Experts Call for National Strategy to Develop Creative Sector

Monday, 30 November 2009

The Western Development Commission (WDC) and the Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC) at NUI Galway have called for the development of an integrated national strategy to develop the creative sector and drive the future of the smart economy. The call was made at a seminar entitled 'Creative Industries, Innovation & the Smart Economy' held at NUI Galway and attended by policymakers and practitioners from the creative sector. The Smart Economy Framework, launched by the Government in December 2008, specifically identifies the creative, cultural and arts sector as important for national recovery and building a more knowledge and innovation intensive economy. Speaking at the seminar Lisa McAllister, WDC Chief Executive, said: "Creativity should be firmly placed at the core of the smart economy where wealth creation will be increasingly driven by ideas, intangibles and the creative application of Information and Communications Technology. Although we are conscious of the current economic constraints, the WDC believes a national policy to develop the sector will deliver long term economic results for the Western Region and for the national economy. We also believe that future policy decisions should include investment in infrastructure so that the creative businesses who locate here can access international markets, both physically through air, road and rail links, and virtually by way of fast, cheap broadband to reduce any sense of peripherality". Dr James Cunningham, Director of the Centre for Innovation & Structural Change at NUI Galway, said: "The nature and organisation of innovation activity is changing and the development of an internationally competitive creative industries sector complements and helps sustain private and public sector investment in research, development and innovation (RDI). Development of a national policy for creative industries would provide a focus for enabling action and a recognition of the importance of creative industries to Irish society and business". Dr Cunningham added: "Policy supports and investment in the development of creative industries would strengthen, deepen and broaden the skills and talents of individuals and organisations. This would also support, in a sustainable way, the broadening of innovation capability and capacity which is a critical element of building a smart economy". The seminar heard of research carried out by the WDC to investigate the size of the creative sector in the Western Region and to identify the key issues faced by people working in the sector. It estimated that in 2008 there were 4,779 creative businesses operating in the Western Region, directly employing over 11,000 people. This generated an annual turnover of €534m and directly contributed €270m to the Gross Value Added of the regional economy. The research also showed that creative businesses in the Western Region tend to be small scale and that there is a high level of entrepreneurship among creative people with 39% of them self-employed. The Western Region is predominantly rural with 68% of the population living in rural areas and the region having few large centres. Creative talent is seen as an asset in a rural region and the seminar heard calls for policies to retain and attract creative talent because creativity is one of the key areas for potential economic growth. Ms McAllister added: "The presence of a strong creative sector in a region can also drive creative thinking in other sectors as well as stimulating new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things". Professor Robert Huggins from the University of Wales and Director of the Centre for International Competitiveness presented international evidence of the links between competitiveness and creativity. He explained how competitiveness is increasingly being measured in terms of creativity, knowledge and environmental conditions, rather than purely on accumulated wealth and that creativity is not a purely urban phenomenon. The seminar heard that Creative Industries and the Smart Economy are relative newcomers to policy debates and that the old dichotomy that separated 'cultural industries' from 'economic industries' is waning, as research highlights the contribution of the innate creativity often found in rural areas to the economic performance of regions.
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