The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has announced a £75.6 million investment over six years (subject to business case approvals) to support CoSTAR, a new creative facility for the UK’s  screen and performance sectors.

CoSTAR – Convergent Screen Technologies and Performance in Realtime – 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.

AHRC is calling on researchers, in collaboration with creative industries partners, to apply to host the new state-of-the-art facility.  The funding opportunity is open for applications from 11 October 2022 until 2 February 2023.

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.”

CoSTAR will build new research infrastructure to investigate the development and application of technology which will enable convergence of the gaming, screen, and live performance sectors.  “This convergence is the foundation of the metaverse concept which will likely mark the next phase of the digital and creative economies.  In doing this, CoSTAR is projected to support the creation of over 500 new jobs as well as significantly boosting local and national economies.”

Examples of convergent technologies given include the popular ABBA Voyage experience which blends digital avatars with live performance and TV productions such as Disney’s The Mandalorian which employ virtual production techniques.

A key feature of the CoSTAR hub and regional labs will be an equal emphasis on R&D and creative practice.  Industry partners and audiences will be at the heart of all research undertaken at CoSTAR facilities in order to drive the development of new audience experiences, and new modes of making and experiencing performance.

The programme is funded primarily through the UKRI Infrastructure Fund, and the ambition is that the investment will generate at least an additional £20 million private sector investment.


Jon Creamer

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