What does ‘innovation’ mean for cultural organisations anyway?

Following a preliminary discussion paper, NESTA has now published its proposal for an ‘innovation framework’ for use by cultural organisations and funders. Based on case study research with the National Theatre and Tate, authors of Culture of Innovation: An economic analysis of innovation in arts and cultural organisations suggest that ‘innovation’ within cultural organisations can happen across four main areas: audience reach, artform development, value creation and business models.

As part of the research, there is a consideration of  audience development strategies employed by the National Theatre and Tate. This includes an interesting comparison between the demographics of Gallery users and those of online audiences; for example, Tate’s web visitors during one campaign period were more likely to be female / ethnically diverse / have lower incomes than ordinary Gallery visitors. It will certainly be interesting to note whether these trends hold true as more data of this nature begins to filter through.

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Photo by Demarmels

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Local tourism industries generate over 6% of the region’s total economic output

According to an analysis by the Tourism Intelligence Unit at Office for National Statistics, the economic output (‘GVA’) generated by West Midlands-based tourism businesses accounts for a relatively small proportion of overall regional GVA (6.2%) compared to other parts of the UK such as the South West (8.9%) and the North West (8.3%). However, given that under some definitions of the tourism sector (such as the narrower, DCMS definition used in our Culture & Prosperity report), tourism industries appear less important to West Midlands economic output, this new paper may cause a shift in perception to a certain extent.

Boeing 777 on runway at Birmingham AirportIndeed, the paper (and its definition of the tourism sector) may trigger a reassessment of the importance of tourism to the national economy generally. For example, the finding that tourism contributes 7.1% of all GVA in the UK contrasts with a recent study commissioned by VisitBritain, which suggests the visitor economy directly generates 4.0% of UK GDP.

Notes: GVA and GDP measures are different and therefore not directly comparable, but in this instance, it was deemed useful to compare the two studies to explore different assessments of tourism contribution to the overall economy.

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Photo by Martin O’Connell

New report confirms growth in local creative workforce

Recent work by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found a national and regional growth in the level of creative industries employment between 2006 – 2008. According to data sourced from the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR), employment in creative firms across England increased by 11% (compared to a 2% average growth in employment for all sectors). The level of creative industry employment growth in the West Midlands region (+19%) was relatively high compared to other regions and, in line with national trends, was more marked than the average increase for all sectors within the region.  

These findings confirm trends reported last year in our Culture & Prosperity: the economic role of culture in the West Midlands. Although the methodology and timeframe differed slightly across the two papers, the conclusion is the same: a regional growth in creative industry employment compared to the national creative industry average and compared to the average for all regional firms.

Unfortunately, as the author of the paper points out, there are continued issues around getting hold of more recent creative industries data. Both mainstream definitions of the creative sectors (DCMS evidence toolkit & Frontier Economics) use 2003 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes – rather than the newer 2007 codes.

From 2009, the data for the IDBR has been collected based on the current SIC 2007 codes, something which poses problems for cultural researchers in that the process of converting 2003 codes to 2007 codes leads to data that is not exactly comparable with pre-2009 data. This situation could be seen as problematic during the aftermath of a recession when a clear picture of the economic situation is particularly helpful.

Download the report and accompanying dataset

Notes: The ‘official’ definition of the creative industries sectors used by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) remains that documented in the DCMS Evidence Toolkit. The Frontier Economics definition, although widely known, remains experiential at this time. 

Photo by Dean Terry

Inward investment into the West Midlands 2009/10 – a local analysis

In 2009/10 there were 84 inward investment successes in the West Midlands and another four knowledge-based investments. These investments created over 1,500 new jobs and safeguarded another 4,300.

Although these 88 investments represented the lowest number of jobs created or safeguarded since 1992/93, they also represented the 7th highest total number of projects since 1991.

Pie chart shows 38 inward investments in West Midlands metropolitan areas and 49 inward investments in the shire counties over 2009 to 2010Inward investment is usually spread reasonably evenly between the West Midlands metropolitan areas and the shire counties. In 2009/10 the shire counties attracted the majority of inward investment projects (55%). See left.

However, the metropolitan areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have attracted perhaps just over half of the projects over the years – see below. The number of jobs created and safeguarded also generally follows a similar pattern.

Stacked bar chart shows percentage of inward investments into West Midlands metropolitan areas versus shire counties between 1991 and 2010

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The multiple risk factors of worklessness

By isolating the ‘risk factors’ and certain combinations of ‘risk factors’ associated with a person’s chance of being out of work, new analysis from the West Midlands Observatory can help decision makers get to grips with the complex interplay of issues behind the current high rate of worklessness across the West Midlands.

The research is already informing the Department for Work and Pensions in its review of welfare policy, as it provides insights into the major factors influencing a person’s chances of being in or out of work. It shows that these chances can vary greatly according to the individual’s background and personal characteristics. The research demonstrates how combinations of factors such as having no formal qualifications or a long-term health problem or disability, or being a lone parent, affect a person’s chance of being out of work.

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Up-skilling and diversification are key to growth and job creation across the West Midlands

Targeting investment on higher value added sectors such as digital media and medical technologies, and developing a workforce with the right skills to service those sectors would significantly increase job growth and the prosperity of the West Midlands according to new research.

The research (pdf, 498kb), undertaken by the West Midlands Observatory, shows that the potential benefits of targeting investment are substantial. If workforce skill levels in the West Midlands were increased to match the England average, growth in Gross Value Added (GVA) — the measure of economic output per head of population — over the next 5 years would increase by 2 percentage points from 10% to 12% and net new job creation would nearly double from 11,000 to 21,000. If in addition more businesses in higher value added sectors and clusters were attracted to the West Midlands, so that their share of economic activity reflected the position nationally, GVA would grow by some 23% by 2015 and more than 200,000 net new jobs would be created.

Local authorities, business groups and other key partners across the West Midlands are looking to achieve sustainable economic growth in jobs and GVA over the next 5 years. This new research shows how, in a time of austerity and funding cuts, the Observatory can provide authoritative and objective research to help decision makers target limited resources and do more with less.

The research (pdf, 498kb) provides an insight into the region’s existing and likely future skill needs. It has been produced to inform the development of skills and investment priorities that focus shrinking levels of public sector investment in areas that will maximise  impact.

A range of key investment locations across the region, including Longbridge and Eastside in Birmingham, Ansty Park in Coventry, i54 in Staffordshire, Coventry and Wolverhampton city centres and Dudley, Telford, Walsall and West Bromwich town centres, can play a key part in diversifying local economies.

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The new optimists

Written by leading scientists from the West Midlands, The new optimists is a book detailing the reponses of over 80 scientists to the question”What are you optimistic about?”

The scientists who feature in the book are leading medics, life scientists, engineers, chemists, computer and digital media scientists, environmental and energy experts, all of whom work in the West Midlands.

The official book launch is on 14th September at a celebration dinner in Birmingham, on the evening of the first day of the 2010 British Science Festival which is being held in the city.