The South West is on track to become an international trailblazer in screen-based media thanks to £46 million funding, which will launch a creative media powerhouse called MyWorld and supercharge economic growth, generating more than 700 jobs.
The visionary initiative, a partnership between the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Bath Spa University and the University of the West of England, will develop major new research and development (R&D) facilities and partnerships connecting regional and national partners with global tech giants, including Netflix, Google, and Microsoft.
Together they will pioneer new digital formats and technologies, creating innovative experiences across fiction, documentary, games, and live performance.
The MyWorld creative hub has been awarded £30m from the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund (SIPF) with a further £16m coming from an alliance of more than 30 industry and academic partners joining forces in the five-year scheme due to start by the end of the year.
The programme at Bath will be led by Director of CAMERA, Professor Darren Cosker (Department of Computer Science) and Professor in Human Computer Interaction and leader of the CREATE Lab, Danae Stanton Fraser, (Department of Psychology).
Professor Cosker said: “MyWorld will super charge the South West region with one of the largest single investments in creative industries funding ever awarded in the UK.
"As part of MyWorld, CAMERA will be leading the development of substantial capital investments in research infrastructure around performance capture, immersive technology and virtual production. In addition, we will be leading a multi-million-pound R&D programme open to both Universities and industry.
"From a research point of view, we will be leveraging the power of data and AI to create tools that both assist creativity and improve productivity. This builds on CAMERA’s already significant activities in this area, where we already work with more than 20 partners across the UK and globally trying to transform the use of technology in the creative sector as well as its applications to other areas such as sport and healthcare.”
Professor Stanton Fraser said: “Drawing on our current work within the EPSRC Virtual Realities project and the AHRC Creative Cluster, within MyWorld the CREATE lab will be designing and evaluating audiences’ experiences of creative content and immersive technologies using a range of behavioural and physiological measures.
“Within the project there is a fantastic interdisciplinary team both from academia and industry. Locally at Bath, Darren Cosker and I already collaborate on the AHRC Creative Cluster and this consolidates long term research interests shared by the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Psychology.”
Professor David Bull, MyWorld Lead and Director of Bristol Vision Institute, said: “The South West is already a creative capital in the UK and MyWorld aims to position the region amongst the best in the world, driving inward investment, increasing productivity and delivering important employment and training opportunities.
“This is the beginning of an exciting journey, which will align research and development endeavours across technology and the creative arts, to help businesses realise their innovation potential, raise their international profile, and maximise the advantages of new technologies.”
The BBC, Aardman Animations, BT, Digital Catapult, and Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Trust, along with a host of other creative companies and sector organisations, are all part of the unique cross-sector consortium. The hub is projected to generate more than 700 new jobs and boost the economy by £223m. It will forge dynamic collaborations between world-leading academic institutions and creative industries to progress technological innovation, creative excellence, inclusive cultures, and knowledge sharing.
Investment from partner universities, comprising the University of Bath, University of the West of England, and Bath Spa University, will provide advanced training programmes and talent development feeding into an extensive knowledge exchange network. Accessible facilities are also planned, with Bristol’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, The Bottle Yard studios and Bath Spa University as key focal points.
Professor Ian White, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Bath, said: “I’m delighted to see this exciting investment come to the University and region. It is testament to the dynamic and leading research that the University of Bath and the other partners in the consortium are spearheading in the South West.
“I want to congratulate everyone involved, particularly Professors Stanton Fraser and Cosker. Not only will this spur innovation and creativity but it will also be a welcome economic boost to the creative sector in the region.”
The initiative is among seven projects nationally selected to share £186m government funding as part of the UKRI’s SIPF. The successful projects have all been under development with UKRI pilot funding since last year.
David Sweeney, Research England’s Executive Chair, who leads the Strength in Places Fund, said: “UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund is distinctive in specifically targeting investment to foster the local research and innovation ecosystems that can support sustained growth.
“All of these projects have the potential to deliver research and innovation that will transform activity within their target industries, in a way that is deeply rooted in local strengths and well linked to wider local economic plans.”