Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: insight and foresight unit for R&D in screen and performance

Apply for funding to host an insight and foresight unit to drive innovation and creativity in the UK’s screen and performance industries.

Establish an insight and foresight unit, for collection and analysis of data and communication of insight and foresight relating to Convergent Screen Technologies And performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) and the wider industry and research community engaged in the application of creative technologies to advanced media production and performance.

The award will be £7.5 million, over 6 years.

The Insight and Foresight Unit constitutes lot 3 of the CoSTAR programme. Lot 1 and 2 are subject to separate funding opportunity, which closes on 2 February 2023. Costs are reimbursed at 100% of the full economic cost.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding. Standard AHRC eligibility rules apply.

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change

The funding opportunity will open on 8 February 2023. More information will be available on this page by then.

Who can apply

Applications must be led by organisations eligible to receive UKRI funding. This includes:

  • UK small specialist institutions (SSIs)
  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations (IROs)
  • UKRI-approved research technical organisations (RTOs)
  • public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity

Organisations, such as businesses or third sector organisations, that are not eligible to receive a direct grant may participate and receive funding as collaborators or partners.

Check if you are eligible to lead an application.

Additional eligibility criteria

This includes:

  • must be led by a research organisation eligible for direct UKRI funding, for example ROs, IROs or RTOs
  • applications must demonstrate expertise and experience in the collection, analysis and communication of creative industries data

Individual eligibility

To lead an application for this opportunity, you must:

  • be a resident in the UK
  • be employed at, or have a formal affiliation with a UK RO, IRO, SSI, or RO eligible to receive UKRI funding
  • have a doctorate or demonstrate equivalent professional experience or training
  • be engaged in leading-edge research and innovation of professorial or equivalent standing applicable to the creative industries
  • demonstrate a level of skills, knowledge and experience appropriate to the nature of the project
  • have or be able to build and maintain relationships with diverse stakeholders from the creative research community, screen (film, TV, games) and performance sectors, government and the wider creative industries

You should not apply if your organisation has limited knowledge or does not have expertise in research and development (R&D) and Innovation in the screen and performance industries and in technology related to the creative industries. You should also have either experience of the recruitment and maintenance of large scale user panels or surveys, or a partnership with an industry leader or leaders in this capability.

This funding opportunity is only open to UK-based organisations. International collaborations are not eligible under this scheme.

Please see AHRC’s research funding guide for further information on eligibility.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

AHRC is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, and we want this funding opportunity to be attractive to all eligible candidates.

Principal investigators (PIs) are entitled to take parental leave in accordance with the terms and conditions of their employment. We will consider requests for a grant to be placed in abeyance during the absence of the PI for parental leave, and the period of the project extended by the period of leave.

We will also consider requests to continue the grant project on a flexible or part-time basis, to allow the PI to meet caring responsibilities or for other justifiable reasons, such as physical or mental health.

Please see our equality impact assessment in the ‘additional information’ section for details.

What we're looking for

The CoSTAR Insight and Foresight Unit (IFU) is part of a 6-year capital programme to design, develop and build state-of-the-art facilities, resources and expertise to underpin the long-term competitiveness of the UK screen and performance sector.

CoSTAR will provide a highly capable research and development (R&D) infrastructure that enables researchers, companies and institutions across the UK to access the facilities, capabilities and insight necessary to conduct world class R&D in the application of current and future waves of advanced computing technologies to transform the means of production across the screen, performance and allied sectors of the creative industries.

The CoSTAR infrastructure and facilities will also:

  • lead and coordinate the technological development of the UK screen and performance sectors developing new methods, solutions, processes, products and experiences
  • build, strengthen and deepen the UK creative technology ecosystem including the pipeline for research talent and skills
  • maximise arising economic opportunities, to support the commercialisation of creative technology and creative content intellectual property, products and services, and to support the formation and growth of highly capable creative technology firms
  • make a positive long-term contribution to the development of the UK screen and performance industries across the UK

The CoSTAR labs are subject to a separate funding opportunity which closed on 2 February 2023. These consist of a national lab (lot 1) and up to 3 network labs (lot 2). The Insight and Foresight Unit constitutes lot 3 of the programme, and director of the IFU will form part of the management structure alongside the directors of the national and network labs.

Competition scope

Lot 3: the CoSTAR IFU will be a grant of £7.5 million over 6 years, to establish an Insight and Foresight unit, for collection and analysis of data and communication of insight and foresight relating to CoSTAR and the wider industry and research community engaged in the application of creative technologies to advanced media production and performance.

The successful bidder for this unit will set out a programme to:

  • generate insight and foresight to understand and inform the development of convergent screen technologies and their markets
  • ensure that data and learning from CoSTAR activities is captured and disseminated to all relevant parties
  • inform policy and strategy for CoSTAR and for public investment in the sector more broadly
  • become a leading authority on the development of convergent screen technologies and their markets

The IFU will be a cohesive, focused unit which is integral to the wider CoSTAR infrastructure, whilst also looking outwards and actively engaging with industry, policy and academia.

The IFU will collect and manage data from the CoSTAR national and network labs. It will also create new datasets through the establishment of a longitudinal survey, including an omnibus element, which will track the development of the sector, as well as the delivery of ad hoc qualitative and quantitative projects that support the unit’s research objectives.

Bringing this data together with secondary data from partners, international sources, and industry datasets and reports, the IFU will proactively disseminate insights to relevant parties across industry, policy and academia. Alongside this, as outlined above, it will take a key role in the management of CoSTAR, working closely with the labs to ensure high quality data is collected, and that strategic direction is informed by the insight and foresight it provides.

The IFU will not be evaluating the CoSTAR labs, but will provide raw data to support evaluation where relevant.

Focusing on industry and academia applying creative technologies to advanced media production and performance, the IFU will research the development of, for example:

  • technology
  • new ways of working
  • facilities
  • businesses
  • regional economies
  • audiences
  • demonstrator projects

The core research themes, which we expect will evolve and grow through the grant period, will be:

  • creative R&D
  • transformation of production through new technology
  • market development, including supply chains, audiences and businesses
  • equality diversity and inclusion within relevant sectors
  • sustainability, in the context of net zero targets

Insight around the final theme will be a key output for the IFU. Little is presently known about the overall current, or the expected future, environmental impact of the screen and performance sectors.

Although work is being done to fill this evidence gap, aggregated, sector-wide analyses do not presently exist, nor do assessments of the potential environmental implications of new production techniques like virtual production. The IFU will therefore make a significant contribution to this evidence-base.

In addition to addressing equality, diversity and inclusion and net zero as research themes, all applications to this opportunity must also set out how they will embed the following into their processes and ways of working:

  • environmental sustainability principles
  • equality, diversity and inclusion

Given the importance of external engagement, where there is more than one research organisation in a partnership, applications should clearly set out which organisation will be the primary host.

Please note that applications from a single research organisation are welcome, a partnership is not mandatory and will not be scored in the assessment. However, we think it is likely that research organisations will need an industry partner in order to fulfil the requirements around the panel and tracker survey.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

Further information will be available closer to the opportunity opening date.

How we will assess your application

Applications will be assessed by an independent panel of experts comprised of:

  • senior members of the research community with relevant experience
  • screen and performance industry leaders
  • innovators and experts in the creative economy

Further details on the assessment process and criteria will follow closer to the funding opportunity opening date.

Contact details

This information will be available closer to the opportunity opening date.

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