Funding competition Audience of the future: demonstrators

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £16 million to transform the creative industries by testing large, immersive experiences with mass audiences.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £16 million in 4 large scale creative industries demonstrator projects through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). This is part of the Audience of the Future (AotF) programme.

This competition aims to explore future global, mass market, commercial opportunities in the creative industries. Primarily this will be through pre-commercial collaboration at scale.

You must demonstrate you can significantly improve on the current state of the art in your field. Proposals should describe the:

  • audience proposition you will create
  • innovation approach you will take
  • partners you will need to bring together
  • route to your audience

Proposals must include access to globally recognised intellectual property (IP) and reach an audience of 100,000 people. They must detail how the project will generate consumer insight at scale.

There will be 2 stages within the competition: a written application followed by an interview.

Projects must be business-led and carried out in collaboration with organisations from relevant sectors.

If your project’s total costs or duration fall outside our eligibility criteria, contact us at least 10 days before the competition closes.

Funding type


Project size

You can claim up to £4 million. We expect your project’s total costs to be between £5 million and £10 million unless there are greater levels of business contribution. Projects must start by November 1 2018 and end by December 31 2020.

Who can apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK-registered business
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results in or from the UK
  • work in collaboration with others (businesses, research base or third sector)

Collaborations must include at least one SME.

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Any one business may lead on one application and partner in a further 2 applications. If a business is not leading on an application it can be a collaborator in any number of applications.

Collaborative project partners can include:

  • businesses
  • universities
  • non-profit research and technology organisations (RTOs)
  • independent research organisations (IROs)
  • cultural institutions

Non-business partners cannot lead on an application but can collaborate on any number of applications.

All the research organisations on your project combined cannot claim more than 30% of total eligible project costs. This is in any capacity, whether they are contributing as collaborators or subcontractors. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

Your project can include contributing partners that do not receive any funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs but they will not count as collaborators.

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision. We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members
  • communicate our decision to you in writing


There is up to £16 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Funding is available for projects with total costs £5 million and over. This total cost is the combination of the requested grant value and the applicant’s contribution. The maximum grant you can claim is £4 million.

Find out more about eligible project costs.

Demonstrators are classed as industrial research, for which you could be funded:

  • up to 70% of your total project costs if you are a small or micro business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

Your proposal

Innovation in the creative industries occurs through the creation of works that:

  • define audience experiences
  • develop new production processes
  • implement new technologies
  • establish new commercial revenues

This competition is an opportunity for UK creative businesses to collaborate at the pre-commercial stage. They should explore new audience propositions made possible by immersive technologies. These could release commercial revenues and investment.

We want to equip the industry with the knowledge, skills and business insight needed to capture new global audiences by adopting, exploiting and developing immersive technologies and experiences. This will help the UK grow its leading market position in creative content, products and services.

Your project must demonstrate it can significantly advance the current state of the art in its chosen field. It must reach demanding audience targets, deal with current and future rights issues, and avoid excessive audience acquisition costs. To do this your proposal must include access to or use of globally recognised IP, or partnership with a rights holder or cultural brand.

Your demonstrator must also:

  • develop new immersive experiences at a large scale, achieving a public audience across the project of more than 100,000
  • demonstrate a high level of ambition, innovation and scale, with the goal of transforming the sector
  • bring together creativity, technology, human-centred design and data analysis in order to innovate creatively and technologically
  • generate audience, consumer and user insights that can be used to test the viability of new revenue streams and business models
  • demonstrate scalability and the potential to be exploited and replicated across the creative, cultural, live events and entertainment industries

We define immersive experiences as multisensory narrative or interactive experiences mediated through technologies including:

  • virtual, mixed and augmented reality (VR, AR, MR)
  • haptics
  • advanced visualisation
  • other sensory interfaces

The 9 sectors in the UK creative industries are:

  1. advertising and marketing
  2. architecture
  3. crafts
  4. design: product, graphic and fashion
  5. film, TV, video, radio and photography
  6. computer games and services
  7. publishing
  8. museums, galleries and libraries
  9. music, performing and visual arts

Specific themes

This competition is the flagship for the ISCF Audience of the Future programme. We have identified 4 themes with significant disruptive, creative and commercial opportunities to grow new audiences through immersive technologies. This will help grow the UK’s creative industries.

These are:

  1. Moving image, including film, TV, games and interactive media.
  2. Sports entertainment, which is access to live sporting events by remote audiences.
  3. Visitor experience, such as museums, galleries, exhibitions and visitor attractions.
  4. Performance, including theatre, music and live entertainment.

Given the emergent nature of the field we will consider applications that are not confined to these 4 themes. This is providing you can show that your proposal meets all the criteria for a demonstrator.

Moving image

Repeatable audiovisual audience experiences currently created for display on screens, including TV, films, games, animation and online media. These can:

  • be narrative, interactive or game-based experiences
  • be fictional or factual in nature
  • include adaptations from source material in other media

We are looking for immersive audience experiences that use moving image expertise to create new audience propositions with mass market and commercial potential.

Sports entertainment

Experiences and formats that provide remote access to sporting events across a range of platforms and generate significant revenues from this remote audience in addition to spectators attending the events.

We particularly encourage proposals that apply immersive technologies to new audience propositions in sports where remote audiences are (or could) be significant drivers of value.

Visitor experience

Audience propositions that curate, design, interpret or present cultural or entertainment experiences within a physical location. They include:

  • collection and object based institutions such as museums and galleries
  • cultural and heritage locations
  • location-based entertainment experiences such as theme parks or tours
  • experiences that combine these elements

We particularly encourage ambitious proposals with application across the sector.


Creative works and entertainment experiences with the performing arts at their core where the experience is co-created with an audience. This includes, but is not limited to, theatre, music and dance in various forms or combinations.

We particularly encourage proposals that:

  • explore the application of immersive technologies to the production or consumption of performance works (or both)
  • are relevant across multiple disciplines and in a wide range of contexts, including but not limited to conventional venues, festivals and site specific works

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • do not deliver an audience user experience, such as authoring or production tools
  • request substantial funding for non-UK based partners or sub-contractors
  • exclusively focus on new generic technologies such as e-commerce, streaming or social media
  • are technologies and experiences not primarily intended for a consumer audience, such as industrial or business-to-business solutions

21 May 2018
London briefing event.
21 May 2018
Online briefing event. Watch the recording.
21 May 2018
Competition opens
2 August 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
18 September 2018
Interviews start.
12 October 2018 2:32pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you will be responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful

You will be able to invite:

  • colleagues to contribute to the application
  • other organisations to collaborate in the project if your application is successful

Collaborating organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.


If your application is successful at the written stage you will be invited to attend an interview.

Presentations should be a maximum of 20 minutes in length. This will be followed by 30 minutes of questions and answers.

You must submit your presentation to Innovate UK by the date stated in the email we will send inviting you to an interview. You will not be able to make any changes to the presentation after this date.

Up to 8 people from your project can attend the interview panel. Agree with your consortium who will attend, ideally one person from each organisation, and send us their names by the date stated in the invitation email. Make sure they will be available on all of the published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

You will be expected to answer questions based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Application details
  2. Application questions
  3. Finances

1. Application details

Explain your project. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and length. List any organisations you have named as collaborators.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will give you feedback on why.

2. Application questions

In this section, answers to these questions are scored by the assessors. Following assessment, you will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1: Theme

Which theme are you applying for?

Please write ‘Moving image’, ‘Performance’, ‘Sports entertainment’ or ‘Visitor experience’. If your application is outside of these themes write ‘Other’.

Question 2: Audience opportunity and challenge

What creative, technical and commercial opportunity could your proposal unlock? What is the challenge it seeks to address?

You should describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, creative challenge or market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project is focused on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural and/or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations.

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

Question 3: Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of your innovation be?

You should describe or explain:

  • how you will respond to the opportunity or challenge identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing creative practice and technology in new areas, the development of new creative practice and technology for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current audience offer, business, product or service lines
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example, report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4: Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

You should describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details and role of globally recognised intellectual property, rights or a cultural brand within your project
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • (if your project is collaborative) the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any gaps in the team that will need to be filled

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 4 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom..

Question 5: Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

You should describe or explain:

  • the markets and audiences (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including audience segmentation, major players and competitors, predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • what the market’s size might to be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

Question 6: Demonstrator outcomes and route to audience

What are the main insights you are going to gain and how will you apply them? How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

You should describe or explain:

  • your plan for achieving the 100,000 audience requirement
  • the audience insight the demonstrator will provide
  • the business or commercial model the demonstrator may unlock and how you will test it
  • your current position in the market and supply or value chains, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target audience or customers, including how you will create value for them and why would they would be interested
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation (increased revenues or cost reduction)
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

Question 7: Wider impacts

How will your demonstrator benefit the wider creative sector?

You should describe, and where possible measure:

  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader creative industry sectors and the UK economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:

  • cultural value
  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • diversity
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

Question 8: Project management

You should describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the relevant research category, the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms that will be used for a successful and innovative project outcome.
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

Your answer can be up to 400 words. You can upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

You should describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the creative, technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • how these risks will be mitigated
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how will you manage this?

Your answer can be up to 400 words. You can upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 10: Additionality

Describe the impact that an injection of public funding would have on this project.

You should describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as faster to market, more partners and reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the business of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

Question 11: Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

You should describe or explain:

  • the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer and how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation in your project to complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academics will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Immersive technologies, such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality, could be as revolutionary in the next 20 years as the web, mobile and digital TV have been in the last. They have the potential to transform the audience experience of visiting a museum, watching a play at the theatre or playing games on a screen. They could also develop new modes of production and distribution, and new revenue streams for the UK’s creative industries.

As well as creating novel visual, aural and kinaesthetic (tactile) experiences for the visitor, watcher and player, immersive technologies can also attract new audiences and enable new forms of creative expression and practice. New products and services will be created and existing sectors and business models reconfigured. This will be the result of unpredictable changes in user and consumer expectations and demand.

The UK has the right skills to exploit these new opportunities: world class creators of IP and content, world leading entertainment events, highly innovative production businesses, technology innovators and a strong research base in arts, design, digital and computing sciences.

Success is not inevitable. Investment is held back by uncertainty over which creative propositions will attract these audiences. The UK must develop the right creative practice through large scale experiments in content and experiences.

We are looking for ambitious collaborations, particularly between major IP owners and smaller creative technology and production companies, commercial partners and cultural organisations.

Digital Catapult will undertake a programme of activity to support the Demonstrator projects. It will facilitate collaboration and shared learning, while supporting a wider programme of production and engagement, and opening up further opportunities to the SME market-place.

Consortia will also benefit from the advice and guidance of UK Research and Innovation advisers to help you meet programme objectives and provide additional technical, creative or commercial expertise.

For more information on the opportunities immersive technologies offer the creative industries, visit the AotF page on the Immerse UK website. You will also be able to connect to potential collaborators and read case studies.

If you want help to find a project collaborator, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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