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Creative Fusion at the heart of the North East economy

27th June 2017

The North East’s creative, digital and IT (CDIT) sector is growing and sustaining the crucial development of technology-based networks, according to the results of a new survey carried out by the region’s five universities.


The findings show the turnover of more than half of businesses surveyed, grew in 2015/16. This was especially true in IT, software and computer services, design, crafts and architecture.


To understand the challenges and opportunities unique to the North East’s CDIT sector, Creative Fuse North East, a partnership between Northumbria, Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland and Teesside universities, conducted a comprehensive survey of more than 500 firms and freelancers. Business executives from across the CDIT sector were also interviewed to understand the different issues facing organisations and individuals today.


Creative Fuse North East, was set up in Spring 2016 and its aim is to ensure the CDIT sector in the region becomes more resilient, grows faster and creates more and better jobs in a sustainable digital economy.


The survey results form the basis of the £4m project’s first report, which was launched in London last week by the Rt Hon Ed Vaizey, Chairman of the Creative Fuse North East Advisory Board and former Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy.


The report highlights that employment in the region’s creative industries has grown faster than the UK as a whole, with a 22.6% increase from 2001 and 2015, compared to 19.5% nationally.


Mr Vaizey said: “Our research has outlined the opportunities and the challenges facing the CDIT sector in the North East. The creative industries are absolutely vital to the economy and it is very encouraging to see that the sector is growing, with more than half the businesses reporting growth.


“Now we have the results, we can enter the innovation phase of the project with the information we need to really target the areas which need support to grow and to innovate.”


The report also shows:

  • Two-thirds of North East CDIT businesses are ‘fused’ – which means they combine ideas from creative design and technology in their work;
  • Of the fused businesses, 65% reported growth – companies are able to attract new talent and set up new opportunities in the region;
  • 40% of businesses and freelancers who responded have always lived in the region
  • 70% of businesses and 71% of freelancers said the local market is important, while 30% of businesses said London was a very or extremely important source of revenue, followed closely by international markets at 27%.  

Mark Bailey is the academic lead for Creative Fuse at Northumbria University and, said: “Following the results of the initial survey, the project will now enter the innovation phase, which will see academics from each of the five universities involved working with industry, cultural organisations, charities and the public sector, to look at new ways to innovate and grow.”


The first innovation event is a Maker Day for hackers, coders, artists, researchers, developers and designers, which will be held at the University of Sunderland on Monday, 3 July.


The Creative Fuse North East partnership is funded jointly by the universities involved and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Arts Council England (ACE) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


Earlier this year Northumbria appointed creative researchers as part of its role in the project. Dr Emmanouil Chatzakis and Nate Sterling are currently working with local companies to establish how design skills and technology can be shared and applied to solve a variety of challenges.


The report and innovation phase of the project was launched at the Digital Catapult Centre in London last week.


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