The creative and digital sector is broad in definition but is nonetheless an important and thriving component of the UK economy. This sector covers areas such as media, computer services and marketing, with the common feature between them being technology and a flair for creativity. A 2008 study showed that the GVA (Gross value added) of the creative and digital sector was £59.1 billion, which equated to 5.6% of the GVA for the entire country. This is a measure of the value of goods/ services produced by an industry, area or country.
West Yorkshire has developed into one of the leading business regions in the country with Leeds in particular going from strength to strength. Its GVA contribution as a city is £1.5 billion, but it is the creative and digital sector which has really shone in recent years. The industry has seen considerable growth over the last decade with advertising and architecture in particular seeing the most improvement.
Leeds is now the largest new media city outside of London with only Birmingham being on par. Its growing reputation and valuable network means that it is one of the prime locations for new businesses, while its recent growth could also have been attributed to its proximity to the Media City in Salford which sits a mere 40miles away.
According to a 2011 survey conducted by the Creative Leeds group, there are nearly 3,400 creative firms in and around Leeds. Creative and digital businesses in Leeds make up for over 50% of those in West Yorkshire and around 35% within Leeds city centre itself. Despite the large number of businesses, around 70% are considered to be ‘micro firms’, meaning that they employ 10 people or less. In fact, a 2005 study showed there were 2000 self employed people within this sector. These figures reinforce the notion that this industry is prime for entrepreneurs and tends to be start up focused. Taking a wider look at the sector we find that there are over 30,000 people employed in creative firms throughout the city. However, there has been a decline in employment in this area with an overall fall of around 11% since 2008. The areas to be hit most are TV, video, advertising and radio which have seen a slump of 30%.
Prohibition PR is one of the companies that have recognised this growth in the digital and creative sector, both regionally and nationally, and has based its business plan around this trend. Prohibition PR is a company which focuses mainly in online PR and marketing and aims to strengthen its clients presence in an ever evolving digital and social media market. It stands out as one of the leading PR firms in the region and can boast such clients as Audio-Technica, Park Lane Properties and Keepmoat Homes. Managing director Chris Norton, is an award winning PR practitioner and his blog is listed amongst the top 100 marketing blogs in the world.
Some of the other prominent Yorkshire firms in this sector includes Numiko. It is a digital communications agency that creates campaigns and internet applications, whose clients have included the BBC, the NSPCC and Channel 4. They currently employ 24 people and this puts it into the minority of businesses, i.e. the 30% who are not classed as a ‘micro business’. In 2011 the company had a turnover of £1.5 million and has gone on to win numerous of awards. In May of this year, their multi-platform project, ‘Foxe’s Live: Wild in the City’, won the award of best website at the Rev awards 2013. This project, which collaborates with Windfall Films and Channel 4, also won the award for Best Mashup and Data Visualisation at the BIMA awards in 2012. Some of the other leading businesses in the city include DS.Emotion, which is a marketing and digital specialist and Elmwood which specialises in brand design. Elmwood recently made some redundancies but insists it is still growing ahead of the market. They have also recently appointed a new chief executive in David Godber.
The biggest trade association for this sector is the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA). BIMA try and support and promote the British digital industry as well as sharing knowledge and communicating with other bodies. Other associations include Pact, NESTA and Chinwag. As for recruitment, Orchard is the largest Digital, Creative and Marketing recruitment consultancy in the north of the country. Leeds Metropolitan University are also helping the industry as their new technology institute is offering 90% discounted courses to help train creative and digital micro businesses.
The sector in Leeds has been given a further boost with plans for a £90 million investment to create a digital centre in Westgate being approved by Leeds City Council. It is thought that the renovation of a grade 2 listed building into a creative and digital workspace, with a high spec infrastructure, will create 40 jobs in the next year and a further 300 jobs in the Leeds city region by the year 2026. It is also predicted that it will create an additional £95 million GVA in that period.
It is clear to see the importance of the creative and digital sector, not only for the national economy, but also for the success of a region or city. It is anticipated that the sector will continue to develop in Leeds with a 6% growth expected in the next 5 years, consolidating the city’s position as one of the UK’s key creative hubs and the largest media city in the north of the country.
Image credit to Tom Blackwell.