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Leadership – Research institutions invited to host creative tech facility

UK researchers are being called on to develop new technologies to reimagine screen and performance and help to ensure the future prosperity of the UK creative industries.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has announced a £75.6 million investment over six years (subject to business case approvals) to support CoSTAR, a new creative facility for the UK’s renowned screen and performance sectors.

CoSTAR – Convergent Screen Technologies and Performance in Realtime – will consist of a central hub and experimental studio fitted with real-time digital technologies. The central hub will be enhanced by a network of regional labs across the UK and supported by a data, insight, and foresight lab.

AHRC is calling on researchers, in collaboration with creative industries partners, to apply to host the new state-of-the-art facility.  The funding opportunity is open for applications from 11 October 2022 until 2 February 2023 and full details can be found on the UKRI funding finder.

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair, said:

“We urgently need new facilities, technologies and skills to keep pace with a rapidly evolving creative landscape and to maintain the UK’s position in the global digital and creative economies. 

“CoSTAR will respond to this need by bringing together leading figures in research and industry as well as audiences to develop and converge technologies in the creative industries.

“In doing this, we will reimagine how we interact with entertainment, and support entirely new experiences that will enrich our economy and our culture.”

CoSTAR will support technological research to transform how we consume media in the future and create new products, experiences, and markets.  In 2019, before COVID, the GVA of the creative industries was measured at £115 billion, a figure which is predicted to increase significantly in the coming years.  To ensure this though, sufficient investment must be made in technology and skills that will be foundational to the creative industries of the future.    

CoSTAR will therefore build new research infrastructure to investigate the development and application of technology which will enable convergence of the gaming, screen, and live performance sectors.  This convergence is the foundation of the metaverse concept which will likely mark the next phase of the digital and creative economies.  In doing this, CoSTAR is projected to support the creation of over 500 new jobs as well as significantly boosting local and national economies.

Examples of convergent technologies that are already changing the entertainment industry include the popular ABBA Voyage experience which blends digital avatars with live performance and TV productions such as Disney’s The Mandalorian which employ state-of-the-art ‘virtual production’ techniques.

A key feature of the CoSTAR hub and regional labs will be an equal emphasis on R&D and creative practice.  Industry partners and audiences will be at the heart of all research undertaken at CoSTAR facilities in order to drive the development of new audience experiences, and new modes of making and experiencing performance.

This major programme is funded primarily through the UKRI Infrastructure Fund, and the ambition is that the investment will generate at least an additional £20 million private sector investment.

CoSTAR forms part of AHRC’s wider commitment to the development of screen technologies and to safeguarding the UK’s creative industries.  More information about AHRC and the future of the UK creative industries including the CoSTAR fund can be found on the AHRC website.

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