Empowering creativity: the impact of targeted regional growth interventions

Frontier Economics, along with BOP Consulting, were commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to evaluate the impact of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme (CICP).

CICP was designed in response to the recognised contribution that the creative industries make to the UK economy and with a view to driving continued long-term industry growth in that sector. It was a £61 million AHRC initiative, which ran from 2018 to 2023.

Part of our assessment, published by AHRC, focused on the contribution made by nine Creative R&D Partnerships (CRDPs), which collectively accounted for £55m of total programme funding. These were a complex programme of distinct multi-year local interventions all around the UK, each led by a Higher Education Institution (HEI). The CRDPs are the first nation-wide creative industries innovation initiative targeting local and regional economic development.

What we did:

Our theory-based evaluation of programme impact provided an evidence-based assessment of whether, collectively, CRDP delivery achieved the programme aims to:

  • Identify industry-defined challenges where collaborative research and opportunities can lead to demonstrable and measurable outcomes for industry growth and advancement in knowledge.
  • Grow R&D activity for and with the creative industries; tapping into new opportunities and potential for collaboration and establishing strong and sustained connections between the UK research base and the creative industries.
  • Create an environment where large enterprises will increasingly see the value of making significant creative industries R&D investments with academic institutions to support innovative research, cutting-edge R&D and new opportunities for enterprises of all sizes (including in the supply chain).
  • Create a research community and R&D workforce adept at working across university, business and creative practice.

Our evaluation was structured around five programme evaluation themes, identified in the evaluation framework developed by Frontier Economics and BOP Consulting in 2020. We drew our evidence from CDRP management data; a survey of businesses engaged with the CICP; project case studies; and a set of deep-dive cluster development case studies.

Key findings and outcomes:

Despite being a challenging five-year period, we found that, collectively, the CRDPs have delivered their intended impacts. In particular, we noted key benefits in terms of demonstrating the viability of the creative industries cluster model (each CRDP developed a markedly different delivery mode); raising awareness amongst regional policy makers of the creative industries and amongst local creative businesses of the benefits of conducting research that is technology or data-led; increasing the attractiveness of the supported cluster areas as a place to carry out creative industry-related applied research; and enabling businesses to attract finance and funding and grow their employment. This has been translated into several tangible impacts, including UKRI committing to fund a second phase of the CICP, as well as the legacy of many of the CRDPs who continue to operate today.

CRDPs also delivered a wide range of more immediate outcomes such as bringing new products and services to market, investing in collaborative workspaces, equipment and other technical services for their cluster, generating and sustaining new research partnerships and broadening research networks. The CRDPs offered training and mentoring to creative businesses, created new HEI courses and improved access to digital and creative skills within the cluster.

Our research outputs and project outcomes have been used to inform strategic decision making for different stakeholders. The report has been used across AHRC and UKRI, in particular providing the evidence to support a second wave of Clusters. On a more practical point, lessons from delivering this scale of evaluation have been incorporated into subsequent major evaluations. They will continue to be used to inform the next wave of Clusters for continuous improvement.

Click here to read the full report Evaluation of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme – UKRI