Announced as part of the government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision, the new Insight and Foresight Unit will be led by Goldsmiths, which has been chosen as the preferred bidder to be the host organisation, alongside partners at the British Film Institute, the University of Edinburgh and Loughborough.
This Insight and Foresight Unit will support the CoSTAR (Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime) national infrastructure, which will ensure the UK stays at the cutting-edge of new virtual production techniques for stage, screen and live events.
Examples of virtual productions include the hugely popular ABBA Voyage live show and Disney Plus’s The Mandalorian.
The Insight and Foresight Unit will focus on identifyingindustry trends and insights associated with creative technologies and informing future policy and investment for the screen and performance sectors. This includes considering improved ecological sustainability, a more diverse and inclusive workforce, new workflows and ways of working, and audience engagement with creative productions realised through theCoSTARinfrastructure.
Loughborough’s involvement will be led by Graham Hitchen, Professor of Practice within the Institute for Media and Creative Industries, and head of the University’s new Policy Unit.Loughborough is already established as a research leader in the creative industries, being home to the Creative Research And Innovation Centre (CRAIC).
CRAIC recently received funding from the Screen Industries Growth Network to create a framework to enable the mapping of virtual production assets across the UK. It has also worked with the Audience of the Future and Creative Industries Clusters team at UKRI to understand Creative R&D and to help shape thinking and future investments in the Creative Technology space.
Speaking about Loughborough’s role in the new CoSTAR Insight and Foresight Unit, Professor Hitchen said: “This investment provides a brilliant opportunity to be at the forefront of future thinking about creative technologies in the UK and will enable us to build on our research strengths.”
Professor Jonny Freeman, Academic Lead for Knowledge Exchange at Goldsmiths, and Principal Investigator of the IFU added:“The UK’s Creative Industries have an incredible reputation globally and the CoSTAR infrastructure investment announced today will help to secure this going forward.
“The consortium we have assembled for the Insight and Foresight Unit is formidable. It combines Goldsmiths’ expertise in the immersive, audience and virtual production sector, BFI’s unrivalled screen sector expertise and data, Edinburgh’s leadership in developing new forms of data to empower the creative industries, and Loughborough's track record in research and policy on creative technologies and creative R&D with the support of its new Policy Unit.”
The unit was announced as part of the government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision to maximise the potential of the UK creative industries and grow the economy, so they generate an extra £50 billion for the economy and support a million more jobs by 2030.
This sector vision builds on more than £230million in government spending on the creative industries since 2021. This includes £75.6million to build the largest virtual production research and development network in Europe to put the UK at the forefront of advancements in visual effects, motion-capture technology, and AI for the screen industries and live performance. The government announced a national lab in Buckinghamshire and regional research labs based in Yorkshire, Dundee and Belfast.
The national CoSTAR lab and three regional R&D labs will ensure the UK has the skills and infrastructure to stay on the cutting-edge of new virtual production techniques in film, TV and live events which involve using computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality and motion capture to create ‘virtual sets’. Instead of adding visual effects and CGI in post-production, virtual production allows filmmakers and theatre directors to create large-scale digitally-generated environments using LED panels that performers can interact with in real-time, as a quicker and less expensive alternative to green screens.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:“The imagination and ingenuity of British designers, producers, content creators, writers and artists are spearheading growth right across our economy.
“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.”
UK Research and Innovation Creative Industries (UKRI) Sector Champion, Professor Christopher Smith, added:“The creative industries are a UK success story, key to the UK’s prosperity, wellbeing and resilience. From design to screen, fashion and textiles to heritage, they are generating high-quality employment and innovation.
“UKRI’s creative industries investments, including CoSTAR, Creative Catalyst and the Creative Industry Clusters Programme, will catalyse the research and innovation that are crucial for this fast-growing and important sector.
“The creative industries are now firmly embedded in the research and development ecosystem, ensuring that the UK remains a genuine world leader in the industries of the future.”
The announcement of the preferred bidders for CoSTAR is subject to internal government approvals processes, and where relevant, commercial discussions with external partners. Partner organisations such as BT, the National Film and Television School, Vodafone, Studio Ulster and Screen Yorkshire have today announced they will invest at least £63.3 million in CoSTAR.