New scheme backed by the likes of Lionhead, Frontier, Sony, Microsoft, Rare, Bizarre, Codemasters, Relentless and Zoe Mode

UK fights back with world class skills centre

The UK is taking fast action to reclaim its place as a games industry global leader by launching a £6.3 million ‘world class’ skills centre programme.

The Centre for Digital Entertainment (CDE) is a vast collaborative effort between the UK’s games industry and universities to ensure Britain is armed with a new generation of skilled game creators.

The scheme has a £6.3 million fund pool it will use to take student game designers to the very places where they can best hone their skills; the game studios themselves, working on real projects.

A wide range of UK developers are supporting the scheme, from Lionhead to Frontier Developments, SCEE, Microsoft, NaturalMotion, Bizarre Creations, Codemasters, Rare, Relentless Software, and Zoë Mode.

The major new initiative follows a troubling number of months for the British games industry, with a rising number of its workforce migrating abroad to more secure and lucrative regions such as Canada.

In December last year, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts claimed the UK was in danger of falling into fifth place in the global game development rankings – down from third in 2007.

Groups within the UK games industry, such as Tiga, consider the sharp downturn as a matter of urgency, and have for many months lobbied Brown’s government to provide better support for the sector.

That wish may be about to come true as, during the announcement of the Digital Britain report, Westminster proposed to consider whether UK developers should receive tax subsidies in order to remain more competitive.

In line with this visible turnaround from government bodies, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESRPC) has pledged to inject the CDE with around £6.3 million.

The money will provide full funding for 50 doctoral studentships for eight years.

Frontier MD Dave Walsh said the CDE would benefit the British games industry “significantly”.

“Currently there is a big need for high-calibre technical people and the proposed centre will address this shortage effectively,” he added.

A CDE course will last four years, with around 75 per cent of student’s time being based in game development studios. 

Students will also be able to take on a range of Master’s courses from two established UK academic centres; Bournemouth University and University of Bath.

Prof Phil Willis at the University of Bath said the EPSRC funds will provide a “wonderful opportunity”.

“This is exactly the right time to put skills investment in place, ready for the economic recovery,” he added.

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