Our voice of business this month is:
Professor James Bennett, Royal Holloway, University of London

StoryFutures is a major new £12m funding initiative to boost the creative economy in our region. This area is a unique fusion of creative screen and technology industries, boasting over 22,000 creative businesses and over 100,000 jobs. However, we are often over-looked: our proximity to London means ‘regional’ commissioning work from the capital can go further afield, whilst the geography of the region – with multiple hubs that creative companies cluster around – needs a higher degree of network connectivity to be more visible and dynamic.

StoryFutures aims to change that. We will work with SMEs in our region to create innovative projects that provide compelling story-led experiences for new technologies, such as Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality. Over four years, we will look to develop over 100 collaborative projects and at least 16-20 full prototype experiences that harness new technologies in novel ways that attract audiences.

StoryFutures focuses on the future of story form, business models, data processes and audience experience. We are an Research & Development (R&D) partnership between higher education and creative industries led by Royal Holloway, University of London. We are funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of an unprecedented investment in creative industries R&D via the Creative Industries Clusters programme.

So how does StoryFutures work?

StoryFutures has four strands of work – as shown in the diagram below. Our novel “StoryLab” programme will act as a key point of entry for SMEs to get involved in our activities – but the other themes also offer opportunities for engagement.

StoryLab will fund selected SMEs to develop pilot creative projects to experiment with new story forms, formats and technologies. These projects will respond to challenges set by our industry Partners and tackle current barriers in the development and take-up of next generation technologies by funding innovation in creative storytelling formats, business models, data processes and understandings of audience behaviours. The prototype and pilot projects are designed to stimulate growth and investment in the sector. With our ‘Challenge Partners’, these projects offer the opportunity for further commercial development.

StoryLab kicks off by running innovation events to broker creative SME responses to our partners’ challenges, funding a winning pitch for each challenge we run. We then support the winning SMEs in the development of these products, both creatively and through business development. We go on to test these pilot and prototype productions with audiences, utilising cutting-edge research in cognitive psychology, neuroscience and media research to fuel commercial growth and create enthralling experiences for the public. There will also be further funding, investment and other opportunities for winning projects that we will help scope and deliver, working with our business support and finance partners.

StoryFutures is led by Royal Holloway, Brunel, the NFTS and the University of Creative Arts. Our partnership spans film, TV, gaming, VFX and immersive – including Pinewood, Sky VR, HTC, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Resource Productions, n:Dreams, Heathrow and BBC Studios. And, of course, we are supported by our great Local Economic Partnerships: Buckinghamshire Thames Valley, Enterprise M3, and Thames Valley Berkshire.

The StoryFutures partnership exists to support and grow local SMEs, helping to demonstrate the innovation in our area. So if you’re a company working in creative content or technology and would like to get involved in the project, you can read more here. We’re very much in the early stages of setting up the project, but you can stay in touch with us via social media and on the web.

Twitter: @storyfutures
Web: www.storyfutures.com