BLOG – Start Making Sense: Some preliminary findings from the (ongoing) Brighton Fuse Survey

We couldn’t help but having a sneaky look at the data we are collecting in the Brighton Firm Survey – here are some descriptives.

These preliminary findings are based on a sub-set of our sample comprising 126 responses from CEOs, MDs, Founders and senior personnel at Brighton-based creative and digital companies employing, in total, just over 1,500 Full-Time Equivalent employees in Brighton.

Let us know what you think in the comments, and go here to participate in the Brighton Fuse Survey, there are still a few days left and it’s important for you to make your voice heard. As we hope you will agree, we are asking about things that matter for the Brighton Creative/Digital/IT community.

  • Although our sample is dominated by digital companies, traditional content sectors are also represented

Over a fifth of respondents work in the Digital Media sector (including games). Interestingly, this is followed by ‘Other’ – that is respondents who couldn’t find a home in any of the official industrial classifications included in the survey (it should be noted that we also provided respondents with an open question to describe what their company does – these answers will be coded in our analysis, and will give a much clearer idea of what the companies in the cluster do).

More than 10% of respondents report working in three other sectors each: Software and Electronic Publishing, Design, and Management Consultancy.

Just under 20% of respondents work in other ‘creative industries’ sectors including ‘Film, Video and Photography’, ‘Advertising’, ‘Music’ or ‘Publishing’.

  • The majority of respondents provide business services, both face-to-face and online

Companies in the Brighton CDIT cluster mostly provide business services, face to face as well as remotely through the web – around a third of all responses highlight these types of revenue as very important for the business. A significant proportion of companies also sell products online (this includes virtual items, which may be indicative of the adoption of Freemium business models by companies in the Brighton cluster).

It is interesting to note that technology royalties are more significant than copyright ones for companies in the Brighton CDIT cluster – the relative unimportance of copyright royalties raises questions about the extent to which the Brighton cluster is managing to hold on to its Intellectual Property (we examine this in a bit more detail below).

  • Brighton’s lifestyle and quality of life were important magnets for our respondents (NB the scale above is a weighted sum of rankings from respondents)

The overwhelming majority of our respondents (over 8 out of 10) weren’t born in Brighton or its vicinity – rather, most of them took the conscious decision to move to Brighton, most often attracted by its lifestyle. Quality of Life (including good public services) also shaped the locational decisions of our respondents.

Other significant reasons for moving to Brighton & Hove include the decision to start a company or charity here, as well as attending a Brighton-based University or college (the latter could constitute an indirect way in which our two universities benefit the local economy).

  • A mix of creativity and pragmatism informs our respondents’ decision to start their companies in Brighton & Hove ( (NB the scale above is a weighted sum of rankings from respondents)

As we just mentioned, the majority of our respondents didn’t move to Brighton to set up a company (although a non-trivial number did). But once they lived in Brighton & Hove, starting a company here made sense to them.

There were two other types of factors supporting that decision – Brighton’s reputation as a creative place (the second most mentioned factor), as well as its proximity to London (this is consistent with the identification by almost half of all respondents of London as an important source of revenues). Brighton’s cultural life, and its skilled workforce also played a role in entrepreneurs’ decisions to start their company in Brighton.

  • Proximity to London, agglomeration/critical mass factors and quality of place and culture are the most significant advantages of being based in Brighton, while office availability, quality, and cost are the most frequently mentioned disadvantages

Proximity to London emerged as a crucial advantage for Brighton companies. Over 40% identify proximity to London as a significant advantage for their business, in line with the results reported above. At the same time, over a sixth of respondents also say that the fact that Brighton isn’t London plays in their favour. Are these the same people, or do we have factions in the cluster with diverging views about London? We’ll be looking into this issue soon, watch this space.

Proximity to a critical mass of collaborators and skilled personnel (traditional ‘agglomeration’ economies in clusters) are also perceived to be important – both of them are mentioned by more than a fifth of respondents as a significant advantage for their companies.

Very importantly, quality of place and Brighton’s cultural and artistic scene are also mentioned as a significant advantage by over 15% of all respondents.

Regarding disadvantages to their business that are specific to Brighton, the cost, availability and quality of office space are mentioned most often (although the percentages are small – barely over 5% of all respondents mention these as significant disadvantages to their operation).

  • The current economic climate, together with lack of resource (including time and finance) to grow the business, as well as too much competition and insufficient visibility are the main barriers hindering our respondents (NB the scale below is the mean importance for each barrier, in increasing order of significance)

The most significant barrier faced by our respondents is the current economic climate, followed by a diverse set of issues, including an excessive workload, which may be linked to barriers accessing finance, or problems generating revenues to grow their headcount to more sustainable levels – the latest barrier echoes the ‘IP poverty trap’, and also links to the lack of bargaining power with other players in the value chain (including clients and suppliers). High levels of competition, and lack of visibility are also mentioned.

Notably, copyright infringement ranks the lowest among the barriers identified by our respondents, although this may be linked to their reliance on services provision rather than content as a source of revenues.

Things will get (even) more interesting & policy-relevant when we start looking at the barriers that companies in different sectors, with varying business models, sizes and growth rates face. As we said already, watch this space, we’ll keep you posted about the emergent findings from the survey – it is your survey!!

Juan Mateos Garcia

Dr. Roberto Camerani

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