South coast creative sector, ripple to wave?

James Brounger, Senior Director at CBRE

Global real estate advisor CBRE has published ‘Creative Regions’, a first of its kind report, showcasing the Top 25 Regional Creative talent markets in the UK [outside of London]. Key findings from the report reveal:

  • Manchester tops the ranking as the leading UK regional creative talent market
  • Southampton and Portsmouth are both growing creative destinations, ranked 12th and 21st respectively
  • Scotland features particularly well with Edinburgh and Glasgow in the top quartile
  • 11 of the top 25 creative talent locations are in the East and South East

These locations are identified as having the key ingredients required by this sector to progress and develop as future destinations for the creative industries (including publishing, film, TV, media, digital, computer programming and information services).

Common characteristics of successful creative talent markets include large concentrations of creative businesses and professionals, deep talent pools of highly educated graduate populations, large and growing millennial populations, good transport connections, quality of life and proximity to world class universities with strong research and computer science ratings.

The index shows Manchester as the leading UK creative talent market outside of the capital, by some margin, scoring consistently highly cross 15 weighted metrics. From a wider regional perspective, the East and South East dominates with 11 of the Top 25 creative talent locations. Although the East and South East are generally more expensive for house prices, office rents and pay, there are higher concentrations of creative industries companies and employment here. Strong transport links and connectivity to London are undoubtedly contributing factors.

Southampton and Portsmouth are some of the strongest South East creative talent markets, along with Reading, Oxford, and Brighton, according to the CBRE index. Southampton is the third highest creative market in the region and Portsmouth is in the top 10 in terms of those employed by the information and communications sector.

Both cities have much to offer. Southampton is well situated, widely viewed as the regional centre for central southern England. Its proximity to both sea and countryside make it an attractive place to live and work. There is a critical mass of talent, high concentration of millennials in the local population, and proximity to two major universities which together produce around 6,500 graduates each year and are engaged in world class research.

Portsmouth has long been an important regional base for IBM. It is also home to a growing number of smaller creative businesses in fields ranging from graphic design, marketing, architecture, fashion, music, film and photography. The ranks of these smaller businesses have been growing.  A survey into the creative sector in Portsmouth (Creative Census Portsmouth, 2016) found that, out of 240 creative businesses surveyed, over half had started up in the past five years, indicating a healthy and very positive new business formation rate.

The University of Portsmouth is also one of the world’s top 100 new universities in the Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2017.  The Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the university has a strong industry focus, offering a highly vocational course portfolio designed to develop the highly skilled and expert graduates needed by this industry.

Both cities are well positioned to accommodate further growth from the Creative sector if they can draw upon and build on their existing strengths and the businesses already in place.

James Brounger, Senior Director at CBRE, said “The tech phenomena looks set to continue in the UK.  Technology and creative industries in general, are not affected by regulatory restrictions or fears over single market access. Contrary to common perception, large numbers of these companies are based outside of London and we expect this will continue to be the case. Evidence shows that regional cities such as Southampton and Portsmouth also have a critical mass of talent necessary to compete successfully in this sector.

“There are many other tempting reasons to locate in the area including quality of life, access to talent, successful universities, cost of living and proximity to London.  Indeed, given the growing cost of higher education, and the cost of living in London, the large regional centres particularly in the South are increasingly proving an attractive proposition for graduates and employers”.

Emma Jackson, Associate Director in CBRE Research, comments “As this sector continues to grow, the choice of office space and where to locate will be ever more critical to its sustainability and future growth. Through an in-depth understanding of the unique characteristics and potential of particular markets, which this new research offers, businesses will be better placed to make effective, cost efficient and informed property decisions that will greatly aid in the quest to attract and also crucially to retain the best talent to create competitive advantage”.