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Audience of the future

You will soon be able to become totally immersed in your favourite TV programme, production, sport or museum exhibit, thanks to government investment to support the best UK storytellers creating ground-breaking immersive experiences.


Audience of the future

What is the audience of the future challenge?

New immersive technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality are changing how we experience the world around us – from entertainment to sports, museums, shops and classrooms.  

The £33m Audience of the Future challenge fund brings together creative businesses, researchers and technology experts to create striking new experiences that will captivate the public’s imagination. By capturing the world’s attention, their work will help grow the UK’s leading market position in creative content.

The evolution of storytelling

We’ve told stories since the dawn of time.

Today's storytellers use the most exciting technology available to capture our imaginations.

The UK is home to some of the world’s leading creatives, who are using virtual, augmented and mixed reality to the turn their ideas into amazing stories.

What is being funded

The funding is being invested in:

  • a demonstrator programme
  • production innovation for immersive content
  • an immersive technology investment accelerator
  • design foundations
  • a national centre of excellence for immersive storytelling

Demonstrator programme

A £16 million demonstrator programme is funding industry-led consortia in the creative industries to create new immersive experiences and test them with 100,000 people from summer 2020 onwards.


A consortium of ESL - the world’s largest esports content producer – plus academics and innovators are developing a new platform that uses gameplay data to transform how remote audiences experience sports.

Watch audiences try the prototype at ESL One in Hamburg.


A Royal Shakespeare Company project involving 15 specialist organisations from theatre, music, video production, gaming and research, will stream live performances to people’s mobile phones and extended reality headsets.

Watch consortium partners, Manchester International Festival, test virtual shapes with audiences at a Skepta rave.

Moving image

Led by Tiny Rebel Games, a consortium of Aardman, digital specialists Potato, creative agency Sugar and the University of South Wales, will take the characters from Wallace & Gromit into the future of storytelling with a concept called The Big Fix Up.

Visitor experience

Visitors will experience 2 new, multi-sensory, interactive worlds filled with dinosaurs and robots, in a project led by Factory 42 for London’s Natural History Museum and Science Museum.

Hear John Cassy from Factory 42 discuss his project in Radio 4’s podcast ‘Museum of the Future’.

The Immersive Audience Journey Research Report (July 2020)

In collaboration with UKRI, as part of the Audience of the Future Demonstrator programme, this research report conducted by Digital Catapult aims to support market growth by addressing the lack of insight into immersive audiences. It explores the concept of ‘audiences’ when applied to immersive productions in the fields of art, culture, heritage and entertainment. 

A must read for immersive content creators wanting to produce enthralling immersive work and build a better understanding of current and future audiences, how to attract them, retain them, and, importantly, how to grow them. This report is an even more essential resource in light of the recent pandemic, especially for businesses working to pivot their operations.

The Immersive Audience Journey Research Report

Production innovation for immersive content

21 projects have received a share of £12 million to create faster, more efficient immersive content. These include:

  • a project led by immersive VR studio, Maze Theory, to develop a new VR drama game based on BAFTA-award winning Peaky Blinders. The game will use artificial intelligence to enable characters to respond to players’ gestures, movement, voice, sound and body language
  • a project led by the National Theatre, which will explore the technical and production means to improve theatre experiences for a more diverse audience, including personalised sign-language displays for British Sign Language users, translation captions for non-English speakers and audio descriptions for visually impaired people
  • a research group led by The Forever Project, which will make it possible for people to meet their heroes digitally, by improving filming techniques and boosting voice interaction

Immersive technology investment accelerator

Bridging the gap between angel, early-seed investment and immersive businesses, £1.6 million in funding has been awarded to 8 early stage projects. These include:

  • Double Digits: a project to led by Humain to deliver an accurate and robust hand pose estimation method which will also enable a VR user to see and use their own hands in VR generated by a 3D Morphable Model
  • Near-Life: a project to develop an immersive learning course, using voice-activated, VR technology, to support capacity building around the establishment of emergency field hospitals in a crisis response context

Design foundations

£1 million was awarded to 32 projects which used human-centred design (design focused on user requirements). Projects included:

  • the XR Audience Centred Design project, which will enable theatre audiences to experience a virtual reality performance without every audience member having to wear a headset
  • the Emotion Sensing project, which will use biosensors to capture real-time emotional responses and find out what makes an engaging immersive experience
  • the Virtual Decisions project which engages young people on risk-taking behaviours such as gang-related knife crime, as covered by Channel 4 News

National centre for immersive storytelling

A new £10 million centre – StoryFutures Academy – supports the development of cutting-edge creative training and research programmes in immersive storytelling to develop the UK creative talent pool. It is part-funded through the Creative Industries Clusters Programme.

The National Film and Television School and Royal Holloway University run the centre, which develops skills through experimental labs, workshops (like the BBC3 example below), placements and courses. In total, it will support and co-fund 60 immersive productions.

In line with their remit to develop the UK creative talent pool, StoryFutures Academy published a report on skills for immersive experience creation.


Hear from the creative industry

UK industry strengths


“The first thing to be proud of is our heritage, but the world's changing so fast, the UK needs to make sure we stay ahead of the curve.”
Jay Short, Technology Strategist, INITION

The challenges organisations face

How do we make work that is as beautiful, as epic, as affecting as we have been able to do on other mediums?”
Annette Mees, Head of Audience Labs, Royal Opera House

What the programme should achieve

“What we want to see come out of this is a format that everybody looks at and goes, great! That's a must have, I need to experience that.”
Rupert Harris, Creative Director, Animal Vegetable Mineral

Further reading

CuteCircuit: clothing the wearer in immersive sound

A wearable technology firm supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is creating an immersive experience that helps the user hear and feel sound.

Wagstaffs: building a virtual world for the City of London

A project supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is building a virtual reality model that architects and planners could walk around at human scale.

5 reasons the UK is leading the immersive revolution

Andrew Chitty, Director of the ISCF’s Audience of the Future challenge, gives 5 reasons why he thinks the UK is perfectly placed to make the most of new and emerging immersive experiences.

The science of creativity

Professor David Bull, Director of the University of Bristol’s Vision Institute, explores the challenges of bringing creators and technology experts together to create new technologies and experiences.

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