Embargoed 00.01hrs Thursday 10 January


UK takes centre stage in immersive entertainment revolution

Imagine being inside the world of your favourite stage performance or watching your favourite athletes every move with enhanced stats for the entire match, or immersed with others, solving a detective narrative involving dinosaurs and robots in a national museum or shopping centre.

We are on the cusp of a new type of experience enabled by new immersive technologies that is a global opportunity for the UK’s creative industries. All this will become a reality for UK audiences from 2019 as globally renowned IP, storytellers and technology companies come together to demonstrate cutting edge immersive experiences thanks to funding through the government’s industrial strategy. 

The £18 million total investment of government and industry funding is a key element of the Audience of the Future programme, delivered by UK Research and Innovation and announced by government in March 2018 in the Creative Industries Sector Deal. It is comprised of £12 million government grant funding through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and £6 million from industry.

The awards will be made across the areas of Sports Entertainment, Visitor Experience and Performance. The demonstrators will be tested at scale with 100,000 users to evidence the business models behind them.

Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James said:


"The UK is home to some of the world's leading digital and creative talent. Through our modern Industrial Strategy and multi-million pound creative industries sector deal, we are bringing them together to give audiences a truly unique experience. 


"The growth of immersive technology has the power to transform the way in which we watch theatre, play games or go to the cinema, and these new projects will demonstrate how we can take people closer than ever before to the live action."

Science and Innovation Minister Chris Skidmore said:

“We are now in a new era of how we consume entertainment, and these projects announced today could see us walking with dinosaurs and experiencing being in the stands of major football matches from our own living rooms.

"We have an impressive reputation of producing outstanding sport, cultural institutions and visual entertainment. That is why, through our modern industrial Strategy, we are building on these strengths to make the areas even more accessible and enjoyable to people, whilst supporting high-skilled jobs across the UK.”

The winning projects are:

  • Performance – led by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), the project involves 15 specialist organisations and pioneers in immersive technology from theatre, the music industry, video production, gaming and research. They will work together to explore what it means to perform live using emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).  Audiences will no longer be bound by location. Using devices such as mobile phones, extended reality headsets and streams into live performance environments, or even in the home, audiences will experience live performance like never before. 

  • Visitor Experience – a new pioneering collaboration led by Factory 42 and involving the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum Group that will bring dinosaurs and robots to life by placing audiences in new worlds and giving them the ability to interact with them. Two multi-sensory and interactive worlds will be created in the iconic rooms of the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, combining mixed reality technology and immersive theatre. At the Science Museum visitors will encounter a mixed-reality detective experience featuring high-resolution 3D scans of robots and other iconic objects from its collection to bring the latest in robotics and artificial intelligence to life. At the Natural History Museum, awe-inspiring dinosaurs from its collection will be brought to life and visitors will experience the detective work of palaeontologists and share the thrill of scientific discovery. Shorter sampler versions will also tour a number of shopping centres across the UK.

  • Sport Entertainment – Esports – video games that are played competitively and watched by massive audiences – has the fastest growing global audience for live sports. In 2017 over 388 million people worldwide watched esports, and the number of esports fans is projected to grow a further 50% by 2020. This project will produce a new platform called Weavr that leverages the data-rich environment of esports to transform the way esports – and further down the line physical sports – are experienced through cross reality technologies by remote audiences. Through a consortium that includes ESL, the largest esports content producer in the world, as well as leading academics and innovators across immersive technologies, data-driven content production and broadcast, Weavr will transform the experiences of millions of esports fans, generate new audiences and open up new revenue streams for the broadcast entertainment industry.


An additional demonstrator covering Moving Image will be announced very shortly.


UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “New technologies being pioneered in the UK, such as virtual and augmented reality, are fundamentally changing the way we participate in cultural experiences, from watching dramatic performances and visiting museums to playing video games.


“Through investments such as the projects announced today, the government and UK Research and Innovation will support the creative industries to innovate in exciting ways that will deliver new experiences for audiences of the future with accompanying economic benefits.”


Professor Andrew Chitty, UKRI’s Challenge Director for Audience of the Future added:  “The market for immersive content is a global opportunity.  The presence of international partners in these ground-breaking projects is a massive vote of confidence not only in UK research and innovation but in our creative companies who will ensure that the UK becomes a world-leading destination for immersive content production bringing the new jobs and investment that is central to the Industrial Strategy and the Creative Industries Sector Deal.”


Notes to editors

More information on the three demonstrators are attached. The consortia for the successful projects are:

  • Performance: Royal Shakespeare Company (lead); De Montfort University; Epic Games UK;  i2 Media Research; Intel Corporation (UK);  Magic Leap; Manchester International Festival; Marshmallow Laser Feast; Nesta; Phi Centre; Philharmonia Orchestra; Punchdrunk; The Space; University of Portsmouth

  • Visitor Experience: Factory 42 (lead); Almeida Theatre Company; Science Museum Group; The Natural History Museum; University of Exeter. The consortium is also backed with match funding from Sky Plc and Magic Leap, with strategic support from Pearson and shopping centres group intu PLC

  • Sport Entertainment: Turtle Entertainment UK (lead), part of ESL; REWIND ; Cybula; Dock 10; Focal Point VR; University of York


UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the Arts and Humanities Research Council; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; Economic and Social Research Council; Innovate UK; Medical Research Council; Natural Environment Research Council; Research England; and Science and Technology Facilities Council.