Yesterday, Ukie launched our new report ‘State of Play: The UK games industry’s priorities for the EU negotiations’, the culmination of four months’ of consultation with more than 70 games businesses via a UK-wide industry tour from Belfast to Dorking to Manchester, and an online evidence gathering, hearing the industry’s key concerns and opportunities presented by Brexit.
At a roundtable event in Parliament hosted by Chris White MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Video Games, and attended by MPs, civil servants, Parliamentary select committee clerks and industry representatives, our CEO Dr Jo Twist OBE outlined the key findings of the report which we will use to help inform the three intertwined strands of Brexit, Industrial Strategy and Digital Strategy.
The report will also help us inform our contribution to the Creative Industries Sector Deal, which, with a focus on technology, talent and IP, will could be a game-changer for the games sector. As these strategies and policies are developed we are keen to strike the right balance between what is good for the creative industries as a whole - of which games are the biggest revenue driver - with the sector specific needs of games and interactive entertainment businesses. State of Play, and the following work of our Policy Team, will serve to provide as much evidence and information as possible to help shape a “blueprint for the digital economy” that works for everyone.
The discussion around the table was wide ranging but it highlighted some of the key issues for the games sector and the wider creative industries. The unknowns around skills and the security of the talent pipeline was rightly raised as a major concern. We heard from businesses that key to securing the ongoing success of the sector was improving the home-grown skills pipeline and continuing to attract world class talent. To do this there needs to be a greater emphasis on the career paths that the games industry can offer going right back to primary school, educating people on available opportunities from playground to pension. This also meant a better understanding of the academic choices available and necessary was needed, with a concern that we are creating a nation of generalists with the current system when we should be offering more targeted and specific pathways.
This discussion also raised concerns that there is an over-emphasis on STEM at the expense of the creative and arts subjects. Ukie has long promoted the collaboration of Arts with the STEM agenda, resulting in what we call the ‘STEAM’ agenda, which better represent the needs of workers a digital creative economy. Yesterday’s budget provided further support for technical and STEM subjects, which we welcome, but despite the creative industries being identified as one of the initial 5 key sectors of the industrial strategy, there is a fear the role that the games sector and the wider creative industries play in innovation is being side-lined.
The discussion also afforded the opportunity to highlight the very real risk that Brexit might pose to the games industry in the UK. The mobile nature of the knowledge economy makes the games industry particularly vulnerable to businesses moving overseas which is only going to be more of a problem if we do not put in place the right measures for creating, attracting, and retaining the right talent and skills. Recent submissions to the MAC on the criteria of tier 2 visas and further warnings about the bureaucracy of the visa system for example are giving the wrong impression about the ease of doing business in the UK. We should instead be working together to emphasise the Mayor’s message that London (and the wider UK) is open for business.
But when we talk of talent, skills, immigration and overall support for the games industry we must be mindful that right now we have a huge opportunity for the sector - in light of Industrial Strategy, Digital Strategy and Brexit we have the chance to establish a set of policies and incentives that can secure the continued growth of the games sector and the creative industries. So it is the perfect time to look at public funding for example and the essential role this plays in providing the opportunity to create, innovate and experiment with IP that might not immediately be commercially viable.
We saw yesterday afternoon some further help in reducing the burden surrounding R&D and we think again that there is an opportunity to extend this to encompass the ground-breaking work originated in the creative industries and the games sector which has such and impact across other sectors, from AI and fintech to VR and medical science and beyond.
We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck into the debate to make sure the UK remains the best place in the world to develop and publish games and interactive entertainment.
For more information about Ukie’s ongoing Policy and Public Affairs work please contact our Head of Public Affairs, Tim.