The announcement of the £75.6 million investment into the CoSTAR Network is a powerful signal to the world that the UK not only recognises the vital role the creative industries play in its economy, workforce, society and environment, but that it’s willing to invest heavily in keeping these world-class industries ahead of the growing international competition.
Investment in R&D Infrastructure
The CoSTAR National Lab, based in London and led by Royal Holloway, University of London, will create a valuable R&D resource for creative businesses and exemplifies the diverse collaboration that such an opportunity enables. Industry partners including Pinewood Studios, Disguise and BT have joined with academic institutions, including the University of Surrey and Abertay University, to deliver this programme, supported by Surrey County Council and Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP).
Further CoSTAR investments to create three network labs, spread across the UK, will ensure that the benefits will connect multiple areas of national strength in creative technology. The three network labs, in Wakefield, Belfast and Dundee, have respective focuses on live performance, advanced production technologies and video game R&D.
Investment in Sector Foresight
The new labs represent a significant addition to UK capability in both R&D and production. However, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of creative sector innovation will require continuous monitoring, review and adaptation of investment strategies in order to meet changing market needs and technological advancements. The newly created CoSTAR Insight and Foresight Unit (IFU), led by Goldsmiths, University of London will address this important issue, with partners including the British Film Institute, the University of Edinburgh, Loughborough University, Julies Bicycle, Olsberg SPI, and Arup Group.
A Statement of Ambition
The CoSTAR investment opens up an array of potential collaboration opportunities across the UK that can only further strengthen our collective global position. It forms part of an ambitious vision for the creative industries from the UK government, laid out in the recently launched Creative Industries Sector Vision. The plan to unleash the potential of the sector to add value to UK economy, create a more skilled and inclusive workforce and maximise the industries’ impact on individuals and communities means this is a cause for celebration for not just the UK creative industries but for UK society as a whole.
Creative businesses create substantial positive local impact in many ways. For example: Industry spillovers, where supply chain spending is triggered by creative industries activity; knowledge spillovers, where new ideas spread to other sectors improving their innovation abilities; and supply side effects, where a virtuous circle of skilled workers and visitors are attracted.
We expect that this impact will grow significantly and that the new CoSTAR labs will be a key driver of this. They will further open the door of innovation to the huge number of SMEs that make up the creative industries, companies that all too frequently struggle to allocate resource towards research and development (R&D).
A Bright Future
CoSTAR builds on a series of large-scale public investments in the UK’s Creative Sector over the past ten years, particularly the Creative Clusters programme alongside more recent investments via the UKRI Strength in Places Funding programme for Media Cymru in Cardiff and the £30 million investment into MyWorld, in Bristol and Bath. Newly announced investments, including continuation of the Creative Clusters programme , indicate a bright future for the creative sector recogniising the UK as a global hub for innovation.
As MyWorld progresses into its second delivery year, we are now seeing maturation of key activities across our Discover – Build – Learn framework. These perfectly align to both the new capabilities and capacity afforded by the CoSTAR labs, and the Creative Industries Sector Vision.
The MyWorld investments in product and process innovation made in our first year are now delivering a broad and high quality range of prototypes, productions, demonstrations, installations and research outputs that we are excited to bring to global audiences across 2023 and 2024. Our new flagship facilities, offering experimental and production capabilities in virtual production, motion capture, volumetric capture, audience understanding and 6G network technologies in Bath and Bristol will open in the next twelve months.
A glimpse of what’s soon to come… the virtual production studio that will sit within MyWorld’s new flagship facility.
To complement these investments we continue to expand our skills training programme building a portfolio of wide ranging courses in partnership with industry leaders including Lux Machina and RED.
The MyWorld Observatory, a foresight unit focusing on the role of the West of England’s creative economy within a national and global context, is building on our recently published report, ‘The Networked Shift,’ commissioned in partnership with the NESTA Policy and Evidence Centre, and produced by Careful Industries. We have formed new international partnerships with global media and infrastructure organisations and there is clear potential for impactful collaboration with the new IFU to guide the creative industries in the UK and ensure investments remain relevant.
MyWorld and CoSTAR represent important steps in devolving funding and responsibility to clusters and regions, empowering them to invest strategically locally to underpin national growth and global impact. The collaboration opportunities between these centres of creative technology excellence are a cause for excitement across the industry, as recognised in our government’s sector vision:
“We have a strong foundation to build on and this will only become stronger as we bring more people into the fold, work more closely together and put our combined capabilities into action.”