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University of York supports digital and creative companies hit by the impact of COVID-19

Posted on 20 May 2020

The University of York is repurposing dedicated arts funding to support some of the region’s digital and creative companies hardest hit by COVID-19.

Academics say the importance of the region’s creative and cultural sectors should not be overlooked during the pandemic

The funding has been shared out between 17 regional companies who are determined to bring digital storytelling to life when it is needed the most.

Totalling more than £42,000, the funding is part of the XR Stories project, a partnership between the University of York, Screen Yorkshire and the British Film Institute which supports and develops immersive and interactive technologies.

Adapting 

The money has been used for a variety of purposes, from adapting to working from home to finding IT solutions - ensuring companies were able to continue working on their research and development projects.

Hull–based BetaJester, a company exploring the impact of historical flooding on the city through virtual reality, was one of the projects to benefit.

Adam Boyne, co-director at BetaJester said: “When coronavirus hit, our ability to work - like many companies across the country - was compromised and the emergency funding from XR Stories really helped us to adapt quickly and successfully to working from home."

Another was Pilot Theatre based in York. They have been working on an immersive theatre experience for secondary school-aged children with researchers at the University of York.

Creative and cultural

Academics say the importance of the region’s creative and cultural sectors should not be overlooked during this pandemic, as people find new ways to connect through technology during lockdown. 

Professor Damian Murphy leads on the XR Stories project, which was established in 2018 thanks to initial investment by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

He said: “These projects have never seemed more timely than now, as we adjust to restrictions on our lives and turn to digital and online means to connect and interact with our families, friends and the wider world.” 

Key challenges

Another strand to the University’s efforts to support this sector is the Screen Industries Growth Network (SIGN). 

SIGN is already researching the key challenges facing the industry, such as skills shortages, diversity and inclusion, and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The SIGN project is being led by Professor Andrew Higson from the University’s Department of Theatre, Film and Interactive Media.

Recovery

He said: “In recent years the screen industries of Yorkshire and the Humber have been buoyant, but the impact of the coronavirus threatens the progress we have made as many companies struggle to stay in business. 

“SIGN aims to support these businesses in the region by researching what help they need to survive, and then working with them to help access support and recover.

“As we move beyond the immediate effects of economic and social lockdown, SIGN will invest in skills, training and business support, and encourage diversity and inclusion across the board, so that businesses can emerge stronger and more resilient.”

SIGN involves eight other Yorkshire universities and key national and regional screen agencies. It’s part of an £6.4m project, with £4.9m from Research England and £1.5m from the University of York and partner universities.

Further information:

  • XR Stories is a partnership between the University of York, Screen Yorkshire and the British Film Institute which supports and develops immersive and interactive technologies. It is funded through the Creative Industries Clusters Programme which is part of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy. https://creativeindustriesclusters.com/
  •  The Creative Industries Clusters Programme is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which brings together the UK’s world-leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time. It provides funding and support to UK businesses and researchers, part of the government’s £4.7 billion increase in research and development over the next 4 years. It plays a central role in the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. It is run by UK Research and Innovation. https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/the-uks-industrial-strategy
  •  UK Research and Innovation is a new organisation that brings together the UK Research Councils (including The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)), Innovate UK and Research England into a single organisation to create the best environment for research and innovation to flourish. The vision is to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation.

 

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