Successful £1.275million bid to boost creative arts businesses

View from above of a film studio. There is a car in the set, surrounded by filming equipment

The Create Growth Programme is a first of its kind opportunity targeted at creative businesses with the potential to grow. The award acknowledges the highly entrepreneurial pool of high-growth potential creative businesses in the South East not yet at the scaling stage, who can benefit from intensive, targeted, expert support to help them secure the investment they need to grow their business.

This free programme will provide the South East’s creative businesses with the support, the networks and the investment they need – transforming their innovative creative ideas into the leading creative businesses of the future.

Following a competitive process, a consortium of partners led by Kent County Council working on behalf of the South East creative, cultural and digital sector has secured one of only six awards of £1.275 million to regional partnerships across the UK to deliver the Create Growth Programme.

The Create Growth Programme is a Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) initiative to support high-growth potential creative businesses outside of London to become investment ready.  It will also increase the number of investors willing to invest in creative businesses, by educating and developing investor networks.

Eligible businesses will be able to access an intensive business support programme designed to improve the leadership capacity of pre-scale-up creative businesses, so that they are better placed to access finance, particularly investor finance.  They will also have access to national and regional angel investor networks that are interested in creative industry investment opportunities.

The programme supports the significant growth of the creative industries across Kent with more than 10,600 people now employed in the creative industries across the County and 1500 creative companies relocating here in the last five years. Digital start-ups, film and TV studios, artistic producers, games manufacturers, and entertainment companies have created an ecosystem of expertise and growth from household names to SMEs. Investment in the Thames Estuary, connecting the County to London as a global leader, and strategic locations that are primed for creative and digital businesses to expand, include the Folkestone Creative Quarter, Maidstone TV Studios, and Margate Creative Land Trust.  On top of these creative hotspots, towns such as Tunbridge Wells, Gravesham, Margate, Folkestone and Ashford have also been taking full advantage of the county’s booming creative sector, building creative communities.

Eligible businesses will be between the seed and scaling stages and will fall into one of the following sub-sectors:

  • film, tv, video, radio and photography
  • design and designer fashion
  • music, performing and visual arts
  • CreaTech, Augmented Reality (AR) Aritificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Extended Reality (XR) and Gaming

They will:

  • be intellectual property-rich micro and small to medium sized enterprises
  • have turnover growth of 10% year-on-year over approximately 3 years (including either prior to or during the pandemic)
  • employ a minimum of 2 people over the last two years (full-time, part-time or freelance)
  • have created a revenue generating product, launched a new platform or service or reached a market of scale
  • have generated a sales revenue in the last 2 years
  • be located within the administrative boundaries of Greater Essex, Kent, Medway, East Sussex, West Sussex or Brighton and Hove.

Businesses within the Consortium’s local authority areas who meet the eligibility criteria will also be able to access a share of £7million finance. Companies applying for finance will need to demonstrate their potential to scale rapidly and become sustainable through private investment. The investment fund and investor building activities will be delivered by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

These interventions will support the development of new business models, creating investable propositions that bring these creative sub sector closer to the investor markets.  Simultaneously, investor markets will be coached by Innovate UK on the benefits of creative sector investment

The programme is being set up now and will launch in January 2023. The funding must be spent by March 2025. Access to the programme is likely to close in October 2024 when the final cohort of businesses will be recruited (to be confirmed).

We are busy setting up this programme, if you are interested and think your business might be eligible, please register your interest by emailing

Kent County Council member Mike Hill

We are delighted that our bid for £1.275m from the DCMS Create Growth Programme has been successful. The programme offers us the opportunity to build on previous programmes, such as South East Creatives.

Mike Hill KCC Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services

KCC's Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, Mike Hill said: "We are delighted that our bid for £1.275m from the DCMS Create Growth Programme has been successful. The programme offers us the opportunity to build on previous programmes, such as South East Creatives."

"We are delighted that our bid for £1.275m from the DCMS Create Growth Programme has been successful. The programme offers us the opportunity to build on previous programmes, such as South East Creatives. It will help provide infrastructure and new routes to investment to support the diversity of the area’s creative businesses."

Sarah Dance, Co-Chair of South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN) and Deputy Chair of South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), said: "The South East Creative Economy Network is an open network and coherent voice for the creative sector in our region, working as part of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) where the creative sector is growing at phenomenal rates. The South East’s creative industries are a critical part of our economic foundation and the South East LEP has long been dedicated to ensuring this vastly important industry thrives in our region.  We are delighted to have secured this investment for our region’s 15k+ creative businesses and look forward to working with the DCMS and our Consortium partners to make this programme a success."

Jo Nolan, MD Screen South said: "This Create for Growth programme support is very much welcomed by Screen South – it provides welcome opportunity for a unique industry led collaborations to drive growth in our sector. We look forward to working with regionally based companies to enhance their creative business offer with a viable and realistic support framework which will enhance investment and ensure future success and sustainability for a wide range of companies. This will undoubtedly enhance the region’s Creative Industry profile nationally and internationally."

Caroline Norbury OBE, Chief Executive, Creative UK, said: "The South East Create Growth Programme exists to support creative talent across the South East with crucial investment and development opportunities. "We are excited to be partnering with the South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN), the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and true innovators and thought leaders in the region Screen South and Wired Sussex to help champion growing businesses, channel investment into the region and make a real impact to support the South East’s leading creative businesses of the future."