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Tales of a Creative City - Initial Findings from the Brighton Fuse Project

Interim findings from the Brighton Fuse project were shared at a recent Wired Sussex event, Tales of the Creative City which took place as part of Brighton Digital Festival.

We were lucky to have the help of local SEO content/copy writer & social media specialist Liza Baron at the event.  Here, Liza shares her thoughts and experience of the presentation of the Brighton Fuse project's interim findings.

This month I attended Tales of a Creative City: What Brighton Fuse might mean for the future of the Creative, Digital & IT sector, a series of talks about the Brighton Fuse project's preliminary findings and thoughts by those involved. So often, when this kind of research is conducted, the results are only spread between the academics and business leaders involved. Brighton is not like that - as the project is beginning to prove – hence this event.

The night was chaired by David Docherty - CEO of the Council for Industry and Higher Education and author of the original Fuse report.

What is Brighton Fuse?

Have a look at the Brighton Fuse website for the background, status and projected benefits of the study. You can also follow @BrightonFuse on Twitter (of course!).

In a nutshell, it's a research and development project studying the relationships between the different parts of Brighton's CDIT (creative, digital and IT) cluster and how these can support future industry growth. As we were reminded many times (for good reason!), the results so far are (a) the tip of the iceberg and (b) based on very early analysis of data.

Talk 1 - Phil Jones on The Creative, Digital and IT Sector in Brighton: A few initial observations

First up was Wired Sussex MD with some of the initial project findings, some of which are:

• Growth - between 2005 and 2008, CDIT was the primary growth sector in Brighton and seemingly recession-resilient.
• Many companies in Brighton are actually branded freelancers or one-man bands.
• New CDIT businesses in Brighton are started by people who moved here, but not for that purpose - people are attracted by the quality of life and then decide it's a good place to start a business.
• 25% of Brighton businesses give their staff time/resource to pursue their own projects - Phil suggested that further research should be done into whether this should make those businesses should be eligible for R&D tax credits.

Talk 2 - Juan Mateos-Garcia on Why Here, Why Now? Factors of attraction, entrepreneurialism and growth in the Brighton CDIT cluster.

Juan went into the subject of entrepreneurialism in more depth, with suggestions as to why entrepreneurs are attracted to Brighton, and why they start companies here. Understanding such innovation is important for the CDIT cluster - especially for businesses trying to attract and develop talent.

You can see from Juan's slides that there are early signs of a trend for professional factors bringing people in the CDIT cluster to Brighton, and specific motivation factors differ between the CDIT industries. These factors do suggest that Brighton & Hove's lifestyle attracts entrepreneurial people who don't yet know they want to be entrepreneurs. At some point, they choose to use their skills to start their own company rather than working to help grow someone else's business.

This issue was the one part of the evening that I heard discussed the most during the post-presentation drinks, and does make intuitive sense. In my last full-time office job, we had two jewellers, a make-up artist, a ceramic sculptor, a graphic designer and a writer. All of us loved our job but had various degrees of motivation and inspiration to make the side projects lucrative as well/instead.

Another notable point is that, after its proximity to London, the three aspects of Brighton which are seen to strengthen its businesses are to do with access to skilled labour (including freelancers), access to collaborators, and ability to attracted talented employees. Those people's existence is a self-fulfilling prophecy for CDIT in Brighton.

Talk 3 - Georgina Voss - Two Degrees from a Robot Arm: Communities and Networks in the Brighton Fuse.

This bit made me very proud. It seems from the preliminary results that relationships between freelancers and those in competing companies in Brighton are more positive and supportive than in London. (London is the easiest point of comparison in this research, and plans are in place to start comparing the data to similar industries in the rest of the UK and Europe).

When looking at how the different networks within the CDIT cluster interact, it seems that there is little overlap. Perhaps some industries lend themselves better to collaboration, especially in Digital where new developments mean a need for ongoing learning - as opposed to many of the traditional creative industries.

Individuals who bridge the gap between creative and digital/IT are seen as the exception rather than the norm. However, we still live in a city where you are probably never more than two connections away from someone who could build you a robot arm, should you want one.

Talk 4 - Jonathan Sapsed on Business Models & Innovation.

This presentation focused on the part of the study that looks into factors that influence the growth of CDIT businesses in Brighton & Hove. CDIT is largely a service industry, with few businesses getting by on one product that can be rolled out for multiple customers.

A lack of managerial skills is one of the most reported skills gaps in CDIT (see Jonathan's slides). It makes sense - an entrepreneur builds and runs a business based on business acumen and industry expertise. As they grow, they find it hard to identify the point where they need a trained people manager. Again, this relates to my peers, many of whom have struggled in growing CDIT businesses with little/no HR or managerial structure. This may also relate back to Juan's report of workers not being satisfied with using their skills to help others make money.

Final takeaways

I'll admit that the parts of the night that resonated with me the most (so the ones I've covered in most depth above) are the ones that fit best with my own industries (freelance, digital, creative) and my own love of this city - I still can't get over the fact that there's now (empirical) evidence of Brighton's sense of community and support!

Now that we are becoming aware of how the different CDIT sectors relate to each other, what they think of each other, how they differ and how they are similar; I hope they can be brought together. Our town is special, our industry drives growth, and projects like Brighton Fuse are invaluable to learn more about how to nurture this.


You can hear from each of the event speakers in a short video by Latest TV on our YouTube Channel.

You can follow our guest blogger Liza on Twitter @lizabaron158

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