Royal Holloway University’s Surrey campus has been awarded £10 million Government funding for a new creative industries centre, which will build UK skills in immersive tech.
The Centre for Immersive Storytelling will ensure that the UK’s creative workforce has world-leading skills in the use of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies.
Funding comes from UK Research and Innovation through its £33 million audience of the future programme, which forms part of government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The centre will be run by winning bidders, the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway University.
It will offer creative training and research programmes in immersive storytelling, initially to screen professionals. They will be able to take part in experimental labs, workshops, placements and courses through the centre, which will also support and co-fund real immersive productions. In the longer term, the centre will offer master’s degrees across a range of immersive specialisms.
Professor James Bennett, Royal Holloway, said: “This is an exciting partnership between the country’s leading screen industries’ training provider and one of the UK’s top research institutions. It’s a unique collaboration that will bring together industry and academia to explore the exciting creative and commercial opportunities of immersive technologies, placing storytelling at the heart of the work.”
Science and Innovation Minister Sam Gyimah said: “From Harry Potter to Downton Abbey, Damien Hirst to Grand Theft Auto, the UK has the most incredible storytellers bringing their art to life for the entire world to enjoy. Immersive technology, such as virtual reality, can transform our traditional creative industries into something even more awe-inspiring for audiences, giving them the feeling of really being there.
“The new Centre for Immersive Storytelling takes us a step closer to reaching our ambition within the Creative Industries Sector Deal to boost the UK’s place as a world leader in this kind of content by 2025.”
Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James said: “From watching live theatre productions in the cinema to apps which allow you to scan and identify artworks on gallery visits, immersive tech is opening up a huge range of exciting new possibilities.
“We are determined to be the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business, and by backing this new centre we will help our world-class creative talent captivate the audiences of the future.”
The winning bidders were announced by Andrew Chitty, UK Research and Innovation Challenge Director, at Raindance Film Festival. Andrew said: “The UK has an opportunity to lead the world in adopting immersive technology to find new audiences and create ground-breaking content. But to do this we need to develop our creative talent to make the best of this new medium.
This exceptional partnership brings together researchers, a world-class film school and partners across the industry, who will not only support the centre but gain the benefit of its graduates.”
The bid by NFTS and Royal Holloway was supported by high-profile people from the creative industry, including Sir Lenny Henry, Asif Kapadia, Georgina Campbell, Sarah Gavron, Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue and Alex Garland.
Sir Lenny Henry commented: “Britain has an amazingly rich heritage and strength in storytelling. Immersive technologies are an exciting new opportunity for us, but this new frontier for storytelling should be one that really reflects the wealth and diversity of our country’s talent.”
The centre will commission 60 productions that will develop the UK’s immersive sector. Organisations across the UK will be selected to lead the projects.
Jon Wardle, Director of the NFTS, added: “It is our aim to make immersive another success story for UK plc’s world-leading screen industries, by enabling our storytellers of film, TV, games and theatre to exploit this new medium.
“We intend to place diversity at the heart of our endeavours, ensuring that the future of immersive storytelling is one that reflects the full breadth of the UK’s creative talent.”