Abba voyage promotional picture

Surrey County Council co-stars in national CoSTAR lab


Surrey is to be the home of brand new state-of-the art facilities for the UK’s creative industry sector, thanks to a successful bid involving Surrey County Council.

A partnership team, led by Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL), and involving Pinewood Studios, disguise, BT, Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, University of Surrey, Abertay University and National Film and Television School, alongside the county council, has been announced as the preferred bidder for the ‘Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime (CoSTAR)’ national lab.

The successful bid will create hundreds of new jobs and add tens of millions of pounds to Surrey’s economy.*

The national CoSTAR lab and three regional R&D labs will ensure the UK has the skills and infrastructure to stay on the cutting-edge of new virtual production techniques in film, TV and live events which involve using computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality and motion capture to create ‘virtual sets’. Instead of adding visual effects and CGI in post-production, virtual production allows filmmakers and theatre directors to create large-scale digitally-generated environments using LED panels that performers can interact with in real-time, as a quicker and less expensive alternative to green screens. The technology has been used in the ABBA Voyage live concert and the Batman and Minecraft immersive experiences in the UK, as well on Disney’s hit show The Mandalorian

The £51m funding application was submitted in February 2022 by StoryFutures at Royal Holloway, University of London on behalf of the wider bid team. The application focused on establishing a CoSTAR national lab at Pinewood Studios, alongside associated facilities and programmes to drive innovation and creativity in the UK’s screen and performance industries.

Surrey County Council’s proposed contribution includes a capital commitment of £3m to fund the establishment of a CoSTAR satellite studio and incubator space on the RHUL campus in Surrey. It’s hoped these facilities will provide a sizeable boost to Surrey-based creative industry businesses, with over 200 expected to benefit.

The Surrey-based Satellite Studio Facility is also projected to create 350 jobs over six years, and make a net contribution of c£35m gross value added to Surrey’s economy. Both facilities aim to open in early 2026.

The announcement yesterday came as part of the government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision, which aims to maximise the potential of the UK creative industries and grow the economy.

Along with the national lab, the government also announced that three regional research labs will be based in Yorkshire, Dundee and Belfast. All of these facilities will work closely with Surrey’s new CoSTAR satellite studio and incubator space to be located on RHUL’s campus in Egham.

Together, these facilities will ensure the UK has the skills and infrastructure to stay on the cutting-edge of new virtual production techniques in film, TV and live events.

Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Growth, Matt Furniss, said: I’m delighted that our joint bid for the national CoSTAR lab has been successful.

“These facilities will bring huge technological advantages to UK creative industries and their global competitiveness and it’s fantastic that Surrey will be home to them.

“It’s also hugely exciting to think of the local benefits that will come from our proposed CoSTAR Satellite Studio and Incubator space. These will bring about local jobs and investment and provide invaluable support for our local businesses, helping to deliver the skills and opportunities for Surrey’s economy to thrive.

“I’d like to thank all of the partners involved in the bid for their hard work in securing this great outcome for Surrey.”

*Today’s announcement of the preferred bidders for CoSTAR is subject to internal government approvals processes, and where relevant, commercial discussions with external partners. Partner organisations such as BT, the National Film and Television School, Vodafone, Studio Ulster and Screen Yorkshire have today announced they will invest at least £63.3 million in CoSTAR.

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