Guest blog: Supporting creative enterprises – exploring the impact of training and advice programmes

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This guest blog is the first in a series of blogs from Dr Stephen Knox, working with SPICe on an academic fellowship, to explore his research into support for the creative industries. As with all guest blogs, what follows are the views of the authors and not those of SPICe or indeed the Scottish Parliament.


The creative industries not only represent a key economic sector (the Scottish Government estimate that creative industries contribute £5.5 billion to GDP) but also make invaluable contributions to promoting culture throughout Scotland. Pre-pandemic the industry was one of the fastest growing sectors in Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s definition of the creative industry includes many different sectors – visual and performing arts, cultural education, crafts, textiles, fashion, photography, music, writing and publishing, advertising, libraries, archives, antiques, architecture, design, film and video, TV and radio, software and electronic publishing, and computer games.

However, the industry was hard hit during the pandemic, with the survival of many creative enterprises under threat. Key to the recovery and continued growth of the sector is effective support policies and programmes that not only incentivise business development but encourage cultural and social impact.

This blog takes a closer look at training and advice programmes. This type of intervention looks to develop the individual capacity of creative practitioners by increasing business awareness, skills, and knowledge. To analyse this, I looked at 16 different programmes delivered in the UK over the last two decades, highlighted in Table 1.

Table 1: List of programmes included in evaluation

UK Wide
Professional development of artists through training mentoring, residencies, and peer networks.
North East England
Support business growth through training workshops, advisory sessions, work placements, small grant fundings, and networking events such as hackathons.
Cornwall, England
To grow creative industries through grants, export programme, peer support networks, graduate start up programme, collaborative projects, internships and apprenticeships, mentoring, and skills development (through group workshops and an individual skills development fund).
Help creative practitioners through one-to-one specialist advisory sessions, group training workshops and networking events. They also ran three dedicated training and advice support programmes – Starter for 6, The Fashion Foundry, and Flourish.
East London and Birmingham, England
To help organisations through one year mentoring programme and training labs looking at a range of issues, including strategy, planning, innovation, and governance.
London, England
Support business development through one-to-one advice, coaching, and seminars, networking events, and showcases over a period of 6 months.
Northern Ireland
To promote industry development through seminars and events, mentoring, market development networking.
West England
Help industry sustainability through free workspace, skills development workshops, bespoke business support, small bursaries, one-to-one mentoring, showcasing opportunities and resources.
London, England
To improve sustainability through workshops, talks and panel discussions from industry experts, and one-to-one mentoring on a wide variety of topics such as strategy, financial planning, social media, online presence, and production methods.
To improve resilience through one-to-one business advice, group workshops, masterclasses, webinars, and free online business support resources.
South West England
To support business growth through prototype commissions, microgrant opportunities, knowledge exchange, business development and ongoing mentorship.
Norfolk and Suffolk, England
Specialised business support programme using networking events, advisory session, group workshops and webinars, support to attend festivals and trade fairs, and financial grants.
To support innovation through business training and coaching, peer mentoring, aftercare support, and opportunity to pitch for £10,000.
Northern Ireland
Champion design as a key tool for business competitiveness through awareness raising events, advice, mentoring, and consultancy support.
Northern Ireland
Develop design innovation as a tool for business competitiveness through awareness events, one-to-one advice, mentoring, and business clinics.
To increase investor readiness through accelerator programme with dedicated workshops, coaching, mentoring, and pitching sessions.

What are the short-term benefits?

Training and advice programmes provide many short-term benefits to creative practitioners which are typically realised up to one year after completion of the programme.

  • They help to foster a personal growth mindset. This involved developing new leadership, communication, strategy, finance, and planning skills. It also involved improving well-being through increasing confidence, sense of security, and belonging. Self-belief was also increased through helping practitioners to develop clear professional goals.
  • They generate cultural value. They helped practitioners explore new creative directions, form new collaborations, and develop creative vision. They helped to increase reputation, expose practitioners to new audiences, and gain recognition from awards and commissions. They also increased participation in events, experiences, performances, and exhibitions.
  • They encourage business development. They reach and engage wide practitioner audiences with support programmes. They increase practitioner knowledge of and access to resources and investment opportunities. They help to generate innovation and new business creation through helping to develop new business models, products, services, and ideas.

What are the longer-term economic impacts?

Over longer periods of time, typically between three and five years, several economic impacts can be expected. For eight programmes, this included an estimate on increase to business turnover of between 15% and up to 60% which was credited to training and advisory support that was received. There was, however, generally little impact on job creation, which was attributed to the nature of the creative industries which is dominated by self-employment and gig-based work.

In terms of productivity, regarding the economic cost of the programme against estimated turnover increases, several programmes report positive contributions to local economies. The cost of delivering a programme against expected returns increases from less than £0.90 in the short-term to around £1.40 over about five-year periods. This indicates that although returns on programme investment are negative in the short-term, they generate positive economic impacts over longer periods of time.

How are impactful programmes designed?

Several design elements emerged which were attributed as important to driving the success of training and advice programmes. These elements included:

  1. Ensuring a practical, hands-on, design-led learning environment. Creative practitioners generally responded better in programmes that used a design-led means of delivery. This approach incorporates design practices, tools, collaboration, design games, prototyping and modelling to facilitate creative exploration and practical learning.
  2. Flexibility for practitioners to decide and be involved in their own support journeys. Having a choice of development topics was generally well-received.
  3. Having industry-specific advisors who adopted relational approaches to delivery had a bigger impact on engagement and skills development. This approach focuses on the long-term personal development of the client, and not solely on short-term functional advice to a specific problem being faced.
  4. A slower-paced support programme was beneficial to give practitioners time for creative exploration and socialisation.
  5. Language and terminology were important for engagement. Many creative practitioners are put-out by the commercial and business development language used in mainstream support services.

How are impactful programmes managed?

Several programme management factors emerged as being important to delivering impact in training and advice programmes. Typically, the collaborative delivery of programmes between specialist organisations enabled additional resources and expertise to be invested. This also increased the potential programme reach and enhanced reputation.

The other factor for managing impactful programmes includes the presence of a strong regional network that facilitates communication between different support organisations and incentivises joined-up approaches to working. This also helps practitioners to connect with other support programmes.

What other support complements training and advice programmes?

Alongside training and advice, most programmes included other complementary support to help maximise impact.

  1. Peer networks of practitioners with similar challenges encouraged collaborative learning and extended the longevity of support.
  2. The availability of small grants to participants, to be used for developing and refining new ideas and opportunities. These small grants helped to incentivise participants to experiment, explore, and apply the skills and knowledge gained through training and advice.
  3. Many programmes also provided participants with opportunities to showcase their ideas and practices. This included pitching to investors and participation in exhibitions and shows. This was highlighted as supporting creative practitioners’ routes to market.
  4. A couple of programmes provided participants with co-working space which was found to incentive peer networking and creative exploration.
  5. A couple of programmes provided opportunity to learn new skills through placements which enabled practical hands-on learning.

A call for further evidence

The next steps of this project involve continuing to develop a database of creative enterprise programme evidence for further review. As well as any evidence of training and advice programme impact, the following policies are also being explored:

  • Grants, loans, and other financial measures.
  • Physical infrastructure and place-based initiatives.
  • Education programmes.

If you have any evidence, programme reports, impact studies, or evaluations please send them to: Additionally, several stakeholder workshops will be conducted over the coming months to explore the impact of creative enterprise policy. If you have any interest in participating in these please do get in contact.

Dr Stephen Knox is Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Stirling

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