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Jeffery urges positivity on UK development strength

Autodesk's new talent chief underlines "great talent" - which industry should be championing

Matthew Jeffery, the head of EMEA talent acquisition and global talent brand at Autodesk, has told GamesIndustry.biz that the strengths which exist in the UK development environment are being underplayed - and that the country still has a lot of "great, experienced talent".

In recent years, as specific government support for the games industry in the UK has not been forthcoming, fiscal incentives in other territories have been accused of destabilising the development playing field - but despite the UK slipping to fourth in the global rankings, Jeffery believes the picture being painted doesn't do the country's talent justice.

"If you look at the industry and where it's hiring from, I think the UK has a lot to sell in the world market - and sometimes that's underplayed; particularly in the current environment," he said. "So if you were to take the perspective of an internal investor when they look at the UK, they're looking at the publicity and media buzz about slipping down the league tables and taking a judgement on that.

The UK has a lot to sell in the world market - and sometimes that's underplayed; particularly in the current environment

Matt Jeffery, Autodesk

"Then they look at all the chatter about skills, that we don't have the right skills for the games industry, and so on," he added.

He noted two key growth areas, Montreal and Toronto, which both offer strong financial incentives to games businesses - but also both suffer from a shortage of staff, so talent from the UK is being cherry-picked as a result.

"There's great art being produced here, with great designers working on these games, that the world wants to attract - there's no doubt," he said. "Hence your various companies in Toronto and Montreal are going to pinpoint the UK - and because it's quite unsettled in terms of some of the publicity, they'll be able to attract those individuals across.

"So we need to remind ourselves that we do have strong universities in the UK; we have great experienced talent; but also our companies need to be more focused on how we attract, retain and keep that best talent - particularly here in the UK."

Jeffery - who moved to Autodesk recently following a long stint at EA - also pointed out that while cost savings on staff can be made in those cities, the cost of relocating and settling families can be high.

"You have to ask yourself sometimes that if the UK's talent pool isn't that strong - as has been made out - why are these companies cherry-picking consistently from the UK?" he asked.

"Therefore, when you look at the UK, we should be poised for growth - we have got a great talent pool and we need to champion more about what we're doing, and not lose sight of what we have already."

As well as a strong heritage, with top studios such as Criterion and key franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Jeffery also pointed out that the UK can also be on the forefront of an entrepreneurial wave of new development companies that are focused on digital, mobile and social network opportunities.

"It's about creativity - content is king, and some of the stuff we're seeing, be it through mobile, Xbox Live, social media or Facebook gaming - it's cutting edge," he said. "It's entertaining millions and that's what you want to see.

"Some of those creatives out there studying [games] courses, that's the beacon for them - they can look at full-scale triple-A production, or social, small-scale development."

The full, wide-ranging exclusive interview with Matthew Jeffery, in which he also explores the education and skills issue, will be published next week.

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