Tuesday 12 October
The UK’s highly valuable computer games industry needs a wide range of support measures to create new jobs and new opportunities for the future, the University of Abertay Dundee will tell a House of Commons inquiry tomorrow (Wednesday 13 October).
Following the Coalition Government’s decision to withdraw the games tax relief promised by the previous administration, the Scottish Affairs Committee launched a full parliamentary inquiry. Following a fact-finding visit to Abertay University, the Committee is now set to hear evidence about what the industry needs to thrive.
Abertay University– as an International Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education– is calling for a range of measures to improve the supply of working capital to games developers, because the often lengthy and labour-intensive games development process can require considerable upfront investment.
Given the pressures on the public finances and the Government’s commitment to tough deficit reduction measures, Abertay recognises the difficulty of securing extra tax incentives. However, important support can still be provided through education providers, industry, investors and the Government working closely together.
“Games development is a very valuable industry for the UK economy, and the explosion of gaming on mobile phones and social networks means there is enormous growth potential for companies of all sizes,” said Paul Durrant, Director of Business Development at Abertay University, ahead of giving evidence to the Committee.
“We continue to strongly support the industry’s calls for games tax relief, but we also recognise the important role of other support mechanisms, including ways to incentivise private sector project finance. At Abertay we incubate start-up companies, link talented students with companies seeking new staff and new ideas, and are managing a£5 million project to invest directly in new games prototypes.
“The development of original games intellectual property is a particular strength for the UK, and when this is combined with the supply of talented Abertay graduates it can stimulate inward investment.”
He added:“The Abertay prototyping fund is a great example of a targeted public investment with the potential to attract further private funding. By providing mentoring and business support– alongside funding of up to£25,000 per project– we can help new companies grab the attention of funding partners.
“Having a strong prototype gives a small, start-up firm serious credibility and the opportunity to really fight for serious funding to turn a fantastic idea into a profitable enterprise. We’re aiming to create up to 400 new jobs through this fund, providing a real boost and real momentum to this dynamic, exciting industry.”
As well as offering world-leading courses in computer games development, Abertay University is also supporting the games industry through close links between researchers from other disciplines like psychology and business, and providing incubation facilities for companies with great potential.
Two such companies are Play2Improve and YoYo Games, both of which are currently based within Abertay University while they develop their products and grow. Play2Improve is developing a games coaching training system to improve players’ skills online, while YoYo Games lets anyone easily make and share games without any programming skills.
Matt Seeney, Chief Executive of Play2Improve, said:“As a small company preparing to launch a new product this year, being based within Abertay has been a substantial help. As well as the incubation facilities, including access to high-end hardware and software, we have direct access to skilled students and lecturers to support our development before we go to market.
“Sharing knowledge on a daily basis is an incredible opportunity. We’ll be working with psychology researchers to test the effectiveness of our games training product, and have a student helping us solve some complex artificial intelligence problems so that a gamer’s individual style can be copied, allowing you to play against a friend even when they’re not online!”
The company, which plans to launch the product at the NEoN digital festival in Dundee in November, has also worked with business students to develop marketing ideas and refine its business plan. This semester over 200 students will use Play2Improve as a‘live’ case study for their coursework, with the best ideas feeding directly in to the firm.
Sandy Duncan, Chief Executive of YoYo Games, added:“Through our Game Maker software we now have over 95,000 games on our website, and are planning substantial growth over the next 18 months. Being based in Abertay University gives us instant access to very talented students and graduates to complete short-term and long-term work.
“The games industry has great potential, but for growth to be sustained over the next five to ten years requires support for mid-sized project finance. We believe that investment tax relief for companies turning over less than£10 million a year would be a substantial boost.”
In its official submission to the Scottish Affairs Committee, Abertay University argued that new ways of generating private project finance are needed for the games industry to realise its full potential.
With strong support– through both financing and collaborations with industry– the University sees computer gaming as having the potential to be a flagship UK industry, generating value-added businesses, providing secure employment to highly skilled individuals, and meeting the Government’s aim of rebalancing the economy and supporting the growth of the private sector across the UK.
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For the full text of Abertay University’s submission to the Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry, please visit http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmscotaf/memo/video/vid04.htm
For further information about the two companies being incubated at Abertay University and the products they offer, please visit: