The creative industries are growing more rapidly than other sectors in most parts of the country, according to a recent report by Nesta.

The study, ‘The Creativity of Geography in the UK: Creative clusters, creative people and creative networks’, calculates that between 2007 and 2016 more than nine in ten of the 228 metropolitan areas (or Travel-to-Work-Area geographies) that make up the UK experienced faster growth in the number of creative businesses than the whole business population.

Over two-thirds of these areas also saw faster growth in creative industries employment than in overall employment too.

It identifies areas across the UK where the creative industries have concentration, growth or both. An interactive map of the data is available here.

Other highlights of the research include:

  • There are 47 creative clusters in the UK, based on a method developed by leading academic economists
  • Creative clusters have a dominant presence in London and the South-East of England (which together comprise around a third of clusters identified). But just over one-fifth of clusters are found in the North of England, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all feature too
  • Rapid growth has been experienced in all sub-sectors that make up the creative industries, but particularly in services activities like Design, Software and digital, and Advertising. More than half of metropolitan areas observed faster growth in the number of businesses, levels of employment and volume of turnover in these sub-sectors than in other sectors.

There has been a rapid rise in entrepreneurial activity, as measured by the number of creative businesses. Almost all sub-sectors have experienced a reduction in average firm size: in 2007, creative businesses in the UK employed on average just under four workers; by 2014, this figure had declined by 15 per cent to 3.3.

The research suggests that there are several creative agglomerations which encompass more than one metropolitan area: for example, around Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff. In the South-East of England, there are similar agglomerations along the coast around Brighton, Southampton and Bournemouth.

It shines a light on ‘Creative conurbations’ like Slough, High Wycombe, Peterborough and Guildford that rarely feature in creative cluster mappings. These less fashionable clusters specialise in a smaller number of creative sub-sectors with a high technology component.

But the research suggests they make significant economic contributions. In particular, they are associated with larger-sized creative businesses, and potentially higher levels of business productivity.

About the author

Michael O’Connor is a partner at Grey Sergeant and specialises in marketing communications and PR in the craft and hobby industry. Grey Sergeant provides strategic advice and planning and promotes businesses through integrated marketing, media relations, social media, digital marketing and events. For more information please contact