Oh Great… great great Britain! Oh kids, I love this country! There is a “creative industries minister” who wants to build an academy for talented geeks (closed number obviously!), encouraging “a stronger private sector venture-capital angels market” in this field… wake me up!
By Jean Eaglesham, Chief Political Correspondent
From Financial Times.com Published: January 4 2007 02:00
The video-games industry should sponsor an academy to teach geeks the skills they need to operate successfully in the sector, the creative industries minister has suggested.
Shaun Woodward told the Financial Times the “best way for the video games industry to have the talent and the skills it wants is to move into the hot seat itself; to come to the government and say ‘we want to put some money into an academy’.”
This “school for geeks” could harness talent neglected by academia, he suggested.
“You might have kids who traditionally have quite a difficult time coping with traditional academic subjects but happen to be the most amazing gamers. . . you have to look very creatively at the kind of educational background you want.”
Mr Woodward signalled that he was optimistic there was private sector support for such an initiative.
The video-games industry was moving beyond an early “rebel period” of looking enviously at the tax breaks and other state incentives offered to film companies to an acceptance that it was now a multibillion pound industry in its own right, Mr Woodward said.
“They’re now recognising that ‘actually we’re huge, maybe we need to build our own institutional bricks’,” the minister said. “You see television and films schools but we don’t have a video-games school. Why not? Because [the sector] is so new. And yet we’re the third largest manufacturer in the world. And that’s the sense of catch up here.”
This “sense of catch up” is a central theme in a green paper the government will publish in the spring on the 13 sectors grouped by the government under the umbrella of “creative industries”. They include video gaming, advertising, music, television and publishing.
Mr Woodward said he hoped the green paper would change perceptions, badging the creative industries as a “very serious part of the wealth creation of the UK economy for the foreseeable future”, rather than a hodge-podge of craft and peripheral businesses. He cited the sector’s rapid growth – at almost double the rate of the rest of the economy for the last seven or eight years. It now employs an estimated 1.8m people.
However, Mr Woodward argued that areas such as skills, access to finance and regulation of the sector all needed to be addressed “not because [the creative industries] haven’t been doing well but because they, too, are beginning to face very severe competition globally”.
Working groups, set up by the government to harvest business views ahead of the green paper, have highlighted management skills as one of the most important issues to be addressed. A perennial issue for small-to-medium-size companies, it could be a “particularly acute” problem for creative companies because the managers were usually not conventional business people, Mr Woodward said. “It’s left brain without the right brain.”
The problems caused by this absence of managerial skills can be exacerbated by difficulties gaining access to financial support, another issue that will be addressed in the green paper.
The UK suffered in comparison with the US, Mr Woodward suggested, saying: “What we need to do is encourage a stronger private sector venture-capital angels market.”
The policy paper will look at creative industries’ access to capital “not only to create businesses in the first place but to sustain them in their early stages as well”, he said.
It is an ambitious agenda, made more difficult by the pace of change.
As Mr Woodward put it: “Part of the problem we’ve got is [that] this is about trying to handle the future when we can’t know the future.”