£33m grant fund launched for ‘audience of the future’ projects

Innovate UK launched two new grant programmes on 8th May 2018. Both focus on providing funding to creative digital companies to develop highly innovative ‘immersive’ experiences for the ‘Audience of The Future’.

The programmes sit within a £33m funding pot, which breaks down like this…

£16m – high value demonstrator projects

£12m – lower cost Creative R&D user design projects

£5m – to build an Industry Centre of Excellence – this isn’t launched yet – but will be aimed at research, support or education organisation

When they say ‘Immersive’, they want to fund the development of highly creative, multi-sensory or interactive audience experiences, which embrace virtual / augmented and/or mixed reality, haptics, advanced visualisation (e.g. motion capture), and other sensory interfaces

The demonstrator fund is driven by ambitious goals. Immersive Technologies are viewed as the most significant and potentially disruptive technology the creative sector has been confronted with since the world wide web in the mid 90s. It presents opportunities and threats for the UK’s global competitiveness and there are a lot of people scratching their heads trying to define the best ways to exploit its potential.

From the government’s point of view, backed up in the Industrial Strategy, this fund is seen as the most important thing it can do to help the UK retain a leading global position in this market. Interestingly the consensus suggests the UK will achieve this not through the development of new technology but by the exploitation of it. Taking an example from history, this equates to the way Germans made amazing film cameras but the British made amazing movies and TV shows using them, and built a global lead in creativity from there.

But how do you get a grant?


The £16m Demonstrator projects will fund very high profile ambitious, collaborative projects.

The critical emphasis is that the fund is not looking to fund technically-focused projects, but products that enhance a wider creative experience. The areas identified as ripe for greater immersion, so far, are:

  • Performance (any form of performance)
  • Moving Image (beyond ancillary products)
  • Sport Entertainment
  • Visitor Experience (museums, commercial exhibitions, theme parks)

So, they want projects which enhance the audience experience around these contexts. Of course, there may be others too, but the important thing is the outcomes must be high profile – they want at least 100,000 participants to interact with each demonstrator project. Their expectation is that the successful projects will involve a high-profile brand (e.g. Disney, Alton Towers, Royal Shakespeare Company, Formula 1 etc.) to make this easier to achieve.

Projects can attract maximum funding of £4m each. The timescales are ridiculously tight though. If you’re interested in finding out more – you need to get on with it immediately.


The Creative R&D design projects focuses on developing new audience propositions in the same area of immersive technology. You might have an idea which is not fully formed and needs time to develop the business proposition. Innovate UK are looking for projects between £20k and £60k =- and will fund ~70% of costs.

This fund will help companies embrace a user-centred design process to build a strong evidence-based business proposition. The projects should complete these steps…

  • ID /engage stakeholders
  • Understand their needs and desires
  • Develop ideas to overcome failure in provision
  • Quickly test, learn and iterate
  • Be able to clearly communicate a de-risked idea – ready for full R&D project

There will be funding available for completed user-design projects to apply to undertake a more complete prototyping phase

If you want any help in developing these propositions, Silicon South has a lot of experience with Innovate UK funding – so please get in touch to see if we can help.

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