Toronto / London / Lisbon

Three events in quick succession, all very different but all in their own way reinforcing two key trends – the changing shape of the creative economy, and the increasing political recognition, and support, of its economic impact.

iVentures in Toronto is a relatively small event organized by Interactive Ontario, with a strong emphasis on knowledge sharing and community stimulation. It had previously been GameON but changed its profile to recognise the much wider activity and blurring lines across the sector in the city. A company combining VR, CGI and animation in delivering sophisticated medical applications seemed a good exemplar.

Elsewhere in the city the announcement of the Sidewalk Toronto initiative also embodied some of this change. A spectacular plan to regenerate a large part of the waterfront as a smart city “from the ground up” it seemed significant in their communications, and in my separate conversations with them, that design (in its broadest sense) was as important a part of the process as technology.

Next stop London and the Creative Industries Council Autumn Reception at the Houses of Parliament. A significant turn out of MP’s signaled the interest in the sector. It is possible that the Creative Industries Sector Deal as part of the Industrial Strategy will come as early as the Budget later this month. As I discussed with another attendee, an amazing journey over the past 10 years or so from a sector dismissed as marginal and cultural to the current understanding of economic impact equivalent to aerospace or financial services.

The potential for support for creative cluster development out of London is a key part of the early thinking on the sector deal – it will be interesting to see if the hoped for scale investment is delivered.

And then to Lisbon for Web Summit. The change in the economy of Lisbon over the past five years or so is incredible, and a testament to active political participation. In an economic downturn the Portuguese, and Lisbon authority in particular, sought to create the conditions for young people to in essence create their own jobs by supporting a start up economy – funding accelerators, giving over large empty buildings, pushing international profile.

The attraction of Web Summit from Dublin was another significant commitment, but one that feels wholly appropriate as the city is now a thriving creative / technology hub. The high profile presence of Portuguese goverment ministers (and UK for that matter) pointed to a continuing commitment in an emerging industry which has been a part of the wider economic improvement in the country.

And a final positive public sector intervention. Closer to home the West of England LEP and West of England Combined Authority provided funding to the Bristol VR Lab, a bid I helped to write – a positive catalytic investment to accelerate a VR/AR cluster which is already the second largest in the country after London.

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