The creative industries are attracting increasing attention with regards to urban economies and regional growth. These industries are identified as growth industries and they are ascribed an important role in place-marketing. Furthermore, they are identified for their potential benefits in relation to urban regeneration and social inclusion. Policymakers at national, regional and local levels are trying to understand the creative industries and develop policies and programmes to promote and support them.
The creative industries are complex, varied and hard to define. They are increasingly integrated and several of their sub sectors are in a state of fast change. They also tend to be micro or small businesses, in many cases they are ‘viral’ firms (Pratt, 2000) with freelancers coming together for projects and dissipating once the project is completed. It is therefore difficult to measure the size of the creative industries and their sub sectors e.g. in terms of employment and export values.
The Department of Media, Culture and Sports (DCMS) in the UK has played a key role internationally both in terms of defining and operationalising the creative industries. Through the ministry, the creative industries have been identified as the commercial arm of the cultural sector and as key to economic growth. DCMS defines the creative industries as ‘Those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property." (DCMS, 1998, p. 003)
The national policy regarding the creative industries is paralleled at the regional level where all regional development agencies in the UK identified the creative industries as key sectors in their first Regional Economic Strategies, published in 1999. There are also numerous examples of policy initiatives at the sub-regional or local level aiming at supporting the development of the creative industries
The contrast with the policy situation regarding the creative industries in Sweden is interesting. The Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communication has an explicit non-sectoral policy attempting to improve conditions for all businesses and sectors. Therefore, the creative industries are not promoted in the same systematic way as in the UK.
However, there has been a national focus on the ‘experience industries’ – an amalgamation of the creative industries and the tourism sector. The Knowledge Foundation, a quango with the task to enhance Swedish competitiveness, ran a programme for the experience industries 2000-2004. The programme was financed with SEK 60 million, a small share of the foundation’s funds. The aim of the programme was to bring together actors in the experience industries, to develop and support meeting places throughout the country and to initiate and develop high quality education and training programmes for the industries. Among the first steps taken by the Knowledge Foundation was the gathering of statistics for the industries to be able to measure its size and effects. In this process, work by the UK’s DCMS was used.
At regional and local levels policy initiatives and programmes focussing on the creative industries tend to be dealing with individual sub sectors, and often within the framework of the experience industries. ‘Film i Väst’, a regional resource and production centre for film funded by regional and local authorities and EU Structural Funds, makes an interesting example. About half all Swedish feature films are now produced at Film i Väst based in Trollhättan. Another oft-cited example is ‘RockCity’, based around a rock festival in the small town of Hultsfred.
Interestingly, there is no explicit focus on the creative industries in the capital region of Stockholm. Despite the fact that the capital is home to some of the major national institutions and educational centres for the creative industries, not to mention other actors and companies, the industries are seemingly left to fend for themselves. They have somewhat been taken for granted but with developments such as that of Film i Väst threatening the existence of the film industry in the Stockholm region, the issue of support for the creative industries has come to the fore.
This paper focuses on how the role of the creative industries is dealt with in the UK/West Midlands and Sweden/Stockholm regions. Which are the main actors nationally, regionally and locally? How important are the creative industries on the regional growth agenda? How is the potential clash between cultural policies and economic development policies dealt with? The paper builds on a number of academic and applied research projects carried out in the UK and Sweden.
DCMS, 1998, Creative Industries Mapping Document 1998
Pratt, A.C., 2000, ‘New media, the new economy and new spaces’, Geoforum, Vol.31, pp 425-436
Regional Studies Association conference ‘Regional Growth Agendas’, Aalborg, Denmark, 28-31 May 2005