Understanding the impact of COVID-19 in the Creative industries

12 October 2020

The Creative Industries has been one of the most understated stars of the UK economy over recent years, outperforming a whole host of other sectors year-on-year. The impact of COVID-19 however has been seismic. Recent calls from the Government are now seemingly questioning the validity of companies and roles, despite many of these having been so successful and contributed strongly before the onset of the pandemic.

The Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre (PEC), led by innovation foundation Nesta, provides independent research and authoritative recommendations across the sector. The most recent study by PEC explored business model disruption and innovation during COVID-19 in the creative content industries.

What were the results?

Most evidently, the inability to attract footfall or audience, something which is generally considered an essential part of the business model, was highlighted as one of the single-biggest issues identified in the industry. It’s a little-known fact that many venues only break even when audiences reach in excess of 60% of capacity. With an ageing population in the UK, many of whom enjoy the arts, there’s credible concern that 1,000 odd people aged 60+ being gathered in one room at the same time won’t be possible for a while. Taking this one step further, would this same audience be retained even if digital channels became available?

Consulting with industry champions drawn from across the UK working in the Creative Industries, the desire’s to inform academic research leading to better policies for the sector.

Primarily three questions were posed to the virtual industry panel;

  1. What, if anything, did you have to change immediately to allow your business to continue to operate (or not) in the pandemic?
  2. What new business models are being developed in the mid-term to respond to the changed circumstances brought about by COVID-19?
  3. How can the industry, UK government and research best support this innovation & strengthen resilience?

Insights & trends

  1. Digital inequality – This aspect was flagged throughout the findings of the study with the notion of a digital divide between those organisations who had invested in technological infrastructure and those who hadn’t. The panel called on policymakers to increase investment in digital access and education for those with restricted online access.
  2. Intellectual property – A disproportionate 94.7% of the sector, based on 2018 figures, are considered micro-businesses. The smaller the business, typically the less historic IP there is to fall back on. Can the industry therefore explore ways that independent organisations can be supported to be more robust in this area?
  3. Working from home – The impact of home working can’t be under-stated from personnel, property, and operational technology perspectives for organisations already under incredible commercial strain. Equally disruptive is the notion of true creative collaboration occurring when creative minded people are physically together.
  4. Innovation funding – One panelist stated a claim to allow for doubling down on R&D investment into virtual productions. Whilst this may be true, there remains the fact from a separate recent survey that just 14% of creative businesses had undertaken R&D using the HMRC definition as we recently explored. Click here to read more on these statistics.

Supporting businesses in the Creative Sector

Working closely with clients across the creative industries, we’ve heard about the trials and also the successes, which we naturally celebrate. The Fortus Creative Industries advisory team recently produced the Beyond Covid planning tool for business owners operating in the sector which has been well received and acts as a strong pointer for how we can support those businesses seeking to understand how best to manage their people or property, along with a whole host of other aspects.

The Innovation Tax Relief team at Fortus can also support in driving education and understanding of R&D tax credits or Creative Tax Reliefs available (of which there are 8 schemes within the sector to take advantage of).

We’re here, alongside creative businesses to help them through this most challenging of times to make the best of the situation allowing them to flourish once more in the not too distant future and more importantly, allowing us to enjoy the creative content we rely on them to produce.

To read the full PEC report, please click here.

It’s fair to say that COVID-19 has impacted everyone, and unfortunately the Creative Industries is no exception. If you’d like to discuss any of the points raised from the PEC survey, then email the team. 

We’d appreciate hearing from you, to see just how we can support your recover and reach your long term goals.

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