Our Creative Kingdom: Let's Wake Up to Our Own Global Powerhouse

14/01/2016 14:31 | Updated 14 January 2016

Silicon Valley: five sexy syllables conjuring up glittering images of global economic power, tsunamis of entrepreneurial activity and daring inventors of the next new thing who seek to "make the world a better place" while making billions in the process. My former colleagues at HBO have even made a hit TV series about it (the quote being one of its running jokes). Such is the cult-like status of The Valley.

Do we have a global economic powerhouse in Britain that even comes close? We certainly have a thriving tech sector with impressive output, growing international clout and much-lauded hubs in London and across the country. Mighty enough to rival The Valley's tech nirvana? Perhaps not yet. But maybe we are just looking at the wrong industry.

As it turns out, we are tripping over the answer in our everyday lives, as we watch the latest Bond film, listen to Ed Sheeran, hope for 'Downton Abbey-the-movie' or buy an Anya Hindmarch bag on Net-a-Porter. Or equally as we sit on a London bus brought to life by Thomas Heatherwick or wander past the dizzying array of contemporary architectural icons across London.

Maybe that's just it - we are too close to it to realize that our global economic powerhouse is creativity. It's our most valuable natural resource, cleaner, brighter, and infinitely more inspiring than crude oil will ever be. And the UK does it better than anyone else on the planet. In cold hard economic terms, the UK is the only country in the world (by a mile) that rivals - and by many measures exceeds - the US in global creative success.

The creative industries - design, fashion, film, TV, music, theatre, publishing, art, advertising and the like - are Britain's second biggest economic sector behind banking, and likely well ahead of it once you subtract our whopping bail out bill. They account for 5% of the UK economy, or almost £80bn annually, and 6% of the job market. And while other sectors are flagging in these challenging times, the UK's creative industries are booming, growing three times faster than any other sector.

Nonetheless, seduced by the global obsession with technology, we tend to miss our own global success story as it passes before our eyes or into our cupboards. It has always amazed me that I could go from meetings with global creative companies in New York and LA, where discussion would often touch on the self evident (to them) strategic fact that there are only two global creative industries - the US and the UK - and then return to London where we are widely felt to be a struggling cottage industry.

Take, for example, a recent discussion with a sophisticated international British banker who was working with one of our youth entrepreneurship charities. When I suggested it might be a good idea to focus more on the creative industries given Britain's global status, he said, with a worried look bracing for bad news, "Oh, gosh, do we even figure at all?"

It's a different story within the creative sector, where the creative industries themselves are increasingly aware of their collective worth and harnessing their power. Witness excellent initiatives such as the Creative Industries Federation which brings together, in one membership and lobbying body, all corners of the creative and cultural worlds, and Creative England which gives transforming support to small creative businesses across the country. And politicians are beginning to wake up as well. Chancellor George Osborne, for example, now consistently makes statements about the importance of investment in our "extraordinary creative industries"and walks the walk by expanding tax incentives across an increasing range of creative sectors. These are developments which have been sorely needed and are to be heartily applauded.

But outside of these pockets of familiarity, out in the mainstream public, the creative industries tend not to be clocked at all in economic terms. When they are thought of, it tends to be as just a bit of fun. As Professor Andy Pratt of City University London says, "the creative industries are Britain's Cinderella sector."

Once we recognise as a broader society that the glass slipper fits - that we are sitting on a goldmine of global creativity that will only grow in value - priorities and decisions will change. An enlightened dialogue will open up about the importance of giving our children ample creative exposure in school and ample counseling on potential creative career paths; about how people mid-career should have no fear in re-training to enter the robust creative sectors or in starting their own creative enterprises; and on how to guide our politicians to accordingly focus funding across our economy, including schools and the publicly supported arts - 'funding' in this instance finally being recognised for what it is: investment.

Time is not on our side. Whilst the UK is the global creative leader now, other countries are playing catch-up. Fast. Realising that creative enterprises are poised to transform the global economy this century, just as science and technology did in the last, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia and the Gulf states, amongst many others, are pouring resources into fueling their own creative industries.

Creativity is our unique national treasure, able to transform a skinny, eccentric teenager from Brixton into a global rock icon, a transcendent creator, a zeitgeist. From Shakespeare to Bowie and beyond, we've been in the business of creative blockbusters for hundreds of years - it's time to recognise it. Let's finally wake up to our own global powerhouse.

Carolyn Dailey is the founder of the forthcoming 'Creative Entrepreneurs' movement, which aims to resource and inspire the next generation of creative people to start their own businesses. She is also founder of The Dailey Partnership, the brand building boutique for the creative industries. Previously, she was MD of Time Warner International, London.