The Globe and Mail, May 23, 2013 by ERIN MILLAR
Ten years ago, urban theorist Richard Florida popularized the idea that creative people are linked to economic growth in his book The Rise of the Creative Class. As his theory goes, cities with high concentrations of creatives – designers, musicians, tech workers, artists, and so on – tend to experience higher levels of economic development. But it’s not necessarily the creatives themselves who drive growth, per se; to those who accept Dr. Florida’s ideas (and he has had considerable influence on some city planners), the creative class is seen as having an indirect impact by fostering an exciting, dynamic and open culture that lends itself to innovation.
Doug Richard takes this line of reasoning a (big) step further. The former Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor-turned-adviser to the British government argues that creative types are not nonbusiness-minded layabouts who contribute to the economy only passively by making a city cool but are key figures who have the potential to push stagnant economies back into growth. If we knew what was good for us, he says, we’d support creative industries with the same enthusiasm we do science and technology.
“There is this preoccupation with technology, but we don’t do ourselves any favours when we try to build Silicon Valleys all around the world,” Mr. Richard said. “At what point do we run out of the desire to consume creativity? Never. We will never want less music or great television programming.”
The presence of vibrant creative industries in Britain was one reason that Mr. Richard relocated there in 2001 after a career in California that included founding and selling two technology startups. “London is home to some of the best design and art schools in the world. They produce so much talent, but no one was tapping that.”
He now advises the British government on innovation, mentors entrepreneurs through his educational initiatives and is an active angel investor. But his main goal these days is changing perceptions of creative industries; he believes business leaders and governments need to recognize the value of a sector that he says accounts for about $1.6 of every $15.6 that Britain exports. He calculates British creative industries generate about $108,890 every minute. Read more
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