The UK’s creative economy is unusually highly concentrated in London and the South East of England compared with other sectors, and the creative industries are the ‘most unevenly distributed after agriculture and finance and insurance’, according to the latest study by the UK innovation foundation Nesta.

This imbalance ‘should be of concern to policymakers charged with promoting jobs, innovation and economic growth in the nation as a whole’, warns Nesta. Based on the findings of its latest publication, The geography of the UK’s Creative and High-tech economies, it has re-emphasised its view that government should be doing more to provide targeted support to creative clusters, recognising their local strengths and needs.

The report identifies data that policymakers could use to help identify those clusters with the biggest potential to drive jobs and growth, and Nesta goes on to propose that £100m of Regional Growth Fund money be used to target public investment in the fastest growing creative clusters outside London and the South East of England.

Fast but uneven growth

Researchers Hasan Bakhshi, John Davies, Alan Freeman and Peter Higgs reveal that since 2011, creative economy employment has grown three times faster than the national workforce as a whole.

There are some ‘creative hotspots’ outside of London, including Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol. Nonetheless, more than two-fifths (43%) of all jobs in the creative economy – including those in film, TV and music, as well as creative roles in the wider economy, such as designers in the manufacturing sector – are in London and the South East, despite this region accounting for only just over a quarter (28%) of the national workforce.

Growth in creative economy employment averaged 2.9% per year in London from 2011-2013, compared with 4.3% across the UK as a whole.

Hasan Bakhshi, Nesta’s director of creative economy, commented: “The official statistics point to the stellar growth of the UK’s creative economy. Today’s research confirms that there are significant hotspots of creative employment across the UK.

“However, it also shows that there are strong attractor forces pulling talent to London and the South East. Public investment has a critical role to play in nurturing creative clusters throughout the country.”