An overview of the country's industry initiatives

Scotlandâ??s Got Game

Exactly what assistance is available to Scottish games studios? Scottish Development International’s Mike Shiel runs through the initiatives that have helped the local industry flourish…

Scotland is currently ranked third in Europe’s top ten locations for game development. Scotland’s games studios are recognised internationally, with bestselling titles ranging from State of Emergency, Harry Potter, Denki Blocks (Best Developer Award, TIGA 2007), the BAFTA winning hit Crackdown and, perhaps biggest of all, the Grand Theft Auto series, which includes three of the best world-wide selling games of all time. Scotland boasts a critical mass of talented games developers with over 50 companies including Rockstar North, Realtime Worlds, Ruffian Games, Denki, Dynamo Games, Digital Goldfish, TAG Games and numerous others based here.

It’s an impressive track record, and one that the Scottish Government is determined to build on through the support and work of Scottish Development International. SDI works to attract inward investment and knowledge to Scotland in order to help the economy grow. SDI also helps Scottish companies do more business overseas. Gaming is a key part of the digital media and emerging technologies sector, which is one of SDI’s six priority sectors.

Key to SDI’s success in helping to attract some of gaming’s biggest names has been creating the right environment for the industry to thrive. Scotland offers a supportive infrastructure with SDI on hand to help developing games companies with start-up funding, a dynamic business culture and focus on innovation and access to high quality university research.

Dundee, in particular, has become a centre of excellence for computer games and electronic entertainment with the Seabraes Yards initiative at its heart. The initiative provides a high quality location around which a vibrant creative community operates and flourishes.

Seabraes Yards offers high quality accommodation which can be created in to a purpose-built environment, catering for start-up companies, indigenous businesses and inward investors. As one of the country’s most important investment initiatives the project will see more than €50 million injected into the area by 2018.

High quality education, skills and research is also at the centre of Scottish success. The University of Abertay, which offered the world’s first MSc in Computer Games Technology has recently become the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for computer games education. Its profile as the UK’s pre-eminent computer games and computer arts university has been further enhanced by a €3 million investment by the Scottish Government which will be used to develop two new industry-designed courses and purpose-built teaching and learning accommodation for students. The programmes will be based on the University’s highly successful Dare To Be Digital initiative, a design competition aimed at encouraging students to develop new games with significant multinational funding.

Scotland is also strong in software solutions technologies, serving a variety of industries such as financial services, life sciences, energy and the public sector.

A vibrant software business community supports over 1,000 companies employing over 105,000 people. Scotland offers a significant talent pool with a variety of IT language skills available from C++, VB, Cobol, to C and Java complemented by a steady stream of IT graduates from Scotland’s world-class universities. Twenty per cent of all the 5/5* rated university researchers in the UK are based in Scotland, according to the Research Assessment Exercise 2008 – a country with only nine per cent of the population.

SDI is determined to ensure that Scotland remains an international digital gaming and software hotspot. Specific support for companies coming to or currently within Scotland includes:

• Regional Selective Assistance grants to provide funding to companies to help safeguard and create jobs. More than €67 million was awarded in 2008/09.
• Proof of Concept funding to help turn research into commercially viable projects. Studios are given help in the first stages of commercialising or market-researching their technology, plus in finding investment by VCs.
• Unique to Scotland, Scottish Enterprise’s Training Plus initiative provides funding to help with the cost of staff training. Grants can be awarded for up to 50 per cent of expenditure on training for generic skills, or up to 25 per cent if the training is company-specific.
• Backed by a ten-year, €507 million investment by the Scottish Government, ITI Techmedia sponsors research in digital media and communications. Aiming to put Scotland at the forefront of the global jobs market, it is commercially focused and market-driven – and dedicated to supporting the creation and marketing of successful new intellectual assets which will boost the Scottish economy.
• R&D funding is available and can provide up to a quarter of the cost of research and development projects in Scotland.
• Various equity funding schemes exist in Scotland such as the, Scottish Seed Fund, Scottish Co-Investment Fund and the Scottish Venture Fund – investing over €77 million in 373 projects.

Scotland is ambitious to grow this critical mass of gaming companies on to the next level and already SDI are looking forward to a number of high profile investors and businesses coming to Scotland this year.

To read yesterday’s feature on the Scottisg games industry by Denki’s Brian Baglow, click here.

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