I chair the Digital Creative Business Group at the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), created nearly three years ago as an industry-led advisory body for regional economic development. We have established ourselves as the West Midlands sounding board for those with proposals that impact digital and creative industries. And think ‘digital creative’ in its widest sense: we have members including Vitsoe, Motionhouse, Playground Games, Electric Square, and specialists in IP law, drones, AI, IT and everything in between! Both Coventry & Warwick University attend our bi-monthly meetings as do Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council. We decided three years ago that ‘digital creative’ was less about the specifics of an industry sector and more about a way of thinking and shaping our future.

We are an ‘action’ group and our activity last year includes:

  • organising a strategic brand building workshop to support regional inward investment activity
  • creating marketing content to showcase our creative ecosystem at the major property investment conference MIPIM
  • co-hosting a 5G Idea Sprint with Coventry University highlighting key projects to take forward as a region
  • supporting Warwick University in the creation of their new Digital & Creative Communities initiative
  • shaping the DCMS Creative Scale-Up West Midlands pilot and the establishment of CreateCentral as the West Midlands ‘Screen’ Industry body
  • providing insight and input into the West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy for the Creative Industries
  • representing the region at the LEP Network; the Creative Industries Federation Annual Showcase; and the Westminster Forum on Creative Clusters
  • attending sector relevant round tables with Government and hosting DCMS visits

So when Covid-19 hit us hard we wanted to do something and our online collaborative sessions gave us three work-streams to take forward:

    1. The Freelancer Gap:

      The support available during Covid highlighted the gaps in policy makers knowledge of how the creative eco-system works. Freelancers don’t have premises or employees and yet provide vital life-blood for our economy. We produced a short two page paper on the problem, which has since been incorporated into the West Midlands State of the Region report to Government and quoted by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street! You can read it here

    2. Re-engagement with Creative Spaces:

      Here we are looking at both safe re-engagement in the physical space and new engagement in the virtual. Content streaming offers crucial new business models for creative producers and key to that is understanding and skills. We are looking to deliver a workshop for those producing performance/theatre content in the first instance and then expand this to other artists. In a cross-cutting project with other partners, we are hoping to deliver a small number of 5G test-beds within our collaborative creative spaces to give everyone the opportunity to explore new technologies. The recently announced Covid-19 recovery grants issued through the Growth Hub should also be able to help in this area too and you can apply for those here

    3. Tech Challenge for Impacted Sectors:

      This work-stream is focused on the retail and hospitality sectors as those hardest hit by Covid-19 (and not supported in our other work-streams). Funding has been sourced for a ‘challenge fund’ and we are writing criteria and forming a panel to ensure appropriate governance before inviting applications. These sectors can also benefit from the Covid-19 recovery grants above too and there are other support schemes for those in the tourism industry. For more information on those click here

    So what next? I am touring the region (virtually!) aiming to speak to as many digital creative cluster communities as I can so that I can share what we are working on and also find out what our wider ecosystem needs. Covid-19 has hit us hard but it has given policy makers a wake-up call to listen. If you would like to get involved in any of the work-streams or have something else you feel we should be working on, please get in touch – sarah.windrum@cwlep.com

  1. I look forward to shaping the future with you :-)
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