1CULTURAL AND DIGITAL CREATIVE CLUSTERS IN CANADA
Creative industries, such as the arts and video-game manufacturing, have become an important sector of the economy in Canada and globally.
Action Canada, a national fellowship program with a focus on Canadian public policy, notes that the cultural sector in Canada was worth more than $84 billion in 2007, which was more than the insurance industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, or the agriculture, forestry, hunting and shing industries combined1. There are more than in 1.1 million jobs in this sector2.
Industries and organizations that make up Canada’s creative sector include: advertising, architecture, craft, design, fashion, television, information technology, software, publishing, museums, galleries, libraries, plus the performing and visual arts. Canadian brands in many of these industries are very strong and globally known3.
2INNOVATION IN THE CULTURAL AND DIGITAL CREATIVE INDUSTRY
Action Canada notes that Canadian innovation policy generally focuses on innovation in the hard sci- ences. Given the importance of the creative industries, it calls for an innovation policy that focuses on innovation within the creative industries.
Edgar Cowan noted in the Globe and Mail that Canada’s creative industries could be “an ideal gateway to a long-term strategy for improving our competitiveness and our capacity for innovation, leading to a more certain, sustainable future economy.4” The Ontario Innovation Agenda unveiled in 2008 included a focus on innovation in the creative industries in an attempt to “foster innovation, create good jobs and address the persistent challenge of lagging productivity.5”
The publishing industry has struggled with innovation in some areas, but has been successful in others. For example, it has “embraced digital technology for internal work ow processes, for supply chain systems and processes, and for marketing and sales.6”
3PAST STUDIES OF CULTURAL AND DIGITAL CREATIVE INNOVATION
There are a few examinations of innovation in the Canadian creative industries:
Action Canada (2014): This report asked the question, “How can we better leverage the competitive strengths of our creative industries to create a more prosperous nation?” The authors noted that the creative industries are important components of the Canadian economy and that Canada needs to develop policies on innovation within the creative industries to keep pace. The authors recommended the creation of a Canadian Council for Creativity that would promote creativity in business, public poli- cy and education in order to encourage all sectors to embrace creative skills. They also recommended the creation of a Year of Creativity in Canada to encourage people to see the role of creativity in innovation.
Hilchie (2006): Jayson Hilchie noted in an article for the Hu ngton Post that video-game development in Canada contributes $3 billion to the GDP. Canadians in video-game development have pushed the boundaries of interactive digital entertainment through innovations in “computational and techno- logical power, the complexity of level design, the rendering of 3D graphics and the immersion of the gameplay experience.” He calls for Canada to focus on talent development and retention, including leveraging both education and immigration to allow the seamless and e cient movement of highly skilled workers in the technology elds.
Castledale (2008): This report on the book publishing industry in Ontario noted the inability of the province’s (Canada’s?) Industry to take advantage of economies of scale as occurs in the U.S. At the time, Canada published about 16,000 new English language titles a year while the U.S. published some 300,000. The report, commissioned by the Ontario Media Development Corporation Book Industry Advisory Committee, noted the dramatic changes that digital technology was triggering in book publishing. The report also noted that the industry needed help both in terms of capital and technical expertise to participate and innovate while becoming more competitive.
Newman (2008): The Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture commissioned a report examining what Ontario public libraries will look like and the service they will o er in 2020. They reported that public libraries are very innovative in terms of how they “respond to a new social, technological and economic environment.” Libraries and librarians use innovative practices and services, such as o ering digital access to books, partnering with provincial and federal governments to o er programs, and hosting maker-spaces within their buildings, to meet the changing needs of their patrons and communities. This report highlighted the role libraries have in helping communities access and create innovations.
4WHAT OUR ROUNDTABLE TOLD US
The Canada 2020 team headed east to Halifax and assembled a roundtable of some of the best arts and creative minds in the Maritimes. Our meeting at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design’s Port Campus at Pier 21 brought together stakeholders in the lm, music, publishing and gaming industries, along with representatives from NGOs and government. Here is what they told us:
Importance of cross-sector collaboration: Many members of our roundtable talked about the importance of having writers, musicians, animators, programmers and lmmakers all within the same ecosystem, as it takes dozens of di erent skills to develop a product. One participant indicated that if one of those areas becomes weak, the whole ecosystem “falls apart.” But our stakeholders felt there was the need for further collaboration. One member suggested the importance of business graduates and artists speaking the same language, and felt there was bene t from business students taking arts courses and arts students taking business courses. Another added that Canadian postsecondary institutions we need to “bring arts, science and digital media together. You can’t be in silos all the time. We talk about STEM – it should really be STEAM (including Arts).”
Talent retention: Getting talented young people to stay in Halifax was seen as an issue, with one participant stating that “we don’t have a problem attracting people to our universities, the problem
is getting them to stay.” Roundtable participants believed that students left Halifax not because they were looking for more money, but they were rather looking for more excitement. As one stakeholder described it, “We have to remember that a 22-year-old wants excitement, not job security and a health-care system … What they think about is, ‘Where can I go that’s sexy, cool and exciting?’” Improving Halifax’s image and quality of life was seen as the way to retain additional young workers. Another participant said young people had a misleading picture of the Halifax economy because when the economic data they were presented with related to the province as a whole. In fact, economic growth in the city substantially exceeds that of the rest of the province. However, one participant indicated that job prospects were uneven in the arts sector, with some portions of the ecosystem featuring limited job prospects and high unemployment.
Quality of life: Good infrastructure and good government policy decisions were seen as important to generating the quality of life needed to retain talent. As one roundtable participant described it, “Young people say, ‘I won’t live here without bike lanes,’ or a train. It is easy for government to talk about industrial innovation, harder to keep in mind the creative end. I feel like the freeze in arts funding is hurting us. We cannot lose sight of things like co-op art galleries and the like, because they create marketability. This is the stu that people miss when they move to a smaller city.” Others indicated that there were bene ts to being in a smaller centre, adding, “It is important to think about the scrappiness and DIY factor in Halifax. When we grow, we will lose part of that.” Finally, one participant felt Halifax should ensure it not enact policies that would make the cluster too homogenized, adding, “We’ve worked to support our aboriginal community, our African-Canadian community and our Gaelic community. How do you create a policy discussion without losing sight of that quilt-work?”
Immigration and talent attraction: Some components of the ecosystem, particularly gaming, need to rely on immigration to ll roles. But as one participant put it, immigration can add jobs to the local ecosystem instead of taking jobs from it: “Our struggle is in nding talent. We’ve been lucky nding people locally, but each time we recruit for speci c positions, it’s a struggle. We have to rely on immigration, but understanding and applying Canada’s immigration programs require resources. Innovation brings value to individuals or business, but it also gives brings value back to the community.”
Some roundtable members said they were hesitant to hire foreign graduates of local schools, con- cerned the federal government would not allow them to remain in the country when their Post-Grad- uation Work Permit expired. The organizations did not want to hire and train workers if they did not believe they had a reasonable chance of retaining them.
As one participant described it, “International talent wants to stay. The immigration paperwork is di cult for international recent graduates, and a lot of employers are nervous about work visas. There is a lot of misunderstanding about immigration and work visas, and a lot of paperwork. People want to stay, but there is a lot of red tape.”
Navigating the immigration system was seen as an issue for small- and medium-sized businesses in Halifax, which does not have the network of experienced immigration lawyers that a larger centre like Toronto has. Finally, one participant indicated that the issue was not just young workers, and the barriers are as much cultural as they are regulatory: “There is a lot of focus on youth, but we are looking also for mid-level and senior staff. Jobseekers are looking for more opportunities. Attitude and quality of place is de nitely part of it.”
Final thoughts: Given the size of the Halifax market, it was not surprising to see roundtable participants emphasize “brain drain” more than those in some of our other roundtables. In general, roundtable participants placed a great deal of emphasis on the di culty of navigating funding and regulatory systems and the lack of resources to assist them in the local ecosystem. In particular, the lack of stable program funding was cited as a particular irritant, as it made it di cult for organizations to make long-term plans. Despite all of this, the mood of the roundtable was upbeat, and there was a great deal of energy in the room and substantial optimism about the future of the local cluster.
“WE SHOULD SEE CULTURE AS A FOURTH PILLAR OF SUSTAINABILITY – AS WELL AS SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY. WHEN WE TALK ABOUT INNOVATION, WE DEFAULT TO IT AS AN ECONOMIC ISSUE, BUT IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO LOOK AT SOCIAL INNOVATION, ENGAGING CITIZENS. THERE IS A TWO-WAY RELATIONSHIP – HOW DO WE LEVERAGE INDUSTRIES, AND HOW DO WE ENSURE ARTS, CULTURE AND CREATIVE ORGANIZATIONS CAN LEVERAGE THE POTENTIAL OF BROAD SECTORS.”
1 (Action Canada, 2014) Creativity Unleashed: Taking innovation out of the laboratory and into the labour force
2 (Cowan, Edgar, 2015) The Global and Mail, Canada’s creative industries can lead the economic challenge, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/canadas-creative-industries-can-lead-the-economic-charge/article25236146/
3 (Cowan, Edgar, 2015) The Global and Mail, Canada’s creative industries can lead the economic challenge
4 (Cowan, Edgar, 2015) The Global and Mail, Canada’s creative industries can lead the economic challenge
5 (Castledale, 2008) Ontario Media Development Corporation Book Industry Advisory Committee, A Strategic Study for the Book Publishing Industry in Ontario
6 (Castledale, 2008) Ontario Media Development Corporation Book Industry Advisory Committee, A Strategic Study for the Book Publishing Industry in Ontario