Skip to content
>> Home > Discussion Papers > Research by Themes > International, Trade, and Immigration > Creative firms and trade

Creative firms and trade

Plane wing

The implications for policymakers emerging from this work are explored in our Policy Briefing: The Creative Industries in the UK’s Export Strategy.

The evidence base on the international trade in the Creative Industries is still partial and characterised by several gaps. We know that official statistics are unable to capture all creative industries’ trade, particularly that which happens online. The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre has, therefore, been seeking new data sources to better understand the opportunities and risks which policymakers need to be aware of with regards to questions of creative trade. 

This paper makes use of a survey that was collected by the consultancy firm BVA BDRC on behalf of the Creative Industries Council for their Access to Finance Report. 

Naturally this questionnaire is very rich with information on finance, but it also contains additional items on several other topics, including trade. The survey of consists of 575 firms mapped into one of the nine creative sectors, as defined by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Advertising and Marketing; Architecture; Crafts; Design and designer fashion; Film, TV, video, radio and photography; IT, software, computer services and computer games; Publishing; Museums, galleries and libraries; Music, performing and visual arts.

Findings from the survey include:

  • Creative firms seem to be quite active in the international markets and keen to be even more active.
  •  Exporters tend to be concentrated in London and the South East but regional export exposure is higher in regions like Scotland and the North West, where the highest shares of respondents seem to be internationally active. 
  • Businesses tend to be different also when it comes to size, profitability and customer-orientation (B2B vs B2C). The share of businesses selling B2C and both B2B and B2C is significantly higher among the exporters. 
  • Exporting is associated with owners/managers who are middle aged or older and with older businesses. Greater international penetration is, however, associated with older businesses but younger owners/managers. 
  • The gender gap observed in other business areas in the CIs, emerges also when it comes to exporting. 
  • Innovation seems to be key. Exporters tend to have innovated in the past in both products/services and organisation and are also more likely to plan product and process innovations than non-exporters. 
  • A higher share of exporters indicates that they have benefited from some form of tax relief. 

Please reference this paper as:

Di Novo, S; Fazio, G and Maioli, S. (2021) Creative firms and trade. London: Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Newcastle University. Available from:

Hero image by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash 

Thumbnail image by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash 

Related Discussion Papers

metal wire art installation - courtesy of Alina Grubnyak
International Trade Challenges and the Effectiveness of Support Measures for the UK’s Creative Industries

The formidable challenges confronting the UK’s creative industries in the realm of exports, st…

High Street
Northern England’s Creative Industries

The Creative Industries are already a driver of growth across the UK economy. Export-intensive and m…

Side of building with artwork of man and a robin
Creative Destruction? Creative firms, workers and residential gentrification

A new study by Tasos Kitsos, Max Nathan, and Diana Gutierrez-Posada finds only a minor influence of …

Family watching a tablet
Speaking with One Voice

A fundamental remit of the BBC, and other public service broadcasters (PSBs) like ITV and Channel 4,…

Dance performance
Transitioning to Sustainable Production across the UK Theatre Sector

This discussion paper examines transitional pathways to sustainable theatre production in the UK. By…

clothes hanging on rail
Identifying and analysing UK fashion micro-clusters

The UK’s Fashion and Textiles industry contributed almost £20 billion to the UK economy in 202…

Tree close up in a forest
Net Zero as a catalyst in fashion micro and small enterprises

This report identifies examples of work taking place across three levels of change – social, e…

Union Jacks over Portobello Road, London
The Motives of Inbound Foreign Direct Investors in the UK Creative Industries

The UK’s creative industries have a global reach. British arts, technology, and design are internati…

EU Flags on flag poles
Brexit uncertainty and international trade in services: Evidence from the UK creative industries 2014-2019

This discussion paper is based on one of the first studies to look at the impact of Brexit on the Cr…

Arts centre
Working Together – Cooperatives as a creative industry business model

This authors looks at how creative workers and students typically understand cooperatives, explore t…

Music Concert
Building sustainable regional music industry clusters

This report looks at the role the creative industries can play for the Levelling Up agenda, as well …

Monkey sign on lamp post
Crypto art and questions of value

Crypto Art is a novel, emerging creative form that is entirely digital, and native to the internet. …


Sign up to our newsletter