New strategy launch for Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership

Sarah Windrum, board member of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership

Sarah Windrum, board member of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership - Credit: Archant

Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership launch new strategy for growing local games cluster and the wider digital creative sector

A new strategy for growing the local games cluster and the wider digital creative sector has been launched by Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP).

The CWLEP, in partnership with games trade body Ukie, has launched ‘Games Industry in Coventry and Warwickshire – Blueprint for Growth’.

The new report highlights the cultural and economic contribution made to the region by the games industry and makes recommendations for how to grow it and benefit the wider digital creative sector.

The report shows how the West Midlands’ games sector is a 21st century growth industry – contributing economically and culturally to the region’s success.

Around 130 of the UK’s best games businesses are based in the West Midlands – notably in and around Leamington’s ‘Silicon Spa’ - creating, highly skilled, productive jobs and opportunities throughout the region.

At any one time, there are between 2,000 and 2,500 full time employees in more than 50 games companies in and around Leamington, out of a total of 3,000-3,500 games industry professionals across the West Midlands.

Among findings in the report include:

• These are highly skilled and productive jobs. The games industry in the West Midlands generated an estimated £224 million in GVA in 2015 – of which £188 million was from the ‘core’ of 50 firms clustered around Leamington, Southam and Warwick.

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• The heritage and culture of Silicon Spa are a source of competitive advantage for the region. The cluster of games companies in the West Midlands has developed over more than two decades through a distinctive focus on quality and creativity. It is an outstanding example of developing regional economic growth through ‘smart specialisation’ in a sector that demonstrates clear advantages over its competitors in international markets.

• Games are an example of ‘digital manufacturing’, requiring and developing a blend of transferable 21st century skills. Making games is a fusion of art, design, programming, data analysis, science, maths – all skills transferable to other sectors. The process of developing games creates innovation in technology and tools for their manufacture – many of which are transferable to other sectors.

• The continued success of Silicon Spa should not be taken for granted. Whilst the macro economics of the games industry and its attraction to new entrants have never been healthier, it has never been harder for independent producers to create profitable new titles. The issues that face the games sector are complex and specific. Games businesses therefore need industry led and sector specific expertise and support.

The report makes recommendations to the CWLEP, local authorities, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the Midlands Engine, Westminster and Ukie to:

• Invest in specialist games sector support and development of an interactive media and digital manufacturing cluster

• Promote the heritage and culture of Silicon Spa as a source of regional competitive advantage; a distinctive digital manufacturing sector that also develops enabling technologies to catalyse growth in other priority industry sectors

• Underpin the supply of talent through a range of industry-led approaches to skills in schools, colleges and universities, building on evidence of international best practice

• Explore ways to use co-investment to unlock investment in new IP and growth

• Celebrate ‘games as culture’ as part of a story of cutting edge UK innovation, offering a stimulus to education, inward investment and the visitor economy

• Encourage collaboration between games businesses, universities and research institutes to build a supportive and forward looking climate for R&D and innovation across the region

• Encourage information sharing between councils, landlords and developers to ensure supply of a range of workspace across Coventry & Warwickshire to meet the diverse needs of existing businesses, start-ups and inward investors

•Work with internet service providers and the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) to address shortcomings in the digital communications infrastructure that place businesses across Coventry & Warwickshire – and games companies in particular – at a disadvantage to other UK regions and to international competitors

Sarah Windrum, board member of the CWLEP and CEO and co-founder of the Emerald Group, said: “Not enough people know that we have a world class games cluster in the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP area, and the wider West Midlands, and this an industry and success story we should shout about more.

“The games sector crucially requires the skills needed by wider digital creative businesses and support for these skills is therefore essential. Promoting and growing the local games sector will create more jobs and also increase the highly skilled workforce that will benefit the wider local economy.

“We are pleased to have partnered with Ukie to produce this report and we look forward to working together further, along with the CWLEP’s partners, to help ensure the games sector can grow to its full potential.”

Ukie CEO, Dr Jo Twist OBE, said: “The games and interactive entertainment sector presents real opportunities for economic growth around the country and we want this report to be used as a blueprint for other emerging clusters across the UK to consider.

“The report directly responds to the government’s recent Industrial Strategy – in particular, directly addressing the call to consider the best structures to support people, industries and places to maximise local strengths.

“We look forward to working with the LEP, Local Authorities, Combined Authorities and the government in Westminster to get more support for games businesses in the West Midlands and wider UK.”

Chris White, MP for Warwick and Leamington, added: “As Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington and Co-Chair of the All- Party Group for Video Games, I am delighted to endorse the Coventry and Warwickshire Blueprint for Growth and offer my support to ensure that the games sector locally realises its potential.

“With one of the biggest clusters of games companies in the UK, our local area is well placed to lead the way in growing this vital sector for our economy.”

The full report can be accessed online here.

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