Mayor launches programme to drive international growth of games, TV, culture and arts businesses

Export Lab games programme open for applications

9 May 2022

Launch of Export Lab

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have today launched Export Lab, a new programme to support the region’s creative industries including games, TV, culture and the arts, and boost growth across the region.

The bespoke Export Lab programme will be delivered as a consortium led by Indielab as lead partner, with Yorkshire and Humber DIT (Department for International Trade), UKIE (the association for UK Interactive Entertainment) and Game Republic. 

The programme will deliver a package of support to help SMEs across the creative industries, particularly businesses with little or no experience of selling to international markets, and targeting those with the ambition to explore and expand internationally, but who require support to realise their potential.

Applications for businesses to participate in the Games Export Lab programme are now open, with applications for businesses in the screen content and culture and the arts sectors opening later in the summer. Successful applicants to the Games Export Lab will also benefit from attendance at the industry leading Gamescom event in August.

Tracy Brabin, the Mayor of West Yorkshire and Chair of the Culture, Arts and Creative Industries Committee, said: “This is yet another fantastic example of the creative industries getting the support they need to help them thrive and I am pleased that West Yorkshire is able to extend its successful relationship with Indielab to deliver the Export lab programme.

“The ability to reach a wider audience will enable growth and create more jobs. If we harness this potential now, we will reap the rewards in the months and years to come.”  

Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (the LEP) and NP11 said: “By giving business owners and directors the confidence to explore new markets we’re opening up channels not only for export, but also for investment into our region.

“In the context of economic recovery and EU exit, it is more important than ever to develop business objectives on a global scale. By arming the creative industries with the information, guidance and tools we’re helping individual businesses as well as the broader sector in the region to grow.”

Screen content businesses, whether games and TV, or the culture and the arts sector, which is increasingly merging into screen content, present the ideal opportunity to generate new revenue streams from highly profitable international markets.

West Yorkshire is home to a thriving games sector, including Rockstar Leeds, developers of the popular Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series, Team 17, creators of the Worms franchise, and virtual reality pioneers XR Games.

Creative content makers will benefit from introductions to international distributors in order to extract value from existing products, alongside in-depth advice and guidance to exploring international markets.

The Export Lab programme forms part of the wider £1.5 million Creative Catalyst programme, developed by the LEP to overcome the barriers to growth for creative businesses across West Yorkshire.

It demonstrates the LEP’s dedication to the creative industries, as well as delivering on the Mayoral pledge to lead a creative new deal to ensure our creative industries are part of the region’s ongoing recovery and growth.

Earlier this year the LEP launched Indielab West Yorks: The Creative Catalyst Accelerator to help boost sector growth across TV production businesses and games studios and help them focus on their business and content vision, thus enabling them to become more successful on a more sustainable basis.

Now, with the same attention being given to exporting local content, it can only help to bolster the sector and the region’s position on the international stage.

Victoria Powell, Indielab’s Programme Director said: “We are absolutely delighted to support the continued growth and success of West Yorkshire’s world-class creative industries. Following on from the successful launch of Indielab West Yorks, we’re excited to further develop our relationship with the LEP, and work together with some specialist partners in the region to help us realise the goals of this new Export Lab programme.

“By using in-depth market knowledge and territory insights, we can help develop bespoke internationalisation plans that are right and relevant to each business. Not only will this drive individual business growth but reinforce West Yorkshire’s position in the global market for its unique appeal, creativity, and brilliant content production.”

The value of creative industry exports

In 2019, the UK’s creative industries generated £37.9 billion in exports – nearly 12% of total UK service exports. We have some brilliant examples of businesses in the region that are already reaping the rewards of having presence on an international platform.

In 2021 XR Games was named one of the UK businesses to champion local export and opportunities in international markets, as part of the Government’s ‘Made in the UK, Sold to the World’ campaign.

More traditional creative businesses, such as theatre production, have also adapted to reach international markets, partly through choice as well as circumstance.

Bobby Thandi, Founder and CEO of XR Games, said: “Our business plan had an international outlook from Day One. The release of Zombieland VR helped drive this home: the game has been purchased in 175 countries worldwide, leaving us only a few nations left to service.

“We are focused on growing the number of worldwide sales of both our existing, and our upcoming games — the latter of which I’m very excited about, as we have a number of exciting projects to announce and release coming up in 2022!”

Mark Skipper DL, Chief Executive, Northern Ballet, said: “The pandemic provided us with the impetus and opportunity to pivot as an organisation; we rapidly grew our digital offering with streaming of our ballets to national and international audiences on TV, online, and though distribution partners such as CinemaLive.

“We were able to showcase content such as Dracula and Casanova on the BBC and Sky Arts which provided us with a fantastic platform for our work.”

 For more information about the Creative Catalyst Export Lab programme and to find out how to apply, visit