THE BLOG

Time to Get Creative With the Budget, Mr Osborne

15/03/2016 15:21 GMT | Updated 16/03/2017 09:12 GMT

George Osborne once said that "we earn our way in the world if we stop being afraid to identify Britain's strengths and reinforce them instead." With that sentiment in mind, the government should be confident about investing in our creative industries as a major driver of prosperity, as well as our roads, rail and airports. Intellectual Property is the growth engine of the 21st Century.

The financial tides have turned (a lot) since the Autumn Statement. UK growth forecasts have been downgraded. There's been mayhem on the financial markets. Volatility in commodity prices. Apocalyptic warnings from the International Monetary Fund that the world is at risk of 'economic derailment', not to mention huge uncertainties surrounding our future membership of the EU.

Yet, there has been a glimmer of good news since the Chancellor's autumn statement with the publication of the government's latest economic figures on the UK creative industries. A quick glance shows the sector to be one of the UK's greatest industrial assets, bringing in more than £84.1 billion to the economy a year, with annual growth of almost 9% and a workforce of over 1.8 million people.

But despite their track-record for growth and their resilience in the face of wider economic shocks, investing in and lending to early-stage creative businesses is still a minority activity. As a result, too many innovative and productive creative businesses are under-capitalised and growth opportunities are missed.

Throughout his time at Number 11, the chancellor has been hugely supportive of the creative industries. In particular, the sector-specific tax credits for film, high-end TV drama, video games, animation, theatre and orchestras have had a significant impact on supporting the growth of the sector and ensuring the UK retains its competitive edge in the global market.

We're now fortunate to have major Hollywood blockbusters like Star Wars choosing to shoot here in the UK and that's delivering valuable inward investment. However, as Channel 4's chief executive David Abraham commented a few of years ago; "Bringing American movie and drama productions here is great for jobs in the same way as making iPhones in China is great for China -- but the Intellectual Property and profits are on the first boat out of here."

In other words, this investment could be here today and gone tomorrow. And whilst the skills and talents of Britain's creative community are second to none, we easily underestimate how fast things are changing in the rest of the world - and how serious other governments are about growing their own creative economies. And why wouldn't they be? The World Economic Forum has recently estimated that the creative industries could represent up to 12% of global GDP.

Ultimately it's investment in our digital infrastructure and support for the creation, exploitation and retention of intellectual property in the UK, under UK ownership and within UK tax jurisdiction, that's key to securing the future success of our own creative economy.

With further cuts to public spending expected tomorrow, my request to the Chancellor is to look to the industry that's proved it can deliver results. Making small amounts of capital available to help companies develop, exploit and commercialise their own IP can act as a catalyst for future growth and scale. Fundamentally this means backing ideas and taking risks.