Recruitment and lack of growth finance holding back Bristol’s creative firms, report shows

September 9, 2022

Bristol’s creative businesses need more support than ever before to help them to compete on the global stage as they struggle to find skilled staff and access funding, according to a new report.

Research carried out for Bristol Creative Industries (BCI), region’s largest membership network for the sector, shows the city’s creative firms have on the whole bounced back from the impact of the pandemic. 

But they are now facing up to growth-limiting challenges around recruitment and finance.

BCI commissioned The Audience Agency to conduct research among its members and the wider creative sector to understand more about how the region’s creative businesses are faring and to determine the level of support they want and need as the industry continues to recover from the impact of Covid-19.

The ‘Creative Force’ report shows that:

  • Accessing talent with the right skillsets is the biggest challenge facing more than a third (36%) of creative businesses in the South West
  • Increasing diversity and inclusion is a significant priority for six in 10 (59%) creative firms, but 21% admit that they are struggling to recruit talent from diverse backgrounds.
  • Nearly half (48%) of creative businesses want more help finding diverse talent from under-represented groups.

While most creative firms have embraced digital ways of working, research and development (R&D) spending is low – with 62% admitting to spending nothing on R&D. 

The take-up of new, breakthrough technologies such as AI, 3D printing, and robotics is also minimal

Securing the funding needed to grow and develop is also an issue for Bristol’s creatives. The variety of business support programmes and financial grants available is creating confusion with many of the region’s businesses unsure about what it is relevant to them and whether they are eligible

Focus group surveys with local creative businesses and freelancers found that while there is no shortage of programmes and grants available to encourage innovation and business growth in Bristol and the wider area, the multiplicity of options can be overwhelming and there is a need for more help navigating the support available.

Bristol Creative Industries chair Chris Thurling, pictured above, said: “The creative industry is an engine for driving economic growth and job creation throughout our region.

“After an incredibly challenging two years, creative businesses are bouncing back and the future looks bright, but our latest research shows that creative firms and freelancers need more targeted support than ever before to really scale up and take advantage of emerging growth opportunities in the wake of the pandemic. 

“Bristol has long been considered a great place for businesses – after all, it is vibrant, dynamic, thriving, and multicultural – but our research shows that location is no longer considered the be all and end all for creatives.

“For them, place is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. It begs the question ‘has Bristol been resting on its laurels?’

“As we grapple with getting growth plans back on track at a time of economic and political uncertainty, there is no time for complacency.

“We all need to do more to support our creative and cultural businesses by working in partnership with city and combined local authorities, education providers and other business support organisations to ensure we create an environment where creative firms and freelancers can thrive.”

The UK creative sector is a vital part of the economy and contributed £115.9bn to UK GDP before the pandemic.

It is now expected to grow 20% faster than the rest of the economy and has the potential to create 300,000 new jobs over the next three years, stimulating growth and recovery throughout the UK.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris, pictured above, who leads the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), said the report showed the region was rich with creative talented people, but that the pandemic hit many working in the sector hard.

“It’s why under my leadership, WECA has invested £3m to help more than 700 freelancers – abandoned by the government during the pandemic – and creative businesses get back on their feet and face the future with a renewed confidence and purpose. I welcome the recommendations in this timely report.

“The West of England is a region of innovation and creativity, and I’m determined that the right support is in place to allow our region to flourish.”

BCI’s Creative Force report includes a comprehensive set of key recommendations for tackling the issues brought to light by the research findings and is intended to be used as a catalyst, convenor, and advocate for change and action to fuel the South West creative sector’s development and growth.

The full analysis and report findings are available to download here.

Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across Bristol for just £120 a month. Email for more information.