Using cluster initiatives to turn the creative city into the creative island

If the ‘creative city’ does provide the best environment for creative economy development, then for SIDS, which lack the urban density and associated close connections between actors normally required for that approach, it presents a significant problem. Another way forward needs to be found, and this may be taking the key outputs from the creative city and remodelling them into an actionable strategy for these regions - turning the ‘creative city' concept into the new ‘creative island'.

We saw from the case study of the Platform creative cluster in Chapter 4 that the principles of the creative city can be extracted and delivered through the model of a Dispersed Cluster (Rudge, 2016). The particular poly-centric nature of the city region that Platform works in presents many of the same geographical challenges as SIDS regions like the Eastern Caribbean or archipelagic nations like the Maldives. This cluster initiative can then act as an orchestrator for the creative ecosystem in small island states. Whilst ecosystems in large urban centres can function and thrive organically, for developing regions and smaller population areas, the ecosystem requires an active orchestrator. This orchestration is focused on identifying and engaging the key partners and stakeholders, ensuring the outreach of activity to all parts of the population, on driving the vision for the creative ecosystem and on making sure that policy, finance and skills development are all aligned (Rudge, 2010).

The Centre for Cities proposed the defining of a creative city as a creative cluster, seeing the activities and connections of the city as similar to those of the creative cluster. As a route to finding an ecosystem methodology then for SIDS, the experience of the Platform cluster suggests perhaps the reverse could also work, that seeing a managed creative cluster initiative as a form of creative city enables all the benefits of urban centres to be replicated through the activities of a Dispersed Cluster.

Using this cluster mechanism and the associated mobile or moveable hubs allows dispersed or rural populations to comiect to the ecosystem, to develop a more inclusive approach to the creative economy and to allow an increased innovation and talent pipeline to be developed. The role of clusters as orchestra-tors of an ecosystem of creative production and investment can take the place of the more organic mechanisms that play out in large urban environments. As such then, it is important to see a collaborative strategic vision in place to develop these cluster initiatives, one that brings the key industry, government and educational stakeholders together with external and international partners. The best method of achieving and then managing these relationships is through the Agile Helix.

Using the Agile Helix to support the creative island ecosystem

The value of the Agile Helix is that it responds both to the highly dynamic nature of the digital-creative industries and to the uncertainties of national and international economic environment caused by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and other external shocks.

This flexible nature also makes it particularly appropriate for developing helixical relationships in SIDS, where the traditional Triple Helix may struggle to work effectively due to the limited human and physical resources of many island universities.

This is not to say however that the higher education system in many SIDS regions does not require investment, quite the reverse. It is essential to develop higher education capabilities in island nations, in terms of both creative and digital research activities and the expertise to deliver high-quality teaching in these vital areas. That then feeds into that managed ecosystem enabled by the creative

Ecosystems and orchestrators 121 cluster and facilitating the connected and collaborative innovation that cities take for granted.

The ability of the Agile Helix to move beyond the primacy of the university allows other players to support and take the leading roles as necessary in collaborative creation and innovation, therefore giving the education system of SIDS the breathing space not only to grow teaching and research activity but to input into the helix as a facilitator of the cluster orchestration process.

So the cluster as orchestrator, linked to an Agile Helix, can effectively become the ‘city’. The moveable and mobile ‘hubs', outlined in Chapter 4, then give the mechanisms whereby the connective relationships found in cities and city districts can be replicated across the dispersed and polycentric populations in small island states.

These mobile hubs though need to operate in a different way if they are to facilitate the ‘cluster as city’ concept. Although they have proved effective and are still seen as a central part of many strategic growth plans for creative economies, hubs tend to be passive, relying on their positioning within often already well-established creative and cultural environments, or as part of a determined growth plan for a city district, Birmingham's development of the Custard Factory in Digbeth being a good example of this.

The moveable hubs in SIDS in contrast need to be, by definition, active, taking on the role of incepting as well as supporting creative and collaborative innovation. It is this active role that can support the cluster initiative and the Agile Helix in replicating the social, economic, educational and creative innovation fabric that defines the success of the ‘creative city'.

Government interventions for the creative island ecosystem

Whilst preserving, celebrating and monetising island cultures, both tangible and intangible are recognised and accepted recipients of government interventions; as we discussed earlier, the role of government more widely in the creative and cultural industries is being reshaped by technology. The fact that digital technologies now allow creative content producers to access huge global markets from anywhere in the world with a fast internet connection means that the digital-creative industries now require a different approach from governments to that of the usual ‘subsidise and socialise’.

For small island states whose governments struggle to manage the delivery of basic services alongside the impact of economic uncertainty and external shocks, investment into ‘the arts’ is often a low priority. However, there are interventions that island governments can make that do not require substantial public investment.

In seeking to support a creative island economy then, there are three key areas that SIDS governments need to address:

a) Create a better private sector business and investment environment. Access to government-backed debt finance, along with policies to establish specialeconomic zones (SEZs) and start-up support infrastructure, will help local entrepreneurs to establish and then scale digital-creative businesses.

These policies enable entrepreneurs to effectively and cost-efficiently locate their business on islands and to remain there as they grow. The strength of the local government support for entrepreneurship then builds confidence in external financial markets to invest in these creative entrepreneurs. The Maldives government's decision to establish seven enterprise centres across the archipelago to support private sector entrepreneurship is a positive example of such an early stage intervention.

b) Gather contemporary, relevant and high-quality research data on the digitalcreative sectors. The importance of data in strategic decision-making for companies is clear, as is its economic value. For governments as well, data on the economic performance of their countries is important for policy making. Yet all too often, and especially in developing regions, data on the creative industries is either incomplete, out of data or is simply not collected at all at any significant granular level (Bakshi, 2014).

Supporting the growth of creative industries research at SIDS universities and within the private sector then enables the gathering of local, reliable data on these sectors to assist in the policy making and strategic development process. As part of the Agile Helix, this government partnership with island universities and entrepreneurs offers the possibility of greater resource into applied academic research and the support and engagement of industry in that process.

c ) Implement robust legislative frameworks for intellectual property rights. This is vital in giving companies the confidence to produce content that can be sufficiently monetised within their local and regional markets. For example, interviews with producers conducted in the Eastern Caribbean as part of the research for this book highlighted an issue where local TV stations often play copyrighted material acquisitions, from either their own islands or elsewhere, without paying the necessary rights fees.

This example of insufficient or unenforced IPR regulations results in a lack of revenue that can be invested back into the content industry. Government intervention here then is particularly important as situations like this not only impact the revenues that producers receive but also inhibit external investment into the sector. These interventions are essentially focused on legislative rather than financial support and can provide a relatively simple first step in creating the right conditions for digital-creative ecosystems to develop and thrive.

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