Occupying the worlds of Investment and the Creative Industries is at once fascinating, fulfilling and somewhat confusing to others.
In my role as Chief Investment Officer of Creative UK, I am anchored right in the middle of these two worlds and I appreciate that their syncopation is not immediately clear to many of those who are more firmly centred within Investment.
My bread and butter – and indeed, that of my team – is the work of bringing Investment and the Creative Industries together in perfect harmony. When we get it right, what we see is a complementary partnership wherein each side supports the other. By discovering, unlocking and supporting creative businesses to reach their potential, we both help to increase the power of the Creative Industries in the UK and to build the UK’s economy by further growing a sector that already contributes £116bn to the UK total GVA (gross value added) each year.
As with all things in life, this work is about teamwork and partnership – nothing exists in a vacuum and the Creative Industries (CI) are by no means an exception. While many of us within the CI enjoy working outside of traditional conventions and breaking boundaries, all of this is only achieved when we have the financial means to express the innovation that is so richly sewn into the UK’s creative economy.
Innovation is enabled by investment
That is why, my team – the Investment team – is so vital in this ecosystem. As the commercial arm of Creative UK, it is our mission to drive social, economic and cultural growth through championing investment in the CI. So, while we look to generate returns that can support Creative UK specifically, the core aim of CUK is to help the UK’s entire creative sector to thrive. That means that all of our returns feed back into the UK’s cultural ecosystem; they are funnelled through our advocacy work, our regional support programmes, our diversity schemes and so much more – to enable the whole system to flourish.
And if the macro relationship between Investment and the Creative Industries is this important, the micro relationships between investor and investee are equally vital. We support a myriad of creative companies through our equity and debt investment offers and we approach investing with a strategic long-term focus. That means leveraging our specialist sector knowledge, networks and support programmes to boost small and medium-sized businesses as far as possible. Our aspirations for these companies go far into the future and extend beyond regional and national boundaries because a win for a creative sector company is a win for the sector as a whole.
Partnership and the Creative Growth Finance Fund
Our Creative Growth Finance (CGF) fund is the landmark offer we have set up in partnership with Triodos Bank to provide business loans to innovative creative companies. One of our existing CGF investee companies is immersive content studio, Dimension Studio. When we caught up with Simon Windsor, the co-CEO and co-founder of the studio, he encapsulated the way we want our investees to feel when he said this:
“Creative UK has always been really supportive. I think the thing that we loved from the off was the open-mindedness to supporting the early-stage ideas and creative aspirations that needed backing, and a degree of faith that the teams behind these would execute where other means of finance wouldn’t typically back that stage of a project.
So, it [the finance from Creative UK] was freeing for our business in a sense of enabling us to experiment and progress ideas creatively where otherwise they might not have had the backing to do so. And for our business, it was also important because it wasn’t just about whether or not that idea would see the light of day. It was also about building the capabilities in the business.
The support has benefited our ability to build a competitive advantage in metaverse productions; scale a virtual production offering that’s driving a whole new segment of the film and TV industry; and help us to advance the adoption of volumetric capture as seen in ground-breaking productions such as Balenciaga ‘Afterworld’ and Coldplay x BTS ‘My Universe’.”
We’ve been partnering with Dimension in various capacities for six years and this kind of long-term relationship is not uncommon. Working with Dimension – and our other investee partners – is based on a number of factors that can’t be agreed upon in a contract. These factors include mutual respect, trust, shared values and connection. No matter how much more digital our lives become, no matter how far into the metaverse we go, people still need to interact with other people. Isn’t that why we’re all on Linkedin?
And for us, relationships are vital. We don’t want to agree a business loan, shake hands and move on. We want to bring new talent into our network and help them to flourish far into the future.