Scottish Affairs Committee brings computer games inquiry to Abertay University

Embargoed until: 00.01 Monday 13 September

The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee is bringing its inquiry into the computer games industry in Scotland to the University of Abertay Dundee, an international centre of excellence for computer games education.

Following the coalition Government’s decision in the Budget not to offer tax breaks to the industry, the Committee is investigating the economic impact of this decision on Scotland and other ways of financially supporting the industry.

One method of support for the industry that the Committee will discuss is Abertay University’s new£5 million prototyping project, which is expected to create up to 30 new companies and 400 new jobs. Successful applicants receive up to£25,000 to help build a prototype game or creative product to present to investors.

The Abertay visit is the Scottish Affairs Committee’s first fact-finding trip for this inquiry, and will involve consultation with both Abertay’s leading computer games educators and a range of industry representatives.

Written submissions to the inquiry from interested parties closed last Friday, 10 September, and now the Committee is meeting with academic and business experts to discuss the importance of this large industry to Scotland and to the UK.

Committee Chair Ian Davidson MP said:“The video games industry is hugely important to the people of Dundee. Not only is the industry a major source of revenue and employment, but Abertay University enjoys the prestige of being the first university in the world to offer a course in software engineering for video games and has been pivotal in cementing the reputation of Dundee as the hub of Scotland’s gaming industry.

“The Scottish Affairs Committee is extremely concerned about the impact of the recent announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to abolish tax relief for Scotland’s video games industry.

“The reality of today’s economic situation is that the lure of tax relief and financial incentives in other countries could result in a brain-drain from the gaming industry in Scotland to other parts of the world. Our inquiry, of which our visit to Dundee forms an important part, seeks to explore in detail the potential impact of this policy decision.”

Professor Bernard King CBE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Abertay University, said:“The computer games industry, with its strong cluster in Dundee centred around Abertay University, is a crucially important sector for future Scottish and UK economic growth.

“We warmly welcome the Committee’s inquiry into the industry, and are delighted to show them the internationally leading educational and business support facilities on offer at Abertay.”

He added:“Our approach to education is based on working with companies to develop graduates ready to step straight into demanding jobs. From our annual Dare to be Digital computer games design competition to our new Professional Masters postgraduate degree, all our students work in the same open-plan, studio environments that the world’s leading computer games companies do.

“We’re developing this unique industry-focussed approach further with the£5 million prototyping fund, which is aimed specifically at creating new businesses and new jobs. We believe that direct support like this can spark off fantastic new creative ventures, and we look forward to discussing these alternative financing models with the Committee.”

At Abertay the Committee’s members will receive a tour of the open-plan studio workspaces that students from different courses share with their lecturers, as well as receiving demonstrations of some of the latest technological developments, including fully-immersive 3D computing.

Abertay University offered the world’s first computer games degree in 1997 and was established as the UK’s first Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education following a£3 million Scottish Government investment.

The£5 million prototyping project is funded by the UK Government, Scottish Government administered ERDF funds, and direct Abertay University investment.

(Ends)

For media enquiries, please contact Chris Wilson (Communications Officer)– T: 01382 308935 M: 07837 250284 E: chris.wilson@abertay.ac.uk

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Committee’s current membership is:

- Ian Davidson (Chair), Glasgow South West, Labour - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/ian-davidson/25767

- Cathy Jamieson, Kilmarnock and Loudoun, Labour - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/cathy-jamieson/32645

- Fiona Bruce, Congleton, Conservative - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/fiona-bruce/35510

- Jim McGovern, Dundee West, Labour - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/jim-mcgovern/38863

- Mark Menzies, Fylde, Conservative - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/mark-menzies/31587

- David Mowat, Warrington South, Conservative - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/david-mowat/62743

- Fiona O'Donnell, East Lothian, Labour - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/fiona-o%27donnell/85410

- Alan Reid, Argyll and Bute, Liberal Democrat - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/alan-reid/25342

- Lindsay Roy, Glenrothes, Labour - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lindsay-roy/74691

- Julian Smith, Skipton and Ripon, Conservative - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/julian-smith/83149

- Dr Eilidh Whiteford, Banff and Buchan, Scottish National Party - http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/eilidh-whiteford/74736

INQUIRY TERMS OF REFERENCE

This inquiry will examine the potential impact on Scotland’s video games industry of the recent announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to abolish tax relief for this sector, and to examine alternative financial incentives for the industry.

The Committee will be looking at:

- The contribution made by the Scottish video games industry to both the Scottish and UK economy

- What consultation was held by the UK Government with the industry before the decision was made to abolish a Games Tax Relief

- The level of tax breaks or incentives offered in competitor countries

- What potential impact the decision to abolish Games Tax Relief will make on the video games industry in Scotland

- Alternative financial incentives for the industry

Further information is available at the Committee’s website - http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/scottish-affairs-committee

ABERTAY ECONOMIC AND BUSINESS CONTEXT

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts, in his first major policy speech, backed the computer games industry centred around Abertay as an economic success story. He argued in favour of“clusters” of economic activity, where support mechanisms deliver a“low-risk environment for high-risk activity”. ( http://www.bis.gov.uk/news/topstories/2010/Jul/Willetts-science-speech)

His comments are supported by the NESTA report‘Rebalancing Act’, which argued that moving the economy towards high-technology industries and greater innovation would encourage greater economic activity outside London, bring the UK more quickly back to employment growth, and create a more sustainable economy for the future. ( http://www.nesta.org.uk/news_events/press_releases/assets/features/new_look_economy_will_be_built_on_high_tech_and_innovation)

Nobel-prize winning economist Professor Paul Krugman (of Princeton University) last year also gave his backing to the idea of generating clusters of economic activity, backed by targeted investment. In an interview with Esquire magazine he singled out Abertay University as the centre of a successful innovation‘hotspot’.

ABERTAY UNIVERSITY BACKGROUND

The University of Abertay Dundee launched the world’s first ever computer games degree in 1997. This postgraduate Masters course was followed by a complementary undergraduate course, and later by specialist courses in production management and game applications development.

This year Abertay University opened a£5 million business support project, offering grants up to£25,000 for the development of computer games prototypes and the launch of new start-ups. Commercialisation and project management support will also be provided from Abertay’s business and computer games experts. UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey launched the project in July.

This follows a£3 million Scottish Government investment which funded the UK’s first Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education at Abertay University, where students work in open-plan multidisciplinary teams.

Working in a studio environment is a crucial part of the internationally renowned Dare to be Digital student computer games design competition and the new Professional Masters in Computer Games Development– a unique 12-month postgraduate course where students work in project teams to build prototype games, with continual mentoring from industry professionals.

Abertay has the highest number of Skillset accreditations for computer games courses (three out of nine across the UK) as well as holding full Skillset Media Academy status, in recognition of the important industry skills developed on our courses.


Games PressGames Press is the leading online resource for games journalists. Used daily by magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, online media and retailers worldwide, it offers a vast, constantly updated archive of press releases and assets, and is the simplest and most cost-effective way for PR professionals to reach the widest possible audience. Registration for the site and the Games Press email digest is available, to the trade only, at www.gamespress.com.