A “groundbreaking” £9 million gaming research and development centre is to be established in Dundee.
Led by Abertay University, a world leader in game design, the project will aid local, Scottish and UK games companies.
Named Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise (InGAME), the centre will take a highly collaborative approach, with artists, designers and creative writers located with technologists and business specialists.
The announcement comes just a week before the opening of the £80m V&A Dundee Museum of Design.
Abertay will deliver the project in partnership with Dundee University and St Andrews University.
It will benefit from significant funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Creative Industries Clusters programme and the Scottish Funding Council.
It is one of nine AHRC Creative Clusters announced across the UK, with Edinburgh University’s data innovation partnership leading the only other Scottish-based project.
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Professor Gregor White, head of Abertay University’s School of Design and Informatics as well as the architect of InGAME, added: “This is a really significant investment for the Dundee games industry which will have benefits for studios across the UK.
“As well as pushing forward new technological innovations, we will be seeking to find innovative solutions to some of the challenges faced by games companies, including the management of financial and sustainability risks associated with developing original material.”
Professor Paul Hibbert, St Andrews University vice-principal education (Proctor), said the project was a huge boost to the industry.
He said: “The computer games industry is a key part of Scotland’s creative industries sector with the potential for strong growth within existing companies, new venture formation and graduate level employment.
“InGame is a groundbreaking multi-partner award that will facilitate knowledge transfer and develop a better understanding of the growth bottlenecks confronting this exciting sector.”
The project will involve academic researchers, students, industry experts and business leaders, and is expected to further energise the successful Dundee cluster.
The cluster is characterised by a high number of micro-SMEs creating content for mobile, tablet and PC gaming platforms, as well as larger SME’s with more established product portfolios.
Professor James Livesey, Dean of the School of Humanities at the University of Dundee, said: “This project builds on the world-class expertise in the local universities and will create outstanding opportunities for our students to work with some of the biggest names in the computer games and entertainment industry.
“It will also be a model for interaction between academia and the creative industries.”
Games industry partners include 4J Studios, All4Games, BBC, Beano Studios, Biome Collective, DeltaDNA, Microsoft, Outplay Entertainment and Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, while business and cluster development will be supported by Creative Dundee, Creative Scotland, Elevator UK, Interface, Dundee City Council, Scottish Enterprise, TIGA, UK Games Fund and UK Interactive Entertainment and V&A Dundee.
Industry figures welcome new hub
Major figures in the Dundee and UK gaming industries have backed the new development centre, claiming it will “drive forward innovation”.
Dundee-based 4J Studios, famous for porting hugely popular game Minecraft to consoles and handheld platforms, is one of the partners.
Chairman Chris van der Kuyl said: “We are delighted to be involved in the InGAME partnership, which will undoubtedly drive forward innovation in the video games sector, not only in the Dundee games cluster but across the UK.
“Dundee has a history of achieving great things when mixing academia, industry and enterprise, and this project will act as a catalyst for further development at this exciting time for the city.”
Other companies involved in games development in the city said the centre would offer a creative boost.
Malath Abbas of creative co-working space Biome Collective said: “As an organisation on the forefront of art, design and creative technology, research and experimentation are integral to our collective process.
“We are excited to begin working with our partners and collaborators on exploring and creating groundbreaking playful experiences.”
Dr Richard Wilson OBE, CEO of TIGA, the network for games developers and digital publishers, said: “This new research and development centre will promote innovation, creativity and productivity in our video games industry.
“It will help games businesses to surmount technical and commercial challenges. Above all, it will bolster, enhance and strengthen the video games industry in Dundee, Scotland and the wider UK.”
Gillian Easson, director of Creative Dundee, added: “The video games sector is an integral part of Dundee’s creative industries, and this partnership has the potential to open the door for new ideas that will benefit our local cluster and others across the UK.
“Creative Dundee is very much looking forward to collaborating on InGAME as the city continues to go from strength to strength.”
Paul Durrant, CEO of the not-for-profit UK Games Fund, which gives financial backing to gaming projects, said: “As a UK-facing organisation it’s great to see the launch of the new Creative Clusters. We’re delighted to be working with InGAME in our home cluster in Dundee as well as a number elsewhere.”