Oxford’s Creative Cultural Industries and its Publishing Cluster.

On October 21, 2011

As part of my Online Enterprise studies, I have decided to discuss Oxford’s creative cultural industries and the local clusters that have a significant impact on their economy. 

Oxford is well known for its academic stature, beautiful landscape and dreaming spires. It is a city renowned for inspiring great writers and designers alike and is steeped in a rich history of creativity. Today, Oxford is a city for not only the classical arts but also the modern creative cultural industries such as game design, music, fashion and software engineering. But one of the greatest and oldest creative mechanisms in Oxford is its publishing sector.  

Oxford University Press (OUP) is to many the Mecca of publishing houses. It began its life in the print world during the 15th Century, initially printing bibles and scholarly media. Printing at the time operated primarily in London and select areas, so Oxford had to apply to the Crown to establish itself as an official printer. A century passed before Oxford was allowed the privilege to print what it liked. This was the beginning of Oxford’s publishing industry.

As its economy grew and publishing restrictions began to diminish, the attraction to Oxford as a printing hub escalate, particularly given the ease of access to academics and authors from the University. Overseas trade spurned growth in the early 20th century, and as the war had an effect on British trade, businesses in London had to shift to Oxford. Towards the end of the 20th century, further opportunities opened up with the convergence of technologies and the arrival of online enterprise. OUP is currently the worlds largest University press, printing approximately 6000 titles a year and employing over 1800 people (65% of whom live in Oxfordshire). A study by Oxford Inspires – The Economic Impact of the Cultural and Creative Industries in Oxfordshire – revealed that OUP had an annual turnover of £578m in March 2009. In addition to OUP, other major publishing groups such as Macmillan, Blackwell and Elsevier base a great deal of their operations out of Oxford. The total annual turnover for publishing in Oxford was believed to be £1.27bn in 2006, according to The Oxfordshire Publishing Cluster – Initial Scoping Study.

Although publishing is a key part of Oxford’s creative cultural industries, there are other growing clusters within the city. In a 2010 report by NESTA, The Geography of Industry,  it was highlighted that there were significant layers of overlap in creative industries such as the software, computer games and electronic publishing sectors in cities such as Oxford alongside its already strong publishing industry. According to NESTA, the report aimed to “improv[e] our understanding of the mechanisms through which creative industries contribute to regional innovative performance”. Another report conducted by Europe Innova (Priority Sector Report: Creative and Cultural Industries) has Oxford ranked 13th in Europe’s Top 25 regions for creative and cultural industries employment clusters (Power & Nielsen, p.5). 

Due to the size of the sector, Oxford has also attracted a support network for those in this industry. The Oxford Publishing Society (OPUS) aims to create a forum for members of the publishing industry in the city. It hosts networking events and talks for its members and  encourages those involved to meet, share ideas and exchange views. It was founded by some of the largest publishers in Oxford, including Blackwell Publishers, Butterworth-Heinemann, CAB International and Elsevier Science. 

With a healthy publishing sector thriving on one of the best Universities in the world, it is not difficult to see why the academic press has been so successful in Oxford. The scholarly culture and creative clusters work well side by side and as such continue to innovate and expand. It is important to ensure that they continue to thrive and innovate, as the creative cultural industries of new and old are important to local and national economic growth. 

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