Artistic collective Celestial and their journey with Innovate UK

In three years, Celestial achieved top three global ranking, raised millions, employed nearly 50, and are Creative Catalyst's first Investor Partnership awardee.

About the company

Celestial is a creative industries company which uses ‘swarms’ of synchronised, illuminated drones to create spectacular stories in the night sky. Now an internationally recognised drone show company, Celestial is an artistic collective of filmmakers, event producers, and tech specialists offering a premium 360° creative design and production service. Incorporated in 2020, Celestial has continually engaged with the Innovate UK family.

Their journey with Innovate UK

They are based in Somerset, South West of England and were initially awarded an Innovate UK grant as part of Creative Catalyst’s 2021 pilot. This was followed by another grant in 2023, under the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strength in Place programme.

Innovate UK EDGE has supported the company since 2020 and through their bespoke innovation and growth support, has aided the company in raising angel investment in 2022. EDGE advisors worked with the company to develop an investment readiness strategy and implement improvements. Celestial embedded new strategies, received training to support access to investors and increased innovation capacity. Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network were utilised to assess opportunities within UKRI.

Celestial discusses their journey of business growth, paired with clips from drone art shows.

Credit: Innovation South West

Tony Martin, Co-Founder of Celestial said:

I think being able to have support from an organisation like Innovate UK, allows us to open doors that may not otherwise be available to us, and allows little sparks of ideas to germinate and blossom … We totally recommend it for others, it’s a fantastic line of support … it’s been a real pleasure to do and it’s been a real little bit of rocket fuel to the company’s progression.

Working internationally

Celestial’s Hogmanay display had eight million online views of their performance within the first 10 days. It was covered by 650 news outlets across 50 territories, reaching a combined global audience of around two billion people, showcasing their cutting-edge techniques.

Celestial is a global player, performing drone art in Australia, Nigeria and the US, as well as Europe and the UK. Accessing new markets, investing internally to improve processes and management capability are further successes of Celestial. They have made global headlines working with ‘world class talent’, from Poet Laureates and Grammy-winning musicians, to Hollywood actors and indigenous artists.

Their work also has a strong environmental ethos using renewable energy and offering a safer and greener alternative to fireworks. As a result of this ethos and working closely with Innovate UK EDGE, Celestial went to the G7 and delivered a stunning show, alongside a film for Greenpeace.

Image from Celestial’s film content of their drone show for Greenpeace at G7 2021, with nine animals in the night sky and displaying “Stop Extinction”. Credit: Celestial

Planning for growth

Celestial took part in the pilot scheme for the Create Growth programme, in 2019. Funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which had the aim of helping creative companies become investment ready and access finance along with support, to scale further. They focused on developing their plans for scaling up and how they could best position themselves for growth. They received a grant from University of the West of England’s Digital Innovation Fund to further support their innovation pipeline and growth strategy.

Creative Catalyst

We’re proud to announce that Celestial is the first company to be awarded a Creative Catalyst grant, alongside private investment, under our recently launched Investor Partnerships programme. After submitting an impressive application outlining their vision for commercial research and development, when they first engaged with us their headcount was five to 10 people and as of 2023, it’s close to 50. They’ve also been able to secure multimillions in private investment. Celestial is a great example of an ambitious and driven team, leading to continued success through innovation.

The next Creative Catalyst funding round opens in January 2024.

Apply to the programme, if you’re a creative industries small or micro company, with an appetite to:

  • demonstrate a clearly innovative and ambitious idea
  • build a new project that has a demonstratable impact on your growth plans
  • create a new revenue stream, for example through new products, services, or intellectual property

If you are part of a creative industries company already on an investment journey and would like to innovate further. Funding rounds and expressions of interest open up at several points during the year for our Investor Partnerships programme. Round three’s briefing session recording will explain further.

Should you require support along your growth journey, or wish to connect with specialists, here are some ways to engage with the Innovate UK family to support you.

Top image:  Celestial’s drone show over Eurovision 2023, with a light show over St George's Hall in Liverpool and displaying “United By Music”. Credit: Celestial

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