UK’s creative industries benefit from significant funding boost

Two university students experimenting with video software and hardware during class

UKRI’s creative industries investments will support research and innovation across the sector, from film, TV and gaming to fashion and heritage.

Pinewood Studios, the British Film Institute (BFI) and Northern Ireland Screen are among the partners at projects sharing £75.6 million.

The funding comes from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Convergent Screen Technologies And performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) network to boost the UK’s screen and performance sectors.

Further funding

Simultaneously, at least £50 million of further funding is going to renew the Creative Industries Clusters Programme (CICP).

CICP supports UK-wide investment in new clusters covering new sectors in new areas, and builds the bridge to a sustainable successor programme.

And further funding is coming from Innovate UK to boost innovation in the creative industries, alongside another £80 million from AHRC for heritage infrastructure projects.

Creative industries vision

The investments were announced as part of the launch of the government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision.

The vision sets out the government’s ambition to maximise the growth of the creative industries by an extra £50 billion by 2030.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said:

The creative industries are a true British success story, from global music stars like Adele and Ed Sheeran to world-class cultural institutions like the National Theatre.

These industries have a special place in our national life and make a unique contribution to how we feel about ourselves as a country.

We want to build on this incredible success to drive growth in our economy – one of my key priorities – and to ensure that UK creative industries continue to lead the world long into the future.

Backed up with significant new funding, this ambitious plan will help grow the sector by an extra £50 billion while creating one million extra jobs by 2030.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:

The imagination and ingenuity of British designers, producers, content creators, writers and artists are spearheading growth right across our economy.

The government is backing our creatives to maximise the potential of the creative industries.

This Sector Vision is about driving innovation, attracting investment and building on the clusters of creativity across the country.

And from first days at school to last days of work, we will nurture the skills needed to build a larger creative workforce to harness the talent needed for continued success.

Working with the industry this vision is helping the UK creative sectors go from strength to strength – providing jobs and opportunities, creating world leading content and supporting economic growth across the country.

Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

Our Creative Industry isn’t just about the glitz and glam of the red carpet in Leicester Square.

It brings in £108 billion a year to help fund our public services, supports over 2 million jobs, and is world renowned.

That’s why we’re backing it as an industry to drive our economic growth, keeping the UK at the top of the world’s cultural charts with a multi-million pound boost.

Catalysing research and innovation

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Creative Industries Sector Champion and AHRC Executive Chair Professor Christopher Smith said:

The creative industries are a UK success story, key to the UK’s prosperity, wellbeing and resilience.

From design to screen, fashion and textiles to heritage, they are generating high-quality employment and innovation.

UKRI’s creative industries investments, including CoSTAR, Creative Catalyst and the Creative Industry Clusters Programme, will catalyse the research and innovation that are crucial for this fast-growing and important sector.

The creative industries are now firmly embedded in the research and development ecosystem, ensuring that the UK remains a genuine world leader in the industries of the future.

The future of UK screen and performance

The CoSTAR network will consist of:

  • a national lab and experimental studio fitted with real-time digital technologies
  • three network labs across the UK
  • an insight and foresight unit (IFU)

National lab

The national lab will be based in Buckinghamshire.

It will fuse creative research and development (R&D) with professional training and production expertise, focused through a unique mix of world-leading research teams and placed alongside live commercial production.

The lab will offer unrivalled routes to commercialisation.

Network labs

The three network labs will be based in:

  • Wakefield
  • Belfast
  • Dundee

Each will specialise in a different area of innovation. From virtual production in live performance in Yorkshire, to world-class computer games R&D at Abertay University and advanced technology film production at Studio Ulster.

The funding for CoSTAR is subject to full business case approval.

The next wave of creative clusters

Also announced today is £50 million to fund the next wave of CICP.

New clusters

Building on the success of the first wave, this investment will fund at least six new clusters, boosting the economy in new regions and sectors and pioneering cutting-edge technology.

To date, AHRC’s CICP has supported nine creative clusters in the UK.

Collectively, these research and innovation clusters have:

  • generated £252 million of co-investment
  • engaged over 2,500 businesses and 60 research organisations
  • trained over 3,500 industry professionals and academics
  • supported 900 business R&D projects
  • created or safeguarded more than 4,000 jobs

Successful first wave

The programme has pioneered ground-breaking technology, products and services, as well as the talent to deliver them.

Successes from the first wave include:

  • transforming textile waste into new sustainable fabrics with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Yorkshire
  • game design technology that addresses obesity in Scotland
  • robots with a sense of touch that can help in disaster zones, designed in Edinburgh
  • immersive experiences reducing pain in childbirth for Welsh hospitals
  • screen professionals receiving intensive training in next-generation virtual production technology in London and Belfast

Funding for heritage infrastructure

In addition, AHRC will deliver the £80 million Research Infrastructure for Conservation and Heritage Science (RICHeS) programme.

Culture and heritage contribute £30 billion gross value added each year and supports 240,000 jobs.

This investment will provide a UK-wide network of facilities and expertise in conservation and heritage science research that investigates and preserves:

  • historic houses and monuments
  • museum collections
  • science specimens
  • works of art

CoSTAR and RICHeS have received funding through the UKRI Infrastructure Fund, which supports the facilities, equipment and resources that are essential for researchers and innovators to do ground-breaking work.

Safeguarding our cultural heritage

It will safeguard our cultural heritage assets for future generations, and ensure they remain accessible and discoverable to inform and inspire the work of creative industry professionals.

Cutting-edge facilities will unlock the potential for innovation in other areas of science, including bio-imaging, digital twins and remote sensing.

RICHeS will provide a highly visible ‘front door’ to the UK’s heritage science expertise.

It will promote collaboration at a national and international level, and secure our reputation for excellence in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research and innovation.

A funding opportunity for applications will open on 11 July 2023

Creative Catalyst

Further creative industries funding comes in the 2023 round of the £30 million Creative Catalyst winners.

This will provide funding of up to £50,000 for over 200 creative businesses across the UK to invest in innovation.

The funding focused on companies outside of the greater south-east with a specific focus on:

  • Nottingham
  • Newcastle
  • Manchester
  • Liverpool
  • Belfast
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Bath
  • Bristol
  • Exeter
  • Cardiff
  • Birmingham
  • Leeds
  • Sheffield

Innovate UK has also today announced a new partnership between the Creative Catalyst programme and Creative UK. This new partnership will engage with key senior industry stakeholders and create exciting funding opportunities for small and micro businesses to address important industry challenges.

Finally, Innovate UK is announcing that the first Creative Catalyst sector-specific competition will focus on MusicTech. The £1 million competition will launch later in the year, with a scope which has been co-designed by industry.

Create Growth

More than 100 businesses have been supported by Innovate UK, delivered on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, through the Create Growth programme.

The creative industry businesses across the six current regions will share in £3 million of funding from the programme, to help them access business support, finance and investor capacity-building activities.

The businesses in sectors such as gaming, music and marketing are based in:

  • Greater Manchester
  • the west of England with Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
  • Norfolk
  • Suffolk
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Leicestershire
  • Derbyshire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Kent
  • Essex
  • east and west Sussex
  • the north-east of England

Further information

CoSTAR winning labs

National lab: led by Royal Holloway, University of London

The CoSTAR national lab will be led by Royal Holloway University of London with core partners including:

  • Pinewood Studios
  • Disguise
  • BT
  • National Film and Television School
  • Surrey County Council
  • University of Surrey
  • Abertay University
  • Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

The national lab will bring together world leaders in technology, storytelling and research.

It will help SMEs and industry by:

  • fusing R&D with professional training, production expertise and an industry front-door, coupled with PhD programmes
  • focusing R&D through a unique mix of world-leading research teams spanning creative storytelling, creative artificial intelligence (AI), and creative technology
  • placing R&D side-by-side live commercial production, offering routes to commercialisation and markets beyond most SME networks

The national lab will become a thriving R&D hub for SME users.

It is located amongst the highest concentration of creative industries in the UK, while also being accessible UK-wide and having a commitment to ensuring 45% of beneficiaries are based outside the south-east.

Improving the environmental sustainability and diversity across the sector will also be a key priority for the national lab.

Network lab: led by University of York

The CoSTAR network lab led by University of York will be located at Production Park in partnership with:

  • Screen Yorkshire
  • Vodafone
  • Wakefield Council
  • York and North Yorkshire LEP

It will be a key component in the CoSTAR ecosystem and will support research and development of virtual production (VP).

This novel approach to media creation utilises digital tools such as computer-generated imagery and augmented reality to produce immersive media experiences that appear realistic.

Despite the environmental and creative benefits of VP, the technology is currently expensive, highly specialised, and out of the reach of most small production companies, creating a significant skills gap.

Filling this skills gap is essential for UK industry to maintain a competitive digital economy.

A world-leading facility in novel immersive and interactive technologies R&D, the lab will support the UK screen and performance sectors, specifically live performance and the metaverse.

It will be run by the University of York and will be located in the heart of West Yorkshire at Production Park, the UK’s largest live production facility.

Its main goals will be to:

  • transform the live performance sector
  • boost the growth of small and medium-sized businesses in the region
  • contribute to the expansion of the wider UK creative sector

The core partners are:

  • Production Park
  • Screen Yorkshire
  • Vodafone
  • Wakefield Council
  • York and North Yorkshire LEP

Network lab: led by Abertay University

The network lab led by Abertay University will be delivered in partnership with:

  • Codebase
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Interface
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Water’s Edge Studio

It will bring together video games development expertise in Dundee’s globally significant InGAME cluster with world leading applied R&D at Abertay.

Based in Water’s Edge studio complex in Dundee and Edinburgh College of Art in Edinburgh, this lab will build on five years R&D-led growth and innovation driven by the AHRC CICP.

The Abertay network lab will be a mixed reality R&D centre that supports sector engagement in collaborative R&D, delivering innovation for digital productivity tools, creative production pipelines and content creation processes.

It will facilitate engagement between multinational companies and British SMEs, UK content creators with creative technologists, to identify opportunities for innovation driven growth.

This will enable it to transform the creative media industries in the UK and deliver global leadership in next generation entertainment creation and technology innovators.

The hub will drive value through innovation in the following areas:

  • performance and motion capture
  • virtual humans and dynamic procedural performance
  • machine learning (ML) for production and AI for process reproduction
  • AI for dynamic effects and procedural graphics for visual effects
  • using advanced scanning technologies for 3D volume acquisition and ML/AI for procedural environment generation
  • developing lighting and ray tracing standards to deliver environmental fidelity

The core partners are:

  • Codebase
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Interface
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Waters Edge

Network lab: led by Ulster University

The CoSTAR network lab at Studio Ulster will be a regional research, development and innovation facility in the Studio Ulster Virtual Production complex at Belfast Harbour Studios.

It will offer local companies the opportunity to apply for developmental support through challenge calls aimed at building future understandings of virtual production and real time technologies.

It will work with the national and other regional CoSTAR labs to share best practice and training.

The Studio Ulster network lab will create opportunities to increase the visibility of VP and its potential while also to build the skills pipeline, policy and infrastructure needed to sustain the project after the funded period.

To that end, it will also create targeted training programmes, accredited through the Ulster Screen Academy at Ulster University, designed to advance the skills base in the region and build capacity across the CoSTAR network.

The core partners are:

  • BBC Northern Ireland
  • Belfast Harbour
  • Humain Ltd
  • Northern Ireland Screen
  • Studio Ulster

IFU: led by Goldsmiths, University of London

Led by Goldsmiths, in partnership with:

  • BFI
  • Loughborough University
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Olsberg SpA
  • ARUP
  • Julie’s Bicycle
  • Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre

The IFU will act as an anchor to industry trends.

It will provide a lens into the future and being an impartial evaluator of what works and what does not work through collation, integration, analysis and synthesis of primary and secondary data.

It will capture, interrogate, synthesise and visualise data from a comprehensive range of sources, including from the CoSTAR labs and international sources.

Encouraging data-sharing across the UK’s creative industries, the IFU will allow creative partners to use data-led approaches and insights to spot novel areas of application, demand-led markets for innovative products and services, and plan around ambitious net zero aims.

Data-led and data-rich research on the use of new and emerging technologies and on which approaches to audience engagement show the most promise for investment will help planning within industry and policy.

The IFU will also help to define the skills and training needs of the sector and observe and inform the response to the next waves of disruption in the sector, in the UK and internationally.

The main core partner is BFI with others, including but not limited to:

  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Loughborough University
  • Julies Bicycle
  • Olsberg SPI
  • Arup Group

Top image:  Credit: TommL, E+ via Getty Images

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