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StoryFutures Creative Cluster

StoryFutures and StoryFutures Academy: The National Centre for Immersive Storytelling are initiatives financed by the UK government’s industrial strategy challenge fund with the remit to fuel growth by supporting small to medium sized production companies working in Virtual Reality, AI, and the gaming industry to help make the UK a world-leader in the immersive economy.

StoryFutures creates and helps fund research and development projects with creative immersive producers in the 'Gateway Cluster’ which is the area immediately to London's west.

StoryFutures Academy delivers cutting edge training in immersive technology and immersive storytelling for the traditional screen industries nationwide.

StoryFutures offers 2 innovation opportunities open to SMEs working within our geographically defined Cluster:

  1. StoryLab provides access to funding, facilities and university R&D for SMEs to create innovative prototypes in immersive and next generation technologies by working with world leading institutions like The National Gallery, Heathrow, BBC Studios to commission prototypes and pilots to bring new technologies and innovative story-telling techniques into the market place.
  2. R&D On Demand enables creative businesses to work with cutting edge university researchers by providing access to expertise in story-form, business modelling, creative data management and audience insight to promote commercial growth.

StoryFutures operates in the ‘Gateway Cluster’, which is the area to London’s

immediate west. To be eligible for funding and support, projects must be delivered by companies, SMEs, micros and start-ups working within our Cluster. If you’re not in the ‘cluster’, you can still take part by either collaborating with a Cluster based company or through the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling: StoryFutures Academy, which has a nationwide remit.

Challenge partners set a brief that is scoped with StoryFutures. Challenge Partners supply funding for the prototype or pilot R&D project. This may be cash or in-kind, such as IP, facilities, staff time, access to distribution platforms/spaces or similar. The financial contribution made by Challenge Partners and StoryFutures is set by mutual agreement and designed to fit the scope and needs of the Challenge, the R&D requirements of the project, the sector wide impact, potential for scalability and the level of innovation required by the Challenge.

StoryFutures will help shape a brief that is deliverable within budget and by SMEs located within the local region. We will run an innovation process via its Story Lab model to produce a response to Challenge Partners’ briefs they would otherwise be unable to access. We will introduce Challenge partners to new companies, partners, technologies and innovations, working with them to manage the commissioning, contracting and delivery of prototype and pilot projects. Challenge partners benefit from StoryFutures’ creative editorial leadership and our world-leading research in creative story form, business models and understandings of audience behaviour.

Our key considerations in establishing a Challenge with a partner and the scale of our investment are as follows:

  1. Leverage: What level and kind of commitment for the specified R&D activity is a partner(s) willing to make? Leverage should include at least 2 of the following: cash, facilities, technologies, licencing, Intellectual Property, professional or commercial expertise.
  2. Intellectual Property: The extent to which deriving new forms of IP for all parties involved is possible, including Challenge Partners. SMEs and StoryFutures.
  3. Innovation: The case made for innovation in story form, use of new technologies and business models or value networks that can drive new markets for Challenge Partners and the SMEs involved.
  4. Routes to market: Indication of routes to market for the R&D activity that a partner can help establish.
  5. Routes to audiences: A defined demographic and route to that audience via either footfall or digital reach.
  6. Research Collaboration: The opportunity for mutually beneficial R&D and innovation, including agreement to allow StoryFutures the right to publish anonymised data in academic and industry facing research publications (subject to confidentiality and commercial sensitivity).
  7. Delivery plan and impact: Defined delivery time-frame with demonstrable impact on the economic and cultural life of the cluster as a whole, including the potential for sharing learnings across the sector.
  8. Administrative resource: Challenge partner requirement to put in place resource to develop the Challenge, the StoryLab event, communications, event and project management to work with the StoryFutures team

What about IP?

StoryFutures is not looking to assert IP ownership in prototype and pilot projects. Some key points:

  • All participating companies will retain the foreground IP they bring in to the StoryLab Challenge.

All new IP generated in the StoryLab that is not commissioned for the winning prototype and pilot will be subject to an ‘IP Air Lock’ agreement as part of our T&Cs. You can read more about IP Airlocks here. We’ll provide further information on our T&Cs once we engage with Challenge partners on specific projects.

Budgets will vary according to the scope of the challenge. At present they range anywhere between £10,000 and £500,000 subject to final agreements with Challenge Partners.

We will develop them with the winning SME for delivery to our challenge partner, testing these with audiences and agreed Key Performance Indicators. These KPIs are the level of innovation, economic growth, cluster creativity and the nurturing of next generation talent. We then agree routes to further funding, finance and other opportunities, supporting the SME to access these opportunities. Pilots and prototypes will also be demonstrated at regional, national and international showcases.

Our Network brings together all the producers, facility providers and SMEs working in the immersive creative industry within our Cluster. Sign up via any of our Expressions of Interest opportunities on our website to access our Network.

Anything from a sole trader operations to companies employing up to 250 people

Eligibility does include the need to be in the Gateway Cluster, but SMEs working outside of this can team up with collaborators who are within the Cluster.

The nature of R&D on Demand means we don’t want to be prescriptive so if you have a good idea, we’re happy to consider as long it fits the broad eligibility indicated on our website.

All collaborations with companies in the Gateway Cluster will be considered

Once you are included in our Network by confirming your expression of interest, we will update you with opportunities for further involvement


As a general rule we do not. However, no company should be excluded on the grounds of costs and we will make bursaries available to facilitate participation. In some instances, where the scope of the challenge necessitates, we may agree to pay all participating SMEs for their time at a set rate.

We run 3 major Challenges per year. We announce open calls for SMEs within the Cluster setting out the criteria and brief approximately 6-8 weeks prior to a StoryLab innovation event.

We need to see competency in the area in which you are working, but we are very keen on collaborations in order for company’s to expand their portfolios

No, please stay in touch for possible more opportunities that might be more appropriate.

StoryFutures Academy

StoryFutures Academy: The National Centre for Immersive Storytelling will run Introductory Workshops, Experimental Labs, Writers Labs, co-fund immersive productions and run on-set training schemes to help our world-leading storytellers and companies make immersive another UK success story.

By 2021 we will have launched a range of short courses and Masters programmes based on these learnings.

Part of the challenge for immersive productions is that they collapse traditional distinctions between those art forms – so we’ll be encouraging projects that mix approaches and test out storytelling conventions and innovations in new experiences.

Immersive storytelling is an area the UK can have a competitive advantage in. The technology is growing massively – PwC: “One of our recent reports forecasts that VR in the UK entertainment and media industry alone will reach a value of £801m by 2021, making it the fastest growing and largest VR industry in EMEA.” To be a world leader in this area, we need to make immersive content with storytelling at its heart to stimulate the UK industry as whole. Story is the missing link and the key to unlocking audience engagement in immersive.


Initially, training will take the form of Introductory workshops, Experimental Labs and Bootcamps including paid work placements for established screen industry practitioners and Writers’ Rooms. Ultimately, the NFTS and Royal Holloway will launch short courses and Masters provision in a range of immersive specialisms.


No. We have many partners to enable us to work across the UK at a range of studio and lab facilities. We will also work with fellow Creative Industries Clusters Programme award holders to offer training at university sites across the country. In addition, NFTS will offer training at NFTS Scotland and we’ll also be able to go to wherever people are in the UK to do training where they are located. Bespoke training will also be offered.

When productions are selected, part of the criteria will include giving NFTS/ Royal Holloway students placements so they can participate. Students and recent graduates will also be invited to attend the experimental labs to engage people at different stages of their careers.

If you are selected for an Introductory Workshop, Experimental Lan, Writers Room or Bootcamp workshop then we will reimburse your reasonable travel costs and cover any overnight accommodation necessary. This can be discussed with the team. Our Work placements are paid at industry rates to a maximum level - rates of pay would be discussed in advance of any commitment.


Public calls will be advertised on StoryFutures Academy, partner websites and social media around themed areas.

Enter answer

Yes – we’ll be looking to co-fund productions in immersive projects.

To apply for any of our co-funded challenges or commissions you'll need to meet the following requirements:

  • Matching Funding: We can invest up to £100,000 in individual projects, with a minimum match-funding requirement.
  • Routes to Audience: Co-production partners must have defined demographics and routes to audience via either footfall or digital reach.
  • Research Data: Subject to commercial confidentiality, co-production partners must allow the anonymised use of data for academic and industry-facing research publications.
  • Leverage: Above match-funding, a co-production partner will also be asked to provide further resource including administrative support, appropriate access to staff time, facilities and equipment.


Not normally – they’ll develop them wherever they are although we will help and support them in both development and production as required.


Our Partner, Immerse UK’s, recent report estimates that there are around 1,000 immersive specialist companies in the UK employing around 4,500 people and generating £660 million in sales, potentially representing as much as 9% of the global market share. If UK specialists grow in line with market forecasts, they stand to generate over £1 billion in sales in 2018. We also estimate that half a million people work in companies with some participation in the immersive economy. You can read the full report here.

StoryFutures International

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