Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Understanding the economy of the future ­– innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy

When we start to think about the economy of the future - and the clean and clever jobs that make it up - we encounter a confusing array of ideas and terms. Innovation, the knowledge economy, the creative economy, creative industries and the cultural economy are all used, often interchangeably. Over the years my own thinking about them has changed and I thought it would be useful to try to clarify how they are all related.

Knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy
Increasingly the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape are both clever and clean. They are mainly service industries that make up the knowledge economy, based on intellectual inquiry and research and exhibiting both innovative services or products and often also new and innovative ways of doing business. At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.

Where the cultural economy (and to a lesser degree, creative industries) differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world ­– they help channel those who write the stories, paint the pictures and dance the dances that tell our story. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors of the knowledge economy do not. As part of Australia's culture sector and the cultural economy that derives from it, they share the critical function of managing the meaning of Australia and what being Australian means, which distinguishes this sector from other parts of the knowledge economy.

Artists, the arts and culture sector and the cultural economy
The cultural economy is underpinned by the arts and culture sector and the artists and arts and cultural organisations, mainly small, that make it up and create the content which often feeds into and inspires other sectors of the creative economy. 

The cultural sector (including the arts sector and much of the heritage sector) can't be reduced to economics, in fact the cultural economy may well be one of the less important aspects of the cultural sector and its role. However, the reality is that the cultural sector does have an associated cultural economy, which is an important part of the creative economy and overlaps with the creative industries. This interconnected economy also happens to be my main area of interest.

The work I did on creative industries, including while I was in the Research, Statistics and Technology Branch of the Department of Communications, established the parameters of my subsequent interest. Even though I went on to manage various aspects of the Indigenous cultural programs of the Commonwealth for almost six and a half years, I have always seen my primary area of interest as being creative industries (and their links to the cultural economy) and even my continuing interest in First Nations culture and languages has largely been from this perspective.