Creative industries fuel UK’s local economies

The creative industries are playing an increasingly important role in local economies across the country, according to new research published.

  • New research from Nesta and Creative England maps 47 creative clusters across the UK
  • Findings reveal 28 percent growth in creative employment in these clusters over seven years
  • Motorway towns like Slough, Basingstoke and Warrington, alongside more obvious towns and cities help drive UK’s creative industries success

In The Geography of Creativity in the UK, Nesta and Creative England identified 47 creative clusters – where creative employment and businesses are co-located - representing three quarters of all creative businesses in the UK.1 These clusters now employ on average 28% more creative workers than seven years ago.2 Understanding where creative businesses and employment are based is important if policymakers are to support their growth.

London employs 40 percent of the UK’s creative industry workers and seven of the largest creative clusters are in the south of the country, benefitting from access to a strong local talent and knowledge ecosystem and international connections. However, one in five clusters are in the North of England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also feature and are supported by highly engaged universities, including Cardiff, Glasgow and Newcastle. The Midlands and North of the country have seen substantial growth in creative industry employment.

‘Hip’ cities and towns like Manchester, Brighton, Liverpool, Bristol or Sheffield have long been renowned for their creative output. This new research confirms their importance and highlights a less well-known group of ‘creative conurbations’ situated along motorway corridors and close to major transport hubs, including Slough and Heathrow, Basingstoke, Warrington and Wigan or Luton.

Although the number of creative businesses within the 47 clusters has grown, pointing to an entrepreneurial explosion, the average size of these businesses has fallen, suggesting policymakers should do more to support their growth. Recommendations include:

  • supporting the development of clusters outside of London and the South East
  • continuing efforts to share the benefits of London’s status as a global creative industries hub across the UK
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships and universities should consider what more they can do to address the strengths and weaknesses within their particular area, such as an over reliance on large firms or growing links between graduate talent pools and creative clusters
  • networks of UK creative industries should strive to maintain their global reach

Juan Mateos-Garcia, Head of Innovation Mapping at Nesta, comments: “The UK’s geography of creativity is diverse and growing. London and other creative cities are very important, but so are other areas which are sometimes overlooked when we talk about creative clusters. A better understanding of their specialism and impact on the local economy will help ensure that these hotspots continue to gain access to the talent and knowledge they need to thrive.”

Caroline Norbury, Chief Executive at Creative England, said: “Creative England is dedicated to nurturing talented people and their creative ideas – this report clearly shows the huge contribution they make to driving prosperity in communities across the UK. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need to work together to give our creative talent the backing they need to continue to flourish and grow.”

The Geography of Creativity in the UK: creative clusters, creative people and creative networks is available at The report follows the publication of new statistics from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport showing jobs in the creative industries have increased three times faster than the UK average.3

The data behind the report is available for policymakers to view at


  1. Nesta and Creative England used official, open, and web data to track business and employment focus. A cluster is defined as a location which is in the UK top 10 in its concentration of business or employment in relevant creative sub-sectors, or that has experienced rapid growth in its levels of creative business or employment concentration. The 47 creative clusters are listed in Appendix 1.
  2. This figure captures change in creative industries employment between 2007 and 2014 and is based on official ONS data and DCMS definitions. Note that the figures in the Geography of Creativity are based on a different data source (Business Structure Database) from the DCMS statistical releases, based on the Annual Population Survey.

About Nesta: Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833  @nesta_uk

About Creative England: Creative England invests in and supports creative ideas, talent and businesses in film, TV, games and digital media. We aim to grow the brightest, the best, and those with the most promise so that individuals and businesses can achieve their full creative and commercial potential. We help identify future opportunities to grow the economy and generate jobs.

For more information contact Laura Scruby in Nesta’s press office on 0207 438

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