The UK’s creative industries are world leading. From our film and television companies to our museums and galleries, they are, as government has said, ‘at the heart of the nation’s competitive advantage’. However, their current success and global leadership is at risk through a wave of technological disruption transforming the way creative products and experiences are made and ultimately the way they are consumed.
The Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) programme is part of a £481 million portfolio of research and innovation infrastructure investments announced in June 2022.
The CoSTAR programme proposes a national response to the risks and challenges facing our screen and performance industries. It seeks to reinforce our strategic leadership position in the global creative industries by investing in world-leading research, development and innovation (RD&I) facilities and programmes that will unlock the immediate and long term economic and creative value set of a set of rapidly evolving creative technologies.
The last decade has seen a new convergence of technology and media, with global giants such as Amazon, Netflix and Disney consolidating the technologies, production, and distribution of content together and achieving unprecedented market power.
One side effect of this changing environment has been a significant and ongoing new wave of investment into studio facilities in the UK. From multi-billion-dollar inward investments by the world’s largest media companies to smaller regional facilities.
However, within this period of global structural change, the last 5 years has seen another opportunity in RD&I emerge.
A suite of advanced computing technologies, some developed from within the creative industries, some from the wider digital technology sector have converged to create new opportunities, methods and workflows with the potential to transform the production process across the whole sector.
In film and high-end TV, where adoption has been rapid this new creative technology stack has become known as ‘virtual production’ built on real-time software engines from the game industry; but also including in-camera visual FX, performance capture; LED volumes, future networks, machine learning and more.
This set of emerging tools and processes hold the promise to make content production cheaper, greener and better able to meet global market demand.
Virtual production technologies have already had a significant impact in the screen industries, from initial ground-breaking productions such as Disney’s Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian to recent applications on HBO’s Game of Thrones at Warners UK Leavesden studios.
The potential for these same technologies to transform the performance sector has also been shown by projects such as The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Dream.online. In the screen sector, applications of these technologies will impact production companies; studio operators, performance companies, production technology groups; VFX providers and technology suppliers.
As these technologies become more accessible and develop further through the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, this transformation will extend across the creative industries through advertising, marketing and communication sectors, culture and heritage and far beyond linear experiences into the connected virtual environments that make up the metaverse. The metaverse is the next major phase in the development of the digital and creative economies.
As the initial phase of what is intended to be a sustained RD&I investment, CoSTAR starting point is today’s virtual production environment, but its future is in allowing the UK’s creative industries a research infrastructure to explore the technologies and commercial opportunities of the metaverse.
Over the last 5 years, a series of public investments made by UKRI have shown evidence of the impact that can be delivered through applied creative R&D programmes including the Audience of the Future Challenge the Digital Catapult and Arts Council England programme Creative XR, but these programmes have been project-based and time-limited.
The extended timeframe and devolved decision making of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme has demonstrated how longer-term higher education institutions (HEI) and industry partnerships supported by local, regional (and in the UK nations) and national economic partners can massively amplify the impact of UKRI funding raising more than £3 in co-investment for every £1 invested by UKRI through AHRC.
It is because of this evidence that we are calling for similar partnerships to deliver the CoSTAR infrastructure with research organisations, independent research organisations, and research technical organisations leading consortia delivering the infrastructure.
The facilities delivered through CoSTAR will offer the UK’s screen and performance sector a long-term infrastructure to build a new capability for the UK in creative technology R&D.
Co-siting these facilities with industry, rather than within universities will ensure that they are always engaged with the cutting edge of industry practice. HEI leadership will ensure that the research and engineering teams within these facilities will conduct new high-quality R&D as well as support the development of innovative solutions. The participation of economic development partners will ensure that each facility in the network can support, sustain and grow a cluster of new high growth creative technology companies exploiting and commercialising the opportunities of this valuable and transformative R&D.
Funding opportunity invitation (PDF, 715KB)
Attachments specification (PDF, 109KB)
Equality impact assessment (PDF, 272KB)
Please use the headings in the attachment specification document for the following components of your application:
- case for support
- delivery plan
- management plan
- partner statements
- risk register
- equaility, diversity and inclusion and sustainability targets
Other documents to help develop your application
We have compiled all of the questions and answers from the series of briefing events and the CoSTAR email inbox where we have been asked to elaborate on the funding opportunity detail. See the CoSTAR national capability in screen and performance: fund FAQs.
For information about what we presented you can see the CoSTAR briefing event slides (PDF, 3MB)
You can watch a YouTube video of the first briefing event in the series, held in Cardiff.
You can also watch a YouTube video of the last briefing event in the series, held in London.