Guildford has been dubbed the ‘Hollywood of the video games industry’. It is home to over 60 games companies employing some 1000 people, making it the third largest cluster outside London and Manchester. Some of the leading games, companies and personalities in the business started out here and the city continues to attract the big names.
Over the last few years we have brought together games makers through the annual G3 conference, held in partnership with the University of Surrey and the UK Interactive Entertainment Association (Ukie). G3 – Galvanising Guildford Games – is now not only a ‘must attend’ but also a voice for the industry and a link to the region’s universities and business community.
Earlier this month we hosted a roundtable with Business South and Surrey County Council at which games companies and stakeholders discussed the challenges the sector faces and how it can be better supported.
A number of clear themes emerged. Infrastructure is a major issue, from finding suitable, affordable office space to poor connectivity. There is also concern about the current and future talent pool as companies struggle to recruit and deal with the uncertainty of the UK’s exit from the EU on their workforce. Finally, companies need help financing future growth through access to funds and support from local advisers.
The next step is to find practical solutions to address these challenges. There was a real desire around the table to cooperate and some great ideas emerged, from providing mentoring and work experience to encourage students in to the industry, to supporting growth through more incubation space and connections with accountants, lawyers and so on.
It is a timely debate. Just the week before our event, the government published a green paper Building our Industrial Strategy. It challenges all sectors of the economy to form ‘sector deals’ that bring together a range of stakeholders to produce a proposal that boosts the productivity of that sector, promotes competition and innovation, and facilitates long term investment and coordination. Creative industries are one of the sectors identified for an ‘early sector deal’ with an independent review underway conducted by Sir Peter Bazalgette.
This is a great opportunity for the games sector in Guildford and the surrounding areas. Together with G3 and leading representatives of the local games community, we are coordinating a working party to respond to the consultation outlining the challenges and opportunities for the sector here.