Behind the UK’s £33 Million Investment in AR/VR

When the British government published its Industrial Strategy White Paper last November, one of the report’s major announcements was a £33m investment in a challenge designed to “bring creative businesses, researchers and technologists together to create striking new experiences that are accessible to the general public” using immersive technologies, such as AR and VR. The goal is to “create the next generation of products, services and experiences that will capture the world’s attention and position the UK as the global leader in immersive technologies.”

One of the people guiding the effort is Tom Fiddian, Innovation Lead at Innovate UK, with whom the AREA spoke recently. Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency, a non-governmental public body that seeks to “drive productivity and growth by supporting businesses to realize the potential of new technologies, develop ideas and make them a commercial success.”

“The general fund is looking at challenges that can be solved by innovation,” explained Fiddian. “My job is to look after the creative industries: publishing, art, culture, film, and music. Not often do we have such an opportunity, where an emerging technology is going to disrupt the market across so many different creative sectors.”

The government investment is being allocated to several areas.

“The vast majority of the money will be available for businesses to apply for under different headings, running large-scale demonstrations in the creative industries,” said Fiddian. “We’re also looking at lowering the cost of creating content to help grow the market.”

While the £33 million is earmarked for the creative industries and not Enterprise AR, the fact that the UK government is investing so significantly in AR and VR is a testament to how much the nation’s leaders view the importance of AR and VR to Britain’s future economic position in the world.

“This is all about expanding the general AR/VR market,” said Fiddian. “I have no doubt that, even though we are focused on the creative industries, the overspill of new technologies and new methodologies will benefit the enterprise AR market, as well.”

Proposals and business cases will be evaluated over the next several months. Fiddian expects specific announcements of projects being funded will be coming in April of this year.

Tom Fiddian noted that while Innovate UK has sponsored other projects that were more broadly focused on immersive technologies for the enterprise, this new challenge is capturing significant interest.

“With the size of the investment, it’s definitely putting AR and VR on the map,” he said.

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