The Future of Investment in Creative Content?

The Creative Investment Forum : Funding Creative Content

BCre8ive, and Digital Catapult, invited investors, creatives and public bodies to join forces on 7th November at Digital Catapult, in London, to start a dialogue about how to fund the future of the creative industries in the UK. This blog is a summary of the key points raised, and the examples highlighted, to illustrate the potential of the creative industries and the vast opportunity for public and private investment.

Setting the Scene

Creative industries are being disrupted on a regular basis – the business models are always evolving but as Jeremy Silver pointed out the UK is a real player in creative industries, with global reach.

Between 2010 and 2015 they grew by 34% – faster than any other sector  and contributed £87.4bn in Gross Value Added in 2015, according to DCMS.

“Creative and Cultural Industries revenues worldwide exceed those of telecom services (US$1,570b globally), and surpass India’s GDP (US$1,900b)”  Cultural Times: EY : 2015

The creative industries exported £21.2bn of services in 2015, but this is a small part of the cultural and creative sectors globally which were estimated, by EY, to be worth over £1.700bn. So as Phil Parker pointed out despite a 34% growth in the creatives industries in the UK in the last five years, there is still enormous potential for growth.

A Dynamic Force

Agile development has  been a key term in games development. Equally, pivoting has been seen as often key to the successful start-up. Both of these two elements of success were evidenced in the afternoon’s panel sessions. They ranged from the Biome Collective with its games projects for museum and public interactive spaces to Deepa Mann-Kier creating a new team in Northern Ireland to create RETNE, her first AR experience project.

Equally, Emma Hayley from SelfMadeHero talked about her opportunistic use of a chance meeting at the London Book Fair to pitch her first idea . It was a graphic novel – a Manga version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, which still sells today, ten years later, and became the foundation for her publishing team.

Dominance of freelancers and micros

This flexibility is a central part of the creative content landscape and is brought about by the dominance of freelancers and micro-companies. They make up over 90% of the sector. Harriet Rees, the film producer of ‘Chalet Girl’ spoke about how she raised the £6m needed to make it. However, she also illustrated how she alone had to pull together all the elements and the finance. A daunting task for one freelancer, and how on a recent project a single decision, which had guaranteed the finance for a film, also led to the money potentially walking away.

It is the lack of development finance for projects, and key supporting structures, especially effective marketing teams, which is one of the elements  holding back the growth of the companies in the sector. It is almost impossible for freelancers and micros(with under four people) to move from the concept or SEED stage to global distribution, often using the web, without financial support.

The Current Landscape of Content Investment

There are numerous small public investment schemes. these range from the large scale £70m fund ‘Grants for the Arts ‘ administered by the the Arts Council of England, as described by Francis Runacres, to the Creative Scotland’s Opening Funding. These combined with various grants, and industry sponsored schemes provide a healthy environment for new ideas.

It is the next step that is singularly lacking. This is a swim or sink space, where you get lucky as a funder and back a winner from a small selection of the ideas out there or you lose everything.  This is clearly wasteful of investment but also many good concepts, and frustrates most of the talent.

Providing the finance to build a ladder of development beyond these initial stages of creation will be crucial to the productivity and the profitability of future investment.

The Main Investor Issues

Several key issues were raised by John Spindler from Capital Enterprise, and expanded on by Solomon Nwabueze from Creative England and are reflected in this blog, one of three blogs which will expand on this summary.  However, one key element was ambition and the need to support founders, at the upper level of investment, who wanted to sustain a UK based global business.

The Opportunities

As Patrick Bradley of Station 12 pointed out content is the reason platforms and distribution networks survive.  Critical to this success will be a focus on quality in a mass content creation world dominated by self-made content on social media and global corporations on the established and emerging networks.

In this context the new AHRC Creative Clusters programme and the UK government’s new Industrial Strategy will play a key part in shaping the opportunities for investment and growth in one of the world’s largest and most dynamic industries.

The Next Step

At the end of the afternoon’s panel sessions and discussion it was announced that there would be a follow up session on Monday March 19 2018. At this event the goal is to devise a new investment programme aimed at freelancers and micro-companies making creative content, and support them in producing new successful creations and companies.

If you would like to attend the follow up session please write to us at phil@bcre8ive.eu or hilary@bcre8ive.eu

Thanks to Jeremy Silver, Simon Bond and Darren Murphy at Digital Catapult for helping make this happen.

Thanks to all the panel members – fuller accounts of all their contributions can be read in the follow up blogs.

The first of which ‘New Funding for Creatives?’ can be read HERE

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