Dr Jo Twist: How PM’s ‘industrial pillars’ will play out for the games sector

Dr Jo Twist: How PM’s ‘industrial pillars’ will play out for the games sector

Response to today's government announcement on industrial strategy by Dr Jo Twist, OBE, CEO of Ukie.

Prime Minister Theresa May today launched the modern Industrial Strategy, a plan of action for a competitive UK that will see the government invest in and review support for innovative “new sectors” and a more inclusive STEM agenda. It will also seek to ensure local businesses around the country are supported in the right way with structures, infrastructure and opportunities for trade, fit for a digital economy. 

Last week, May called the strategy a “critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain”, boosting jobs and diversity in the work force, encouraging trade and inward investment to the UK, investing in technology and innovation, and upgrading our infrastructure.

It’s very welcome that there will be a review of how our world-leading creative industries – and games as a key part of creative industries are in fact namechecked in the document – can underpin future prosperity by developing new technologies and growing the talent pipeline.

Diversity is also key to the strategy, with a desire to level the playing field across regional disparities to ensure that fair opportunities are open to people from all backgrounds. This new Industrial Strategy includes plans to address barriers to entry – to education and to jobs - across the UK, by supporting more non-academic work routes.

For the most part, the Industrial Strategy echoes Ukie’s areas of priority since the launch of our 2015 Blueprint for Growth report, including our work directly with government and with the wider creative sectors through campaigns such as the Creative Industries Council’s Create Together strategy.

We know that we are home to creators of the biggest entertainment products in the world, but this Industrial Strategy could further unlock the potential for the games sector - as a key part of an innovative, digital creative economy – to get more support and provide more of a roadmap for the technologies we create (eg AI, VR), the skills we cultivate, the cultural impact we make, and the digital trade we drive, across the UK.

Our Blueprint outlines the games sector’s need to act at a local level, whilst being mindful of the impact our actions have on the global sector, such as encouraging investment from local authorities which support growth in local clusters.

This is how we think the pillars play out for the games sector.

Skills for future jobs

As an industry body, we invest heavily in the skills that the industry needs, with what we call the ‘playground to pension’ approach. The Digital Schoolhouse initiative, seed funded by the Mayor of London, and now supported nationwide by PlayStation, supports teachers with the right creative, play-based tools (all mapped to the Curriculum) and methods to reach a diverse range of children at a young age. We need truly creative and systems-literate polymaths for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet and we need them throughout the country from all sorts of backgrounds.

We hope the Industrial Strategy might open up more opportunities to fund, support and extend the work of other programmes especially at a local level, including the Video Games Ambassador scheme, our Ukie student network, BAFTA’s skills work, and games industry business skills training schemes.

From local to global trade

We partnered with Film London to bid for Local Enterprise Partnership funding to create Games London, a three-year project to disrupt the cultural perception of games and promote London as the global gateway for games businesses across the UK. It includes the B2B Games Finance Market centrepiece, which in its first year created new business for UK games businesses worth over £10m.

With summits from culture to VR to AI, this is the kind of vehicle we think should be exported across the UK, supported by other LEPs, to really promote new sectors and the innovation already being created by 100s of companies across the UK in games.

The initiative has also coordinated inward and outward investment missions, including taking a delegation of games businesses to Slush show in Helsinki, and welcoming a Chinese mission to meet London games businesses.

Importantly, it is the largest cultural festival for games in the world, with over 55,000 people expected at events across the capital for the 2017 London Games Festival.  This is the kind of games specific recognition and coordinated support we believe could be even greater across the UK as part of the Industrial Strategy.

It is therefore pleasing to see that there will be a review of arms-length bodies which will include cultural institutions and how support of this kind can work more effectively at local level.

Driving growth across the whole country

The UK Games Map was launched in partnership with Nesta in 2014 (A Map the UK Games Industry) to accurately map the size, scale and geography of the UK games sector, and went online in 2015. It is a tool that firstly shows the broad geographical reach of the games sector, but also reveals patterns and conditions of cluster growth across the UK.

We have been using this evidence to put the case to local decision makers that they should be investing in the local economy and promoting local excellence.  The new Industrial Strategy commitments offer us the chance to unlock more potential local support and extend the work with Local Enterprise Partnerships across the country

Innovations in technology being developed by the games industry are already spilling over into other sectors. The emergence of VR, AR and AI not only led to some of the most played games of 2016, but they are also having a huge impact on areas such as education, medicine and engineering.

This is our chance to capitalise on our unique blend of content and creativity, and innovation and technology and the opportunity for more support that this strategy offers. The work starts now and we will be continuing to provide the strongest possible evidence and case from the games sector to make sure this strategy really does work for all. 

For more information about the UK's games industry then visit ukie.org.uk

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