New Screen Media Innovation Lab part of Belfast Region City Deal

Wednesday 28th April 2021

Ulster University’s plans for a new, world-class Screen Media Innovation Lab (SMIL) were centre stage at today’s Belfast Region City Deal Council Panel meeting, hosted by Ards and North Down Borough Council…

The Mayor with the Chief Executive

SMIL is set to play a key role in the Belfast region’s economic recovery post-COVID, by building on the success of Northern Ireland’s creative industries which already contribute over £1billion GVA to the NI economy and employ around 26,000 people.

As one of the City Deal’s innovation projects, SMIL will provide a Centre of Excellence in Research and Development, and Innovation in Virtual Production, where academics, researchers and the creative sectors can collaborate using state of the art facilities, helping to both sustain and grow jobs in one of Northern Ireland’s most successful sectors.

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings, who chaired today’s Belfast Region City Deal Council Panel meeting, said:

“The Belfast Region City Deal partners are focused on driving investment in our most resilient sectors, and in projects which will lead to sustained, long term regional growth and job creation.

“Demand for virtual content production is rapidly growing, but there’s currently a lack of capacity in this field. And because the Belfast region has already established strengths in film, broadcast, animation, games, and virtual, augmented and mixed reality – we’re perfectly positioned to establish this new Screen Media Innovation Lab and meet that demand.”

Professor Frank Lyons, Associate Dean of Research and Impact, Co-Director of The Creative Industries Institute and Ulster University's Academic Lead on the SMIL project, said:

“As well as facilitating the levels of virtual innovation that will make us world leaders, SMIL will provide training and development opportunities to strengthen our talent pipeline, meeting the needs of the sector and boosting our productivity. In conjunction with the Belfast Harbour Film Studio complex, SMIL will drive collaboration in R&D on an unprecedented scale.

“SMIL has the potential to completely transform our creative industries, providing the platform for local companies to compete globally and establishing the Belfast region as a destination of choice for investment.”

Momentum continues to build for the Belfast Region City Deal, with the aim that a deal will be signed this summer to kick off this transformative programme of investment in innovation and digital, tourism and regeneration, infrastructure and employability and skills.

With the NI Executive’s commitment of £350m to match fund the investment of £350m from the UK Government, the overall investment package from both governments and BRCD partners currently stands at £850m for this ambitious 15-year programme. The government and partner investment will leverage critical private sector investment that will ensure delivery of a deal with a value well in excess of £1billion.

For more information on the Belfast Region City Deal, go to www.belfastcity.gov.uk/belfastregioncitydeal. Updates are posted at #BRcitydeal.