Bristol remains the UK’s hub for creativity and digital innovation with a world-class talent pool and productivity levels outpacing those achieved by most London firms, new research shows.
But despite this leading edge, many of the city’s creative firms still face the twin challenges of tough market conditions and a lack of business acumen – a situation heightened by the fact that more than 50% are ‘micro businesses’ with five or fewer employees.
These findings emerge from the first Bristol Media Barometer – a snapshot of the sector’s health compiled by Bristol Media, in partnership with accountancy and investment management group Smith & Williamson, and based on a survey funded by Bristol City Council and Bath & North-East Somerset Council.
It shows that while the area’s creative industries are performing well, they need to work more intelligently to flourish in the current economic climate.
The barometer also found the micro businesses could do more in research and development, training and new business generation to strengthen what are often precarious finances with little or no net profit.
While small can be beautiful, this combination of thin margins and lack of strategy for growth is leaving a growing number of businesses vulnerable to insolvency, potentially as a result of one bad debt, according to the research.
On the positive side, Bristol’s creative companies are more productive than the UK average – even outstripping London in terms of the productivity per full-time equivalent employee.
The report recommends steps companies can take to trigger robust growth such as investigating potential business grants and alternative means of finance, utilising work space more efficiently and investing in training and motivating valuable employees.
Bristol Media chair Paul Appleby said: “Creative Industries are at the centre of the economic development strategy for Bristol and the wider West of England region and we have a great foundation to build on.
“Small, talented companies with great creative ideas and the ability to learn fast are the cornerstone of economic development.”
He said the opening of a Bristol office by Keo Films, the London-based documentary maker behind the River Cottage food programmes, and BskyB’s acquisition of factual TV producer and distributor Parthenon Entertainment, which has a Clifton office, illustrated the city’s development as a creative hub.
“It’s vital we give our member businesses the right support and encouragement to grow and innovate with the technology and business sectors that also make our region nationally important.”
Mike Lea, managing partner of Smith & Williamson’s Bristol office, said: “The West of England should continue to pride itself on being an established leader with the creative industries sector and use the findings contained within this report as a springboard to lead the way commercially, as well as creatively.”