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UK Trade in a Global Creative Economy

Note: Version downloaded before 12.40pm on 20/03/24 contained an error on Figure 20 on p.45 showing creative and non-creative digital trade exports whose colours were reversed.

A Creative PEC State of the Nations report

The UK’s creative industries are an export success story.

This report is the second in our State of the Nations series, and the first in a series assessing the international outlook of the UK’s creative industries, with a focus on exports.

The report shows the UK’s creative service exports continued to rise over the 2010 – 2021 period despite the headwinds from Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. The report confirms the UK’s creative industries are an export success story but warns against complacency, as the findings suggest there is increased global competition from markets such as China.

In introducing the new report one of the authors, Dr Sara Maioli, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Newcastle University Business School said:

“The report findings are a good news story for the UK’s creative industries. However, with increasing digitalisation of the economy and the increasing share of digitally delivered services we must improve our statistical capabilities to have a more accurate understanding of the scale of this trade. Our report emphasises the importance of UK trade policymakers negotiating digital agreements within existing and new trade agreements to future-proof international market access against this rapid technological change.”

While creative service exports are robust and growing – and represented 14% of all UK services exports in 2021 (the most recent year data is available) – the outlook for creative goods exports is stagnant and shows large drops in 2016 and 2020, with no sign of recovery in 2021, when creative goods fell to below 3% of total UK goods exports.

Hasan Bakhshi, Professor of Economics of the Creative Industries, Newcastle University and Director, Creative PEC said:

“As the UK re-orients itself in global markets having left the European Union, understanding the nature of export growth opportunities and barriers is an obvious priority for policymakers.  Yet, international trade is one of the areas of creative industries policy where data and analysis has been most lacking. Our report for the first time brings together for the UK the different sources of data that are available and identifies priorities for future data collection”.

State of the Nations

The report is the second in Creative PEC’s new ‘State of the Nations’ series, which uses the latest data to inform policymakers on how best to support the creative sector across four thematic areas. Regular reports on each area will be published annually over the five years of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding period. The reports will be launched as follows:

  • R&D, Innovation and Clusters (Sussex University) – Geographies of Creativity – published December 2023
  • Internationalisation (Newcastle University) – UK Trade in a Global Creative Economy – this report
  • Arts, Culture and Heritage Sectors (Sheffield University) May 2024
  • Education, Skills and Talent (Work Advance) July 2024

About the authors and acknowledgements

The report’s authors are Professor Giorgio Fazio, Dr Jonathan Jones, Dr Sara Maioli, and Dr Daniel Simandjuntak (Newcastle University)

If the information in this report is used in any subsequent research and/or publications, please cite as follows: Maioli, S., Fazio, G., Jones, J. and Simandjuntak, D. (2024) ‘UK Trade in a Global Creative Economy’. Zenodo. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.10809397.



Report design by Mike Green/Green Doe Ltd

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