Creative workspace study reveals start-up business boom in Colchester

Apr 18, 2018 | Creative

Colchester Borough Council (CBC) has appointed Creative Space Management to undertake a study into demands for further work space for the creative and digital sector in Colchester.

As one of the fastest growing arts and technology hubs in East Anglia, Colchester’s creative and digital industries (CDI) are a key source of employment, innovation and productivity, shaping communities and creating destinations. Developing the sector is an essential element of Colchester Borough Council’s strategy for economic growth 2015 – 2021.

So the time was ripe for CBC to find out more and Creative Space Management was commissioned to evaluate the current market in and around Colchester. This resulted in some interesting insights:

  • Overall, based on the desk research, there are 3,038 active, trading CDI companies operating in Colchester’s wider creative economy
  • Over half of the companies (1,538) have been formed in the past five years
  • The business growth rate in Colchester’s creative and digital industries is approximately 10% annually, with approximately 300 new companies being set up each year.  This is a significant level of growth.  The fact that 54% of all new active companies between 0-5 years are in the digital, technology and IT sector shows the scale of growth in the digital economy in this area
  • The sub-region’s creative and digital economy is overwhelmingly dominated by digital, technology and IT businesses, and this is where the majority of growth is taking place as shown in our analysis.
  • Research has identified 1,629 IT, Digital and Technology companies operating in the Colchester CDI economy. This is significantly over 50% of the total CDI economy.
  • Colchester is the key location [for start-ups] (603 companies), followed by Ipswich (365) and Braintree (385).

Toby Hyam, Director at Creative Space Management said: “We are delighted to be working with Colchester to help them identify the potential for new creative workspace across the Borough to provide capacity for this rapidly growing sector.”   This is important as Kathleen Hamilton, Chair of Creative Colchester, notes: “The creative industries make an increasingly valuable contribution to the economy of Colchester and Essex and their importance, nationally as well as regionally, is recognised in the significant investment plans announced in the Government’s Industrial Strategy.” 

Colchester’s burgeoning creative scene is typified by the huge demand for space at the recently redeveloped former Police Station In Queen Street into a creative business centre.  This £2.6m project was quickly oversubscribed.  Councillor Tim Young, Portfolio Holder for Business and Culture, commented: ‘Following the enormous success of the 37 Queen Street Creative Business Centre project, the Council are allocating considerable resource into assessing the increasing demand for, and opportunities to develop, workspaces for businesses and organisations that wish to expand.” 

A study by Essex County Council last year revealed there is a clear shortage of this type of workspace across the county.  As the Creative and Digital Sectors are key industries for Colchester, Colchester Borough Council will be continuing to look into how they can help this sector develop and remain in Colchester as part of the economic growth strategy.

The report will be used to assess various sites which could be developed for ‘grow on’ space to ensure that growth can continue and help creative and digital businesses embed themselves permanently in Colchester, leading to greater job creation and retention of talent.

Colchester – Ultra Ready

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