Optimising Regional Creative Clusters

This research aims to compares two UK regions with growing creative sectors, and asks how can regions optimise their creative clusters.

In collaboration with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, this project compares the economic context and political ecosystems of two regions in the UK with well-established and high-growth creative clusters; the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Cardiff Capital Region (CCR).

Creative industries have been a growing part of the UK economy for the past two decades, but with the threats posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK’s EU exit, the creative clusters in the UK’s regions are facing substantial challenges.  The UK Government’s Levelling up agenda places a major focus on regional development of the country’s ‘lagging regions.’ The WMCA region is home to an increasing BBC presence and a world-class video game development cluster in Leamington Spa, the CCR houses a substantial screen sector dominated by BBC Wales, S4C, ITV and Bad Wolf. 

The screen and digital sector are high-growth, have great potential for immediate exports of services, and cross-collaborative potential with the application of digital technologies to other sectors including healthcare and aerospace, but are suffering from skills gaps in senior positions, and a lack of a clear training infrastructure. The levelling up agenda appears to largely overlook the role of universities in regional development, both in terms of anchor institutions and training provision.

Funder/client: The PEC is part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Timescale: 2022


Project lead: Dr Matt Lyons

Project Support: Dr James Davies
Email: j.davies.9@bham.ac.uk


This project broadly consists of three parts:

  1. An initial report, offering an overview of the economic context of the regions, their similarities and differences, a literature review of the role of universities in regional development, and an overview of relevant policy interventions in both the WMCA and CCR. The aim is to provide an overview of the current context, and identify gaps for further research. The conclusions of this initial report form the basis for the second, more substantial element of the project.
  2. Building on the gaps and aims identified by the initial report, the part of the project takes the form of a longer discussion paper, based on interviews with stakeholders from education, government and industry in both regions, to ascertain the most optimal ways for growth for creative industries in both regions. In addition, analysis of secondary data will explore the possibilities of economic modelling to assist in the guiding of the WMCA and CCR regions to offer their native creative clusters the best opportunities for prosperity.
  3. An exploration into methodologies for producing enhanced regional statistics on the creative industries. This will include a scoping piece into the development of a creative satellite account for the West Midlands.


Improving economic statistics in the creative industries: Towards multi-regional creative industries satellite accounts
April 2024

Dr Matt Lyons, City-REDI and Kevin Connolly, University of Strathclyde. 

The Role of the University in Enhancing Creative Clusters
October 2022

Dr James Davies, Dr Matt Lyons