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14 Jul 2015

University of York to head world-leading digital creativity centre

The University of York is to lead an £18 million Digital Creativity (DC) Hub which aims to spark a revolution by harnessing cutting edge research in digital games and interactive media to benefit society.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Budget that the York-led Hub is one of a network of six new multidisciplinary research centres, worth a total of £45 million with partner contributions, that will drive forward the UK’s Digital Economy research, knowledge and skills.

The five-year investment will come via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and InnovateUK. The DC Hub will provide an access point for cutting edge research in digital creativity technologies.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “This latest investment demonstrates our commitment to maximising the digital revolution for the UK. These Centres will lead the way in developing innovative digital products which enhance our daily lives -from personalised digital health services to the use of interactive media in education.

“By harnessing our international research excellence, in partnership with local and regional expertise, these Centres will accelerate Digital technology innovation for business and society’s benefit.”

Working with Government, business, the third sector and the public, the DC Hub will harness the power of digital creativity to provide new technologies for digital games and interactive media, exploiting the space where they converge to benefit science, society, education and culture.

The DC Hub will aim to ensure:

  • Research ideas find a fast route into the marketplace through close partnerships with industry.
  • Scientists, social scientists, government and the third sector work together to harness the enormous potential of games and interactive media to achieve social good.
  • Museums, galleries and publishers of games and media with the DC Hub to maximise the positive impact of the digital world on creative culture.

The DC Hub Directorship reflects the breadth of its activity, with co-Directors Professor Peter Cowling, from the Department of Computer Science and Professor Marian Ursu of the Department of Theatre Film and Television.

Professor Cowling said: “The potential of the digital creativity is enormously exciting. We shall engage with partner organisations to develop of proof-of-principle, market-led projects based both on current research and applied research shaped and undertaken with industry partners.”

Professor Ursu added: “We already have over 80 partners within the DC Hub, and we anticipate the partner base will grow to ensure we generate substantial economic, social and cultural impact.”

The DC Hub will employ 15 of the best impact-driven digital creativity researchers in the world at levels from Professorial to post-doctoral to transfer knowledge and expertise gained from the £90 million of investment in Digital Creativity Research at York and Falmouth University, Goldsmiths (University of London) and Cass Business School over the last 10 years. Recruitment to these posts has just started and can be accessed via http://www.york.ac.uk/professorial-jobs/the-hub/

These researchers will work together with our many partners to co-create projects which will develop this world class research into prototypes and demonstrators, building the case for further exploitation. Example projects include:

  • embedding advanced artificial intelligence in commercial digital games through working with industry partners,
  • working with broadcast companies, producers and performance companies to develop new ways of interacting with TV programmes and theatre performances,
  • developing ways to improve engagement with digital archives and digital assets for heritage sites and archaeologists
  • engaging with local authorities to help them to reach citizens to understand policy changes through the use of games and media.

The DC Hub partners range from large organisations such as the BBC and Aecom, many SMEs, including games companies such as Revolution Software and AI Factory, to charities such as Dyslexia Action and New Visuality and networks and funding organisations such as Game Republic and Creative England.

Adrian Woolard, Head of R&D North Lab, said: As part of BBC Research & Development’s User Experience Research Partnership, BBC R&D is supporting four Digital Economy research centres to help drive the UK’s creative economy forward. By focusing on user experience research, we want to enable our audiences to enjoy genuinely new experiences enabled by an internet-based broadcasting system, data and context-driven insight and connected devices. Across all four hubs we will be able to tackle some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in broadcasting today - from immersive and interactive storytelling, to interfaces and services that offer greater accessibility, and flexible content that can be used for a range of learning, social and cultural purposes.”

The University of York’s new DE Hub has partnered with BBC Research & Development to explore the delivery of digital services over the internet, prototyping new interactive and immersive story forms created from new flexible content formats. The partnership will offer new opportunities and challenges for the craft of storytelling and explore the capabilities of a new generation of digital content players.

The DC Hub will also work closely with the sister EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Games Intelligence (IGGI), helping to promote innovations arising from the research of the 56 IGGI PhD students and with City of York Council to build on connections forming with cities worldwide through York’s recent UNESCO City of Media Arts designation.

Professor Cowling added: “We welcome new partners at any stage and look forward to working with them to create and exploit new technologies and new ways of using digital games, interactive media and the exciting space where they converge.”

Partners