Room for growth: Creative UK’s Tim Evans talks about the opportunities and challenges for the year ahead

Tim Evans

The creative industries, like most sectors, had a difficult time during the pandemic. While screen-focused businesses found plenty of opportunities as people rushed to streaming services, television, games and music to pass the time, the live and nightlife industries teetered on the edge of collapse as they were forced to close venues for long periods of time. With the last legal restrictions lifted in March 2022, the creative industries have started to rebound.  

We spoke to Creative UK’s Investment Director Tim Evans to find out how the sector has recovered, discuss their Creative Enterprise and investment opportunities and talk about their key focuses for 2023. How exactly is the sector recovering from a brutal few years?

“From what we’re seeing within our portfolio, there is a lot of optimism for growth,” Tim shares. “Some of the exercises the sector went through during COVID, with us and independently, managed their continuity strategies to make sure that they were lean businesses and they were delivering value for their clients. That exercise has been really worthwhile as they’re seeing much greater growth following the pandemic. We’re seeing some fantastic growth numbers within our portfolio, in terms of business resilience, solvency, balance sheet health, as well as the revenue and profit growth. On the whole, I think there’s a high degree of confidence in where the sector is.”

While confidence is high in terms of where the creative industries is at this moment in time, there’s still an uphill battle to attract investors. Given the reliance on parts of the industry during the pandemic, you may assume that perceptions have changed on the part of investors but Tim says that isn’t the case.  

“Given that it’s such a powerhouse of an industry that has proven its resilience historically, through recessions, and proven the value it has for communities and people, especially in challenging times, we would have thought there would have been a lot more continued investment in the space. We are seeing an awful lot more investment from the venture capital space, particularly in areas like games, but there are still huge challenges for the industry in the early-stage interventions. From an angel or a high-net worth basis there is not the degree of investment we’d expect, relative to other industries.”

When it comes to understanding why there is a lack of investment from certain areas, the problem lies with misconceptions from investors about the opportunity and potential for returns. A recent paper from the House of Lords highlighted that the industry is bigger than aerospace, motoring and life sciences combined. Tim explains:

“It’s a real kind of powerhouse but it’s not recognised externally. The government spends more time talking about the fishing industry than it does the games industry, and the fishing industry is less than 1% of the UK games industry. The problem lies around the profile the industry gets and how we talk about it in terms of a contributing sector. It’s seen as a nice-to-have, rather than essential, which is incredibly sad. There’s a misconception about the opportunities, and yet the opportunities are through the roof. You look at the potential return on investments from those investing in games companies and it’s incredible.”

Education is key to attracting more investors in the space and through the Creative Enterprise programme, Creative UK is making great strides.  

“Creative UK’s Creative Enterprise programme is really important because the team helps those creative businesses better articulate the value to investors. That’s really critical that they do that because you need to be able to speak the investor’s language and really get that message across in terms of what the risk and what the opportunity is, and what the potential returns are.”

The purpose of the programme is to empower the creative ecosystem, particularly those working in storytelling and moving images. With the support of BFI and The National Lottery, the programme shines a spotlight on the regions outside of London and help the talent there to exploit opportunities. Expanding further Tim says:

“The programme will find the best regional talent, it will empower them with a program of business support to help them understand their personal business plans and access investment for growth. They’ll go through a program of investment readiness, working with a team, like our investment team, to ensure that they’re speaking to investors from a very early stage and they’re able to articulate their proposition to investors, who maybe aren’t creative industry literate. Within that there’ll be opportunities to pitch to investors, with the support of UKBAA, and also a number of opportunities to speak directly with the Creative UK investment offer as well with finance.”

With the programme emphasising the regions, what are the strongest clusters and opportunities?  

“Places like Leamington Spa and Dundee, are very strong in terms of game studios. There’s a proliferation of production and studios around Cardiff. The confidence that Bad Wolf has brought to that region, and the support of the local government and the national government, has really encouraged that. Manchester and Bristol have always been real creative powerhouses for digital, advertising & marketing and software companies.”

In the past 12 months, Creative UK has had more investments in the North East than any other region. Tim says that although investment in the regions is promising, the trends suggest that London is still consider the gateway to growth via financing. The data shows that there’s a huge concentration on investment in creative industries in London but the exits are happening in the regions.  

Already nearly two months into the year, Creative UK has big ambitions for the months that lie ahead. Speaking about its key focuses, Tim enthuses:

“In 2023 we will continue to shout and champion the sector through advocacy activity. We will continue to provide our businesses with the capacity to grow through our business support programmes, like Creative Enterprise, but also in terms of our private partnerships with people like Netflix or public partnerships with the BFI or our relationships with the combined authorities of the Southwest and the Northeast. We’re currently deploying our Creative Growth Finance Fund, that’ll come to end in September and we’ll have a new Creative Growth Finance Fund launch in October with an equity and debt offering. That will bring with it a degree of expertise from the investment team who understand fully the creative industries. It’s going to be an incredibly busy year. I’m confident that the work we’re going to deliver will have a meaningful impact on the UK’s return to growth .”

Find out more about Creative UK at   and their investment programmes at https://www.wearecreative.uk/investment/  

Register for the next Investing in Creative Innovation Pitch Showcase on 29th March 2023 at https://ukbaa.org.uk/events/investing-in-creative-innovation-pitch-showcase/

Whether you’re investing in the creative sector or choose to invest elsewhere, we’d appreciate your feedback on what would help drive investment in the space. Take our brief survey.

By UKBAA 09 Mar 2023