Bazalgette Review: Ukie backs skills investment

The government’s plan for a new Industrial Strategy came with a promise to deliver early “sector deals” to supercharge a modern, inclusive digital economy. The creative industries (and games) were identified as key in the Industrial Strategy Green Paper.

Since January, we’ve been gestating. The Ukie team has been working hard directly with Parliamentarians and through multiple working groups as part of the Creative Industries Council, the Creative Industries Federation, the British Screen Advisory Council and more to feed priorities into what a “sector deal” that will deliver a bundle of joy for games looks like.

The government simultaneously commissioned Sir Peter Bazalgette to do an independent review of the creative industries.

We made sure he was fully across the opportunities offered by and for the sector. The review was published two weeks ago and games were all over it. I was at the launch and it was fantastic to see the recognition of our value and what we need coming from such a creative industries legend.

His recommendations were issues we’ve been pushing for some time, notably via our 2015 Blueprint for Growth.

Firstly, building on the local cluster work kicked off with Nesta in 2014 – which now lives as the UK Games Map – we highlighted early success stories showing how small amounts of investment can deliver huge returns, such as Games London, funded by the Greater London Authority. Other examples included the work we did with the local industry and the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which has resulted in a funded local support programme.

The Review’s strong recommendation for a £500m fund for “key creative clusters” is a sign that digital creative industries are harmonised.

Dr Jo Twist OBE, Ukie

This kind of local focus empowers clusters to attract international PR, finance and enables them to build skills – and it could go further. The Review’s strong recommendation for a £500m fund for “key creative clusters” is a sign that digital creative industries are harmonised.

Secondly, the Review made important links between the games industry and “immersive technologies”. Games are at the cutting edge of AI, VR, AR, but we need the investment in skills that our sector requires and craves more of to make the most of these opportunities. The announcement of £39m through the Arts and Humanities Research Council is welcomed, and we believe games can play a key role.

Finally, Ukie and others have consistently called for more funding for games, most recently in our Manifesto for unlocking growth in the games industry. We know funding routes that lower the risk for creatives to take a chance on an idea and giving investors confidence is a missing link in our sector. This is how innovation, creativity, portfolios, experience and knowledge, is nurtured.

When government asked what the “opportunities of Brexit” were, the industry firmly answered via our State of Play report: reform inequitable cultural support and funding. Independent endorsement of the need for more proportionate support for games via an ambitious extension to the UK Games Fund – beyond prototypes – is a step closer.

We’re delighted to see other recommendations around esports, skills, trade, all of which provide the foundations for all creative digital industries to deliver growth and jobs for the UK and the creators driving it. There may be some birthing pains, but we continue to push for progress.

Dr Jo Twist is CEO of Ukie, the trade body for UK games and interactive entertainment, making the UK the best place in the world to make games. She is also deputy chair of the British Screen Advisory Council, London Tech ambassador and BAFTA Games Committee member

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