business support

How Creative Businesses can use DATA to their Advantage

data lab manchester

Cluster 2020 has been helping creative businesses gain a competitive advantage through the use of data, or ‘information’ as some participants preferred to call it! It is commonplace to talk about the value of ‘big data’ and ‘open data’, but in this project we’re beginning to prove that virtually all businesses can benefit from data that is focused on their needs.

We ran a pilot programme in Birmingham and Manchester, in the UK, with eight creative organisations, each being helped by one of three different data expert companies. Their uses of data were varied and numerous! A dance company wanted to map its markets and best locations for growth, an educational games company wanted more data on the schools market and a PR company wanted its staff to use data in-house to grow sales. Other uses of data included an event feed for a business support website and a map of the animation strengths of the North.

Cluster 2020 has been conducting this pilot to work out the most effective methodology to run this programe with SME”s in the future. How best do we explain what we mean by data to participating organisations? How do we analyze their needs effectively to scope up the work? How can we help them extend their benefit by developing in-house skills? We used a combination of phone consultation, face2face meetings and workshops to complete the work.

Alongside planning the methodology we have been looking at the cost of data experts. Anecdotal evidence suggested that businesses knew in theory that data could help them, but simply didn’t understand where to begin, fearing that costs would be out-of-reach. An important part of the work was to understand the costs involved and whether there are different categories of data support, some easier and cheaper to deliver. Cluster 2020 paid the experts around €1500 per business helped for this pilot. We discovered that the simplest projects can be done for that budget, where the task is well defined and the data used comes from the business itself. In most cases though, the business analysis and subsequent data definitions took a large chunk of the budget. In some, trawling for data sources that were useful was relatively easy, in others a big challenge!

What we have proved so far is that data tailored for an individual business is vital for increasing sales and improving efficiency. It can be done for less money than you think, with a lot being possible at a sub €3000 price point. Many organisations seem willing to contribute with both financial support and in-house staff time, so a future 50% grant fund for data would be a highly viable new support mechanism for all SME’s.

Cluster 2020 have partners in France and Germany who will be extending our understanding of data services by running similar pilots with some of their creative organisations  We will be publishing interim UK findings in Autumn 2013 with a full report next year covering the work across all three countries. Watch this space!



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This project is financed under the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) which aims to encourage the competitiveness of European enterprises.