Enter the metaverse: Investment into UK creative industries

People on set in front of a green screen with a actor in period clothing protecting an actress from a man wearing a motion capture suit

UK researchers will develop new technology to support the convergence of the gaming, screen, performance and wider digital entertainment sectors.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is calling on researchers and creative industries professionals to apply to host a new creative facility for the UK’s renowned screen and performance sectors.

Convergent Screen Technologies And performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) 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.

It will be supported by a £75.6 million investment over 6 years, subject to business case approval, and is funded primarily through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Fund.

Generating investment

The ambition is that this investment will generate at least an additional £20 million private sector investment.

CoSTAR will investigate the development and application of technology, which will enable the convergence of different creative sectors. This convergence is the foundation of the metaverse concept that will likely mark the next phase of the digital and creative 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
  • TV productions such as Disney’s The Mandalorian, which employ state-of-the-art ‘virtual production’ techniques

CoSTAR hub and regional labs

A key feature of the CoSTAR hub and regional labs will be an equal emphasis on research and development and creative practice.

Industry partners and audiences will be at the heart of all research undertaken at CoSTAR facilities to drive:

  • the development of new audience experiences
  • new modes of making and experiencing performance

Enriching economy and culture

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.

Open for applications

AHRC is calling on researchers, in collaboration with creative industries partners, to apply to host this new state-of-the-art facility.

The funding opportunity is open for applications from 11 October 2022 until 2 February 2023 on the UKRI funding finder.

A series of CoSTAR briefing events will take place across the UK in October and November. These events will be open to industry and researchers, to find out more about the programme and to ensure strong applications are put forward.

Full information on these events and how to attend can be found on the UKRI event page.

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