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The Creative PEC works closely with industry, government and the third sector to build evidence to support the development of better policy, writes Bernard Hay.

Person checking a film shot on a monitor

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The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (Creative PEC) provides independent evidence to support the growth of the creative industries. Our core stakeholders are policymakers, creative sector professionals and researchers.  
The Centre was established as a pilot and led by Nesta for its first five years. Then in 2023 the Arts and Humanities Research Council committed to funding the Creative PEC for a further five years, issuing an open call for a host organisation. Newcastle University won the contract due in part to the strength of its innovative proposal in partnership with the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) across a twin-hub model.  

Since June 2023, we’ve operated with a research team based at the university and a policy unit based near Westminster at RSA House. This north-south approach enables the Centre to work across the national policy landscape and provides greater regional ties.  

State of the Nations themes

We work with a consortium of research partners, each leading on a thematic area. The Newcastle team focuses on Internationalisation, overseeing areas such as trade and migration. Colleagues at Work Advance lead on Education, Skills and Talent while Sheffield University works across Arts, Culture and Heritage. And at Sussex University the focus is R&D, Innovation and Clusters.  
In this new funding period, we are taking a new approach. We plan to publish State of the Nations reports on a regular basis on each area. The themes were selected because the data is of sufficient maturity and quality to make annual comparisons, spot trends and provide insight to support good policy decisions.  
Inequality in the creative industries is persistently stubborn and we have the evidence to show this due to consistent work by Work Advance. So Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is a theme that will cut across all our reporting. Similarly, our work with Julie’s Bicycle shows the creative economy has much to do in addressing its environmental impact. Sustainability is therefore also a cross-cutting theme.  

Industry networks

In addition to a research consortium, we work across three professional networks. This includes consultations with 100 industry champions from diverse art forms. Regular industry roundtables and surveys enable us to understand pressure points in the sector and emergent areas for research. 

It was our industry network that told us more data was needed regarding the public perception of cinema, following huge changes post-pandemic. This led to research with the British Film Institute showing cinema - one of the most accessible and widely experienced artforms - is valued by its audiences to such an extent that they would be willing to pay a voluntary sum to ensure the continued existence of their local venue. This kind of ‘willingness to pay’ research is important when working with stakeholders at the Treasury. 
We also lead a Global Creative Economy Council in partnership with British Council. This comprises representatives from 12 countries who collaborate on global creative economy development. It’s a particularly important network in that it includes representation from across the Global South and North.  
And we’ll soon be launching our third network - an international community of Research Fellows. This group brings together leading creative economy thinkers to strengthen our collective impact.  

Arts and culture are good for us

The rationale behind all our activity is to support artists, freelancers, creatives and creative businesses - from one-person startups to global corporations. We know - and have the evidence – that arts and culture are good for us. Not just in terms of economic growth, but in wider senses of community belonging, well-being, health and a sense of purpose. It is critical policymakers listen to our research.  
To give it the best chance of cutting through, we work as an ‘embedded policy centre’ with colleagues at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and other government departments. Government representatives sit on our Advisory Board and we engage with them when designing research programmes. This ensures the evidence comes at the right stage of the policy cycle. 

An example of impact is our Good Work Review which looked at working conditions across creative sub-sectors. It found many benefits to creative employment but also widespread inequality with job quality varying considerably depending on age, ethnicity, disability and class. 

Its recommendations covered four areas: creative workforce protection, improvement in management practices, better access to skills training and professional development and improved worker representation and voice. The report found only 8% of employers in the creative sector have formal procedures in place for employee consultation (almost half the all-industry average) and only a third of creative industry employers have training plans in place. 
The findings directly fed into the government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision launched last summer which included a commitment to work with industry to develop an action plan in response to the findings of the Good Work Review, which is currently underway.  

Actively exploring where we can have impact

Another key issue for the Creative PEC is increasing access to creative education. Most recently, we supported the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Creative Diversity on their Creative Majority programme by contributing analysis on creative higher education. We helped identify policy interventions that could create more inclusive pathways into creative industries careers through working with higher education institutions. 

Similarly, we helped DCMS develop their Valuing Culture and Heritage Capital framework for use by policymakers to assess the wider value of culture in line with government evaluation frameworks like the HM Treasury’s Green Book. This work helps make the case for cultural funding and policy support and can be used by arts organisations to support their funding proposals and business cases.  

We are in the early stages of our five-year funding period and are actively exploring where best we can have impact. We are looking for creative industry professionals who want to get involved, share ideas and tell us their priorities – where would data and evidence help your work? 

We hope you’ll join us on this journey. Our research has value to the extent that it improves the landscape for artists, freelancers and creative companies across all regions. 

Bernard Hay is Head of Policy at the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (Creative PEC).  
@CreativePEC | @Bn_Hay

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The Creative PEC is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and led by Newcastle University with the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).  

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