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South East Creative Economy Network

The South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN) works to accelerate growth in the digital, creative and cultural sector. It is a working partnership between local authorities, creative businesses and education bodies across the South East LEP area.

The creative industries in the UK

The creative industries are worth more than £91.8bn in GVA to the UK and the creative economy employs one in every 11 working people (approx 9% of the workforce), with 87% of highly creative occupations at low risk of being automated in the future.

That is:

  • 4x the GVA of the automotive industry
  • 6x as much as life sciences
  • nearly 10x that of aerospace

The sector by 7.6% over the 2015-2016 period, compared to a 3.5% rate of growth for the economy as a whole.

The UK is the 3rd largest exporter of cultural goods and services just behind China and the USA. The creative industries are one of the five key sectors recognised in the Government’s Green paper Industrial Strategy.

The South East creative sector

The creative sector is strong in the South East with potential for growth.

  • Between 2010 and 2015 local entrepreneurs added 3,500 creative businesses to the business base, growing the sector by 30.5% to reach 15,000 businesses (recent figures indicate that in some areas this growth is closer to 150%)
  • Between 2009 and 2014 25% employment growth – adding just under 9,850
  • The proportion of creative industries in the total SELEP business base is growing as well, accounting for 9.6% of total businesses in 2015, compared to 8.5% in 2010. When comparing the region with other LEPs, SELEP is above average regarding its share of creative enterprises, ranking 13th of all 38 LEPS.

Whilst the sector remains strong in the South East growth is below the national average suggesting that the SELEP region has more to do to maximise its obvious potential given its proximity and connectivity to.

Overcoming barriers to growth

SECEN identifies barriers to growth and implements practical and scalable initiatives to overcome barriers to growth by aligning the efforts of businesses, education providers, strategic organisations and local authorities to ensure that SECEN will lead one of Europe’s most diverse, integrated and productive creative regions.

SECEN has developed a vision for this sector within the SELEP area.

SECEN Statement of Intent

Supporting and growing creative people and places across the South East
Download the SECEN Statement of Intent

Workspace development

With space at such a premium and living costs so high and with advances in digital connectivity and the gig economy there is a question over whether the next generation of creative talent needs to be based in London. SECEN is developing a work space strategy to ensure that fit for purpose workspace is available SELEP-wide to enable scaling up and fostering of creative enterprise zones based on existing creative hubs.

Business Support and Development

To encourage take-up by a sector typified by innovative practice and collaboration, a bespoke package of business support will be delivered locally within creative industry clusters, but will link into the SELEP Growth Hub network. SECCADS (South East Creative, Cultural and Digital Sector Project) will work with SMEs in the Creative and Cultural and Digital sector (CC&D) to:

  • Encourage new business start-ups
  • Increase the sustainability of micro businesses
  • Promote business growth

This is funded via ERDF(European Regional Development Fund) and with further investment from the local authorities.

Talent Accelerator

SECEN is working with Creative and Cultural Skills (the National Academy for Skills and Training for the UK’s Creative and Cultural industries) to develop a work programme to support the talent pipeline for creative industries, addressing the need for a STEAM education (ie the need for Arts and other creative subjects to be encouraged in schools), matching training to skills gaps in the industry and developing clearer training pathways. The programme also aims to highlight existing good practice.

Thames Estuary Production Corridor

SECEN is working with the GLA (Greater London Authority) to support the concept of a Thames Estuary Production Corridor facilitating complementary creative business clusters and facilities to ensure the opportunities for the creative sector are fully developed and contribute to ongoing creative business growth. The development of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor will ensure that the UK can continue to be a centre for creative productivity. It will position London and the South East as a world leader for the creative industries on a scale never seen before, creating a landmark corridor along the estuary, powering skills opportunities and new jobs.

The Thames Estuary Production Corridor have now published their Case for Investment which shows the corridor has the potential to create 50,000 jobs and generate £3.7bn for the UK economy, becoming the UK’s largest concentration of creative production.

This goes a step further in setting out how the potential of the corridor will be delivered. 

Thames Estuary Production Corridor: Case for Investment


The Thames Estuary Production Corridor Partners are delighted to announce the support of the Thames Estuary Growth Board and Envoy and will be working closely with the Thames Estuary Growth Board and Envoy to develop our ambitious programme for culture and good growth in the Estuary.

Everyone living, working or playing in the Estuary has a role to play to continue to deliver the Thames Estuary Production Corridor action plan: read the Case for Investment full report or the Vision to Action summary document to learn more.

An Industrial Vision To Create A World-Class Location For Creative Industries


Thames Estuary Production Corridor: From Vision to Action


Cultural Tourism and the Culture Coasting project (led by Culture Kent and ESCC)

Tourism generates £106 billion a year to the British economy, employing over 2m people and supporting thousands of businesses. Recognising the volume and value of Cultural Tourism in the SELEP region, the potential for growth and acknowledging the co-dependencies across the tourism and cultural sectors, SECEN supports the development of Cultural Tourism initiatives. Culture Coasting aims to grow the visitor economy by 3% in East Sussex, Kent and the Thames Estuary, generating 4,700 new jobs over a three year period. Culture Coasting is designed to respond to current visitor behaviour trends, tap into new markets and will create a step change for the galleries and the tourism sector across the area. It addresses the challenges of the South East as a destination with no one major urban centre and builds practical and scalable initiatives and interconnections across the South East and beyond. The project will continue to stimulate further innovation and growth beyond the lifetime of this project.

Member Organisation
Sally Staples - Chair East Sussex County Council
Dave Evans / Stefanio Manco East Sussex County Council
Colette Bailey Metal (and member of the SELEP Strategic Board)
Jon Linstrum / Nicky Morgan Arts Council England
Damian Etherington / Polly Gifford Hastings Borough Council
Gillian Youngs Canterbury Christ Church University
Julia Payne University of Essex
Jon Hagan Medway Council
Lindsey Strange / Valerie Tinker Essex County Council
Marc De'Ath Chelmsford City Council
Matthew Norwell Thames Gateway Kent
Alison Fogg Colchester Borough Council
Caroline Reynolds / Sylvia Fieldhouse Southend Council
Ian Lewis Opportunity South Essex
Marina Norris / Solène Ferreira Dawson Thurrock Council
Melanie Powell Rother District Council
Sarah Wren Kent County Council
And representatives from a range of creative industries from across the SELEP area
SECEN Working Group Terms of Reference