It is our belief that if a community wants to foster local, organic, economic growth, then it needs to establish a local creative community within it. The thinking behind this is that economic growth in a knowledge based economy is generated through the process of creative capital accumulation. This happens when the creative processes add to our stock of knowledge. This is enhanced if creative people live near to each other and are able to work and network with each other through the formation of a creative cluster.
The role of the policy makers is to encourage the formation of a creative cluster. This can be done by developing a community that is diverse, tolerant, and open. A community that lacks vision, which finds itself trapped in the past, and where vested interests thwart change is unlikely to develop sufficient a creative presence to achieve lift-off. A core of about 10% of the workforce needs to be engaged in creative occupations in order to achieve the critical mass whereby creative agents coalesce into larger economic entities.
It would seem that it is important for policy makers to develop an area as a great place to live. Creative agents tend to be very demanding for arts, cultural, and recreational facilities. There also needs to be a ‘bootstrap’- possibly a university or a science park - to enhance the creation of intellectual property. The bootstrap acts as a source of technology, talent, and social tolerance. Finally, policy makers need to focus on creating the right ‘people climate’ – policies that are people centred.
Suffolk has a mixed record in these areas. It is a great place to live. It has a number of world class facilities, such as Newmarket (billed as the home of horse racing), which has spun out a number of world class businesses (Tattersalls of Newmarket is considered as one of the leading bloodstock agencies in the world). However, Suffolk does lack a bootstrap. The establishment of UCS is a promising start, but UCS does not confer its own degrees and lacks a significant research centre. Other attempts to establish research led business parks have not met with any degree of success. In many ways, that reflects the composition of the county. Suffolk is dominated by conservative and suburban lifestyles and lacks a Bohemian population of any significance.
In many respects, this bounds what needs to be done over the next twenty years. Within that time frame, it is possible that a significantly creative population could be encouraged, perhaps through the establishment of a series of intellectual and cultural events. These new residents could be persuaded to work in newly established creative clusters, which have been nurtured by the local authority.
This is the key uncertainty that the creative community faces. Is there scope to encourage sufficient members of the creative class to locate in Suffolk? If they can be enticed, then regeneration will follow. If they can’t, then Suffolk will continue to perform below par.
© The European Futures Observatory 2011