Measuring the Creative Economy

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Chair: Philip Schlesinger (University of Glasgow)

Presenters: Jonathan Haskel (Imperial College London), Hasan Bakhshi (NESTA), Dimiter Gantchev (WIPO)

Panel Abstract

As the creative economy has steadily risen in importance in the estimation of policy makers, the imperative to measure this still relatively new object of policy and its underlying activity has grown. Claims about the creative economy’s scale and its relative dynamism abound and governments proclaim its contribution to GDP and GVA in such resoundingly confident terms that they are usually uncritically reproduced by media commentary and believed by those working in the creative sectors. But as this session showed, matters are more complicated and certainty harder to achieve. With a trio of panellists all involved in the world of policy but representing different interests and approaches, this session offered a frank engagement with matters generally taken for granted and still too little discussed.

Hasan Bakhshi of Nesta, discussed the Dynamic Mapping Approach to defining the creative economy and classifying occupations and industries as creative or not, being developed at the innovation think-tank. He identified its key features and discussed the ways in which it meets the needs of policymakers and where it does not. As the quest to develop metrics of general applicability continues, he concluded by exploring some of the issues raised in extending the approach internationally.

Dimiter Gantchev of The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) looked at the issue from the standpoint of an international agency. Measurement has responded to policy demands by the WIPO Member States interested in the overall economic contribution of copyright that might enable governments to compare the performance of the sector domestically with other sectors and internationally with other countries. There are many variations in governments’ motivation for undertaking such research. Comparability has remained a key incentive for the use of a harmonized methodology with specific data collection challenges met on the ground. How the results then play out is an unpredictable question and achieving sustained comparability a major challenge.

Jonathan Haskel, an economist and academic at Imperial College, raised, questions about how to approach many measuring the creative economy and the moot question of which industries are and are not creative. What activity should be measured in such cases? And how does such measurement fit with other economic measures? Creative activity results in “intangible” or knowledge assets. But the National Accounts are a well-developed system for measuring tangible assets (like machines or buildings): so how does the creative economy fit in? Further, if credible measures can be devised what implications might there be for economic growth and comparative economic performance?