BLOG: Recipe of the week: A digital and creative city

We’ve been working on Brighton Fuse for a few months, and we’ve often talked about the project to different kinds of audiences. Almost every time someone asks the same question: Why are you looking at Brighton? Why not [insert name of almost any other city in the UK]?

So our question for today is: which are the ingredients that make Brighton a creative, digital and IT (CDIT) city, which is what this project is about?

According to researchers, a very general recipe for a CDIT city would be:

  • Obviously, you need a city first.
  • Take lots of entrepreneurial companies working in creative markets and/or digital technologies – our preliminary estimates suggest that there are as many as 2000 of these types of firms in Brighton and Hove!
  • Add almost six thousand freelancers, and a lot of artists, musicians, etc.
  • Spice with some national and internationally renowned events (eg. Brighton Festival, dConstruct, White Night)
  • Make sure to add a couple of local universities and lots of their graduates (26,000 undergrads enrolled in 2009/2010!) …
  • Blend everything with the beach, lots of pubs, coffee-shops, clubs, and restaurants.
  • Leave to rise.

One of the questions that the Fuse project is looking at is: would this combination of these ingredients work for other cities, or is there some ‘secret ingredient’ that Brighton has which can’t be copied by anyone else?

We’re also interested in the proportion of the different ingredients, and the timing – what gets added to the mix first, or last? Richard Florida, a professor at Toronto, argues that cities with a vibrant arts and cultural scene project an atmosphere of tolerance that attracts creative professionals and high-tech entrepreneurs. Michael Storper and Allen J. Scott respond that people move where the jobs are, creative or not. Ed Glaeser at Harvard points out that arts and culture, nice weather and a lovely beach are ‘amenities’ which people will take a wage cut to enjoy. Michael Porter would say that cities that specialise thrive, while Jane Jacobs celebrated the creativity that burgeons in diverse places.

How do the ingredients we mentioned – companies, institutions, skills, networks, technologies, finance, relationships, people, their ambitions and lifestyles – work together to generate value? If you were a policy maker, on which one should you invest – or leave alone – to produce the biggest benefits, the most delicious dish?

All of these ingredients, as well all these questions, are the reasons why Brighton Fuse is about Brighton and not somewhere else.

Let us know what do you think. In your opinion, what is the most important ingredient for Brighton CDIT cluster? What needs to be added (or taken away) to support the people who work there and help their businesses to grow? Do comment here, or grab us on email or Twitter.

Roberto Camarani (

Georgina Voss (

Juan Mateos-Garcia (



3 thoughts on “BLOG: Recipe of the week: A digital and creative city

  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of proximity to London. It provides a huge number of clients and a steady supply of digital talent that wants to escape to the coast, augmenting the indigenous supply. If Brighton was located a couple of hours from London I’m sure it would have followed a very different trajectory, and maybe not a digital one.

  2. Echo Rob’s point about London strongly – are there really as many as 2000 digital/technology companies in Brighton & Hove? That’s impressively high. I’ve observed though that the number of medium sized enterprises employing 40+ FTEs is surprisingly small in Brighton. I’m clearly not suggesting it’s not possible, and there are some plenty of successes, but it’s not a big as it perhaps ought to be for the size of the city, and for the CDIT label. Is there any figures on that, and wonder if this is related to access to VCs or perhaps the right mix of talent?

  3. Rob, you’re right, proximity to London is surely an advantage, the question for us is why don’t we see the same clustering in other medium-sized cities in the radius of London?

    Sam, most of the 2000 are of course microbusinesses. Many argue that these are ‘lifestyle’ businesses and should be bigger and go for growth. Others argue that actually these entrepreneurs prefer to stay small and in control and enjoy a quality of life that the seaside town offers. Maybe this actually explains the cluster? We are seeking to discover the motivations of Brighton business people to inform these debates.