£63m for screen labs in Belfast, Buckinghamshire, Dundee and Yorkshire

Government funding for regional research labs to drive next generation of screen technology and on-set virtual production in UK’s booming creative sector.

As part of wider investment in the UK creative industries, the government has announced four state-of-the-art research and development facilities, with £63m of new industry investment adding to the existing commitment of £75.6m investment in UKRI’s Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) programme.

silhouette photography of man

The national CoSTAR lab and the three regional R&D labs will ensure that the UK has the skills and infrastructure to keep it at the cutting-edge of new virtual production techniques in film, TV and live events involving computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality and motion capture to create virtual sets.  

Such technology is increasingly being used instead of traditional green-screen technology, where visual effects and CGI are added in post-production. Instead, virtual production allows filmmakers and theatre directors to create large-scale digitally generated environments using LED panels. Performers can interact with these environments in real time, with more realistic results. Virtual sets are also quicker to use and less expensive than green screens.  

Such technology has been used to great effect in the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian produced by Disney+, in the ABBA Voyage live concert and in the Batman and Minecraft immersive experiences in the UK. 

Of the government’s overall investment in the creative sector, Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, says: ‘Our Creative Industry isn’t just about the glitz and glam of the red carpet in Leicester Square. It brings in £108bn a year to help fund our public services, supports over 2m jobs and is world renowned. 

‘That’s why we’re backing it as an industry to drive our economic growth, keeping the UK at the top of the world’s cultural charts with a multimillion-pound boost.’ 

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer adds: ‘The government is backing our creatives to maximise the potential of the creative industries. This Sector Vision is about driving innovation, attracting investment and building on the clusters of creativity across the country.  

‘Working with the industry this vision is helping the UK creative sectors go from strength to strength – providing jobs and opportunities, creating world leading content and supporting economic growth across the country.’ 

Preferred bidders for CoSTAR have been announced, subject to internal government approvals processes and – where relevant – commercial discussions with external partners. The preferred bidders are: 

The national lab led by Royal Holloway, University of London with core partners Pinewood Studios, disguise, BT, Surrey County Council, Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, University of Surrey, Abertay University and National Film and TV School (NFTS). 

Belfast regional lab led by Ulster University and located at Studio Ulster. Core partners are BBC Northern Ireland, Belfast Harbour, Humain Ltd, Northern Ireland Screen and Studio Ulster. 

Dundee regional lab led by Abertay University and located at Waters Edge Studios. Core partners are Codebase, Edinburgh University, Interface, Scottish Enterprise and 4J Studios. 

West Yorkshire regional lab led by York University and located Production Park Studios. Core partners are Production Park, Screen Yorkshire, Vodafone, Wakefield Council and North Yorkshire LEP. 

The preferred bidders for the insight and foresight unit is a consortium led by Goldsmiths, University of London, with core partners in the BFI, University of Edinburgh, Loughborough University, Julies Bicycle, Olsberg SPI and Arup Group. 

The CoSTAR programme is expected to create more than 820 new jobs across the UK.

In related news, the solar array on the roof of Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol has won a Global Production Award.

Photo by Chris Yang


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top