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  • The UK’s creative industries most unevenly distributed after Agriculture and Finance and Insurance
  • Since 2011, creative economy employment has grown three times faster than national workforce as a whole
  • Creative hotspots outside of London include Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol
  • Government must do more to provide targeted support to creative clusters, recognising their local strengths and needs

More than two fifths (43 per cent) of creative economy jobs are in London and the South East despite this region accounting for just over a quarter (28 per cent) of the national workforce, according to research from UK innovation foundation Nesta.

In The Geography of the UK’s Creative and High Tech Economies launched today, Nesta maps for the first time the creative economy according to the official classification1 and the high-tech economy2 and calls for government policy to better support creative clusters across the UK. 

Both of these economies have been identified by the Government as drivers of the UK's future growth with the latest figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) showing that the creative industries are in rude health.3

The report findings reveal that the UK’s creative economy is more unevenly distributed than the high-tech economy with around a third (31%) of the latter based in London and the South East. The creative economy includes those employed in creative industries such as film, TV and music as well as those in creative roles in the wider economy such as designers in the manufacturing sector. Roles within high-tech industries include IT and advanced manufacturing as well as those employed in science, technology, engineering and mathematic occupations outside of these industries.

The creative industries are one of the most unevenly spread sectors, third only to agriculture and finance and insurance.  Jobs related to government, health and education are the most evenly distributed across the country.

The study confirms that London is the UK's biggest creative powerhouse, with the creative economy accounting for 15 percent of jobs in the capital. But, in relative terms, the capital recorded the second slowest growth in creative economy employment between 2011-2013 at 2.9 percent per year on average, compared with 4.3 percent across the UK as a whole.

Hotspots outside of London and the South East for creative economy jobs include Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and Glasgow, with high-tech hotspots including Hampshire, Berkshire and Cambridgeshire. The clustering of these sectors is a reflection of the fact that talent in these sectors like to collaborate.

At a national level, there are 2.6 million jobs in the creative economy and 3.2 million jobs in the high-tech economy, but between 2011-2013, the creative economy grew more than twice as fast as the high-tech (4.3 percent per annum compared with 2.1% per annum) and three times faster than the workforce average. The fastest growing segment are a small group of ICT-related industries –  computer programming, computer consultancy and other software publishing which fall within both the creative and high-tech industries, growing at 9.6 percent each year.

Today’s report supports previous calls from Nesta for government policy to provide targeted support for creative clusters outside London and the South East to promote job and economic growth throughout the UK. This includes:

  • A £100 million competitive fund using Regional Growth Fund money to target public investment in the fastest growing creative clusters
  • A £100 million demonstrator programme to support the adoption of ultra-high speed broadband in these clusters and where these businesses can capitalise on the benefits5   

Hasan Bakhshi, Nesta’s director of creative economy, comments: "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." 

While the latest report maps the UK's creative economy as a whole – that is, all creative industries and creative occupations - other work by Nesta has mapped its sub-sectors in greater detail including in A Map of the UK Games Industry.



1.       The DCMS’s choice of which sub-sectors to include in its creative industries classification is based on creative intensity – the percentage of an industry’s workforce in creative occupations. This method was developed by Nesta in A Dynamic Mapping of the UK’s Creative Industries.

2.       The research proposes for the first time a rigorous classification of the UK’s high-tech industries  based on the proportion of an industry’s employment that is in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations, comparable with the official creative industries classification.

3.       Creative industries worth £8million an hour to UK economy, DCMS

4.       A £200 million programme to develop the UK’s creative clusters, Nesta

About Nesta: ( is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833

For more information contact Laura Scarrott at Nesta on 0207 438 2697/ [email protected]