that “recognises the strength of [both Stem subjects and creative and arts subjects] and brings them together”.
The report says: “We also heard that developing creativity is not restricted to ‘creative subjects’: witnesses noted that all subjects, including maths and engineering, can be taught in a way that fosters creativity.”
It calls on the Department for Education to “encourage students to learn a blend of creative and digital skills; improve careers guidance; reverse the decline in children studying design and technology; change lazy rhetoric about ‘low-value’ arts courses; and make apprenticeships work better for small and medium-sized enterprises in the creative industries.”
UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie), a body that represents the gaming sector, told the committee that remote working had increased the mobility of the workforce and UK firms were increasingly fighting to secure talent against international competitors.
The committee took evidence from representatives of the music industry, performing and visual arts, museums and galleries, book publishing, gaming, film and TV, photography, and digital and design services.
Its report says proposed changes to intellectual property law are potentially harmful to creative industries and should be paused while their impact is assessed. It also warns that other countries offer more competitive tax incentives.
Caroline Norbury, the chief executive of Creative UK, which supports the sector, said: “Financial support for the creative industries … is a vital investment to unleash economic growth, accelerate innovation, underpin the UK’s global soft power, and provide social and wellbeing benefits to communities across the country. The UK is bursting with creative brilliance, but too often a lack of opportunities or barriers to success prevent these talents from flourishing.”