The transformative powers of creative industries

Image by Inês Venâncio • Text by Belén Zuazo

The term creative industries is only 20 years old, yet it is already on the lips of leaders, entrepreneurs and decision-makers, who expect it to be one of the main sources of wealth in the 21st century. And this is no coincidence: unlike other resources, human creativity is an infinite source of production of goods and services.

The scope of creative industries

In 1998, the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport defined the creative industries as originating from individual creativity, skill and talent, and having the potential to create wealth through the creation of intellectual property. This definition included 13 areas of activity, i.e. advertising, architecture, the arts and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, interactive leisure software, music, performing arts, publishing, software, television and radio.

While many of the above sectors have long-standing roots in societies, grouping them with emerging ones arising from new technologies under the umbrella of "creative industries" was a novelty. So was making the creative industries a promise for development, which led to changes in public policy, investment and education.

The creative idea as a product

At the core of the definition of creative industries is the issue of intellectual property, a concept that regards the creative idea as a product with intrinsic value. As such, it is considered that it should be protected by copyright, patents, trademarks or other legal and regulatory mechanisms that protect it from unauthorized copying and commercial use by the person who conceived it.

A phenomenon that arises from the above is the effective separation between intellectual property and manufacturing, with intellectual property being more valuable. This is the case of the technology brand Apple, which designs its products in California and manufactures them in different countries.

Small structures, big ideas

When it comes to generating intellectual capital, studies show that SMEs (25-500 employees) and micro companies (10 or fewer employees) have a greater capacity for innovation than large companies. This phenomenon is related to less bureaucracy, more horizontal structures, more contact with customers, more general product knowledge, more willingness to take risks and greater focus on priorities.

Small businesses have the capacity to act quickly and decisively, especially when it comes to implementing new ideas, which makes them ideally placed to generate innovation. The concept of generating value rapidly is behind the agile methodologies that many of these companies adopt, including startups, incubators and hubs such as the Space Creative Tech Hub.

The undeniable impact of the creative industries

Small businesses or not, all the so-called creative industries have contributed to the creation of wealth, exports and jobs, often at a faster pace than other sectors, as suggested by a United Nations report on creative economy. This report also discusses its potential for promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development.

As explored in a previous article, creative industries have also had an impact on the valorization of territories. This can happen by offering cities, towns and neighbourhoods a distinctive image that makes them unique, such as the Flower Festival on the island of Madeira. But it can also arise from the combination of art and commercial activity, as is the case of the Shoreditch district of London with its design studios, tech businesses, cafés and clubs. In both cases, the territories are revitalized, attracting visitors and investments.

The creative industries – also known as creative economies – promise to be a source of wealth for the 21st century. In the information age, human creativity still seems to have a role to play in improving the quality of life of individuals and communities.