Ormeau Baths, 8:30 April 5th 2019
Despite the ongoing uncertainty about the EU, and a negative economic outlook grounded in contemporary global political and environmental turmoil, it was refreshing, indeed inspiring, to see the high level of positivity in the room at the launch of the Future Screens NI funding calls. Over one hundred companies representing every screen sector in NI filled the main meeting room at the Ormeau Baths, Belfast. As one senior figure from a key development body pointed out it was an astonishing turnout for 8:30 on a wet Belfast morning.
The purpose of the event was to launch the funding calls for the AHRC funded Creative Clusters programme. The cluster in NI (one of nine across the UK) brings together Ulster, QUB and local industrial partners, and funding is available through this partnership to promote R&D in the screens industries, specifically games, animation, immersive technologies and film and broadcast. The cluster will also support these industries with capacity building in leadership and financial procedures while gathering key data which can be used to promote regional (and national) policy development in the area.
The funding model created by the Future Screens NI Management Team and approved by the Steering Board, evolved from discussions with the industrial partners and local creative businesses. These discussions illustrated that there was a need for access to funding on a rolling basis, often small sums, but sums which could prove crucial to a company. Hence the initial approach for funding to Future Screens NI will be through an expression of interest form, a one page document which captures the key information about any proposed R&D. Future Screens NI undertakes to reply to these forms within two weeks indicating whether a company should proceed with a full application or whether more clarity is needed.
Twice each year Future Screens NI will also issue Challenge calls, possibly larger amounts aimed at R&D which might advance the sector as a whole and based on trends emanating from relevant research. Prof Michael Alcorn outlined the process for application and this prompted a number of useful questions, and it was an opportunity to underline the fact that these processes may have to be adapted as they roll out and that feedback from the companies involved is central to this ongoing process.
There was significant interest also in the support schemes related to the funding, whether for fellowships whereby companies can link up with a researcher in either of the universities to develop an experimental prototype (this can be researcher into business or business employee into the university) or the writing and production design workshops which will be offered on a rolling basis.
Friday morning also saw the launch of the Future Screens NI web presence at futurescreens.organd all the relevant forms can be downloaded from the site which also has details of all the researchers attached to the cluster. It is perhaps worth mentioning that other researchers with expertise relevant to an R&D project can of course be used.
The morning finished, as all early morning events should, with breakfast, and the opportunity to speak more informally about the possibilities the Future Screens NI cluster offers. A sincere thank you to all who attended and the energy, enthusiasm and positivity present on Friday morning was an indication that this is an exciting time to be involved in the creative industries in this region.
If you need any further clarification on any aspect of funding or support Future Screens NI can offer your company please contact us here.