Sharp Project: Driving Forward the Creative Economy in Manchester
The Sharp Project is about the city region having a collaborative approach to growing a sector we know we are good at, and one which – with the right investment – can bring rewards for the widest possible range of our citizens.
The national picture
The digital and creative industries are important to the UK economy. They account for 7% of GDP, employ two million people and contribute £60 billion a year to the economy. The sector has grown twice as fast as the rest of the economy in recent years.
But to ensure this rate of growth, the UK needs to look forward to the new demands and opportunities the sector creates rather than look back to what were “golden days” of almost monopoly content creation. Technology has changed the sector beyond recognition – demanding a completely different infrastructure. Media moguls needed millions to set up as a broadcaster. Now, it is possible to create your own TV channel, with a global audience and a cult following from a bedroom using equipment bought at PC World.
Government has challenged the creative industries to move out of the margins and into the mainstream of economic and policy thinking; to build jobs for the future, to use public funding to stimulate creativity and sharpen our creative edge. Their vision is to have the local economies of our biggest cities driven by creativity in 10 years’ time.
Digital Britain – The Carter Report
Stephen Carter, the first Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting is heading up an action plan to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries.
Lord Carter’s report will be a comprehensive analysis of the digital economy. Entitled ‘Digital Britain’, the plan is to accelerate the rate of growth, and cement the UK’s position as a world leader in the knowledge and learning economy. To achieve this Carter will bring forward proposals for both Government and industry, to support the development of these critical sectors.
The Government strategy under Lord Carter has identified a number of key priorities. Amongst them are:
- Broadband development: examining options for maximizing participation and levels of service across the UK.
- Investment in content: exploring business models for content development in a digital age, and the impact of new media on the content market.
- Independent production: examining how to ensure the health of a vibrant independent production sector.
- The Digital Britain report will consider what future legislative and non-legislative measures are required to support the development of these critical sectors and will be published in 2009.
The Sharp Project is leading the way for the digital and creative economy in the UK.
The regional picture
Many of the successful creative businesses in the City have become world leaders in the specialist area of animation, CGI and Visual Special Effects.
Manchester-based Red Vision is an innovator of CGI techniques, leading the way in the creation of realistic virtual characters and photo-realistic CGI inserted into live action sequences, used in dramas, documentaries and feature films.
Manchester City Council has identified the creative sector as an opportunity to drive economic benefit across a diverse population, increase the skills of its citizens and to renew and reinforce the city’s position as a global player in this sector.
Manchester is uniquely placed to spearhead the Government’s vision for Digital Britain because of a unique set of factors:
- its talent base and emerging specialism in animation, CGi and Visual Special Effects;
- its expertise and skills in drama;
- the availability of low cost /scalable space;
- its pioneering work on digital connectivity, especially in East Manchester.
The Sharp Project is at the heart of that strategy with its ambition to provide the right environment to grow these businesses. It will:
- provide accommodation and connectivity for small SME’s and start-up creative companies looking for cheap, flexible space;
- stimulate the overall regional labour market by increasing the demand for skills;
- support small entrepreneurial companies in anticipation of the labour needs of MediaCity in 2011/12.
The Sharp Project defines itself as a “grow bag” for start ups – not a home for fully fledged global brands. In this way it complements MediaCity, sitting at the other end of the city region’s arc of opportunity, forming part of a network of ‘creative hubs’ across the region.