Developing long term partnerships to boost immersive and AI technology adoption
No longer focused only on immersive technologies and the creative industries, Digital Catapult Northern Ireland’s work continues to branch out into other technologies, especially AI, which is now a central pillar of engagement.
We partner with leading organisations to use technology to enhance the audience experience. From shaping a £240,000 challenge fund with Arts Council NI, to working with international firms such as RivR, Virtualitics, Unity and 3Data to boost access to hardware and software for small businesses. As a partner organisation on the Future Screens NI programme, we are helping create R&D opportunities for the creative sector, helping to secure four FSNI R&D grant funded projects to enable non-XR startups to research, adopt and pivot their business with XR. With NI Screen we worked to connect creative and enterprise opportunities for spatial computing, securing a Unity certified training programme via an FSNI R&D fund to attract individuals with a gaming background as well as encouraging non-gaming applications from manufacturing, construction and architecture to pursue the use of immersive tech in their companies. We presented at SXSW with Axial3D and Belfast Health Trust, the success of which led to an idea - the Startle Effect - to help train surgeons and their team cope with split second decision making during an operation. A team of local surgeons, XR producers and psychologists will work with DCNI and an international pharmaceutical company to film a VR training simulator POC.
We provided expert advice on IoT and AI to the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to optimise predictive maintenance of the region’s highways, helping DfI reach companies outside of its usual procurement process to develop a tool that captures real time data on the condition of the highway from DfI fleet vehicles and Translink buses. 16 companies applied for the challenge, with four chosen to develop a solution. By integrating the data with AI, the tool can predict road degradation, helping to deliver a proactive repair schedule and framework for ongoing and future highways maintenance. Phase 2 of the project is underway to deliver a robust, practical, affordable solution suitable for use across Northern Ireland.
We’re also working with a number of organisations including the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIAEEC) to develop manufacturing operations demonstrators using VR. Aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of VR for training in assembly and maintenance, this project comprised three independent but related projects from Bombardier Aerospace, Thales and Denroy Plastics. Together, these demonstrators assessed state-of-the art technologies, evaluating them against the standard workflows for assembly-type tasks, giving the project partners an understanding of the end-to-end processes involved in VR deployment, evidence for the business case and value proposition of VR for training. We were lead partner on the project due to our significant expertise and understanding of immersive technologies, as well as our reach into the startup community, Sixteen small businesses applied, of which nine presented their ideas with two selected to collaborate across the project: Yellow Design, a Northern Irish startup and global enterprise organisation Dassault Systemes.
North East Tees Valley
The North East has long been synonymous with manufacturing, from its historic ship building roots to the base for the automotive industry today. As advanced digital technologies become more ubiquitous, the North East once again has the opportunity to lead the world. In partnership with Sunderland Council, we developed the Assistive Technology Testbed to help local residents live more safely and independently in their own homes for longer. We tested new assistive technology devices and created a platform to collect information from these devices, allowing the social services team to better plan their visits based on need. An independent evaluation found that if scaled beyond the initial pilot, Sunderland City Council could save £3.7 million over three years, with a return on investment in just seven and a half months.
We helped create an app, Sunderland Steps, that encourages local residents and employees to be more active, linked to a programme delivered throughout the city by the council. Nearly 2,400 people have downloaded the app so far, and the SME app developer has since been able to sell the IP. We helped Kielder Water and Forest Park (KW&FP) to engage a more diverse audience by working to educate partners and stakeholders on immersive technology, shape an open call brief, manage the application process and deliver remote pitching sessions for four startups. As a result, Tees Valley based company Animmersion won £10,000 to create a fly-by VR proof of concept.
We’re also supporting local creative and cultural organisations, venues and practitioners to explore how tech can enhance creative practices and help these organisations reach new audiences through the Sunderland Culture Coastal Communities project. Originally a physical residential event, the sessions moved online due to Covid-19 but continue to be popular: since launching in November 2019, 46 individuals, venues and organisations have been engaged.
We continue to work very closely with a range of medium sized and large organisations in the North East.
Our Digital Manufacturing residential programme helps manufacturers that want to explore innovation and emerging technologies but don’t know where to start, and has supported 22 businesses to date. We continued our relationship with P&G, working with the Digital Catapult London team to solve three problems faced by two P&G departments in Newcastle and Reading. We helped P&G narrow down over 70 applications from companies across the globe to 16 companies shortlisted to pitch. Three companies, from Belfast, Gateshead and London, subsequently secured commercial contracts with P&G as a direct result of our activity.
Ambitious plans for digital innovation in the West Midlands.
Chosen by the government as the UK’s first multi-city 5G test area, the West Midlands was one of a number of 5G testbed locations announced by DCMS at the beginning of 2019. With Birmingham hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games and nearby Coventry crowned UK City of Culture 2021, the area is perfectly positioned as the UK’s first region to allow thousands of businesses and organisations to experience 5G first-hand.
In partnership with Telefonica UK (O2), Deloitte and Wayra UK, we’re building three 5G facilities in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry which will comprise centrally located office and demonstration spaces with access to 5G technology, both indoors and outdoors, extending several kilometres. The consortium, known as 5pring, will run innovation and education activities in the region over the next two years to build understanding of the technology and how it will benefit businesses, how 5G can address specific industry challenges, and how businesses can develop ambitious solutions for 5G in real-world environments.
Unleashing 5G powered creativity for the south coast.
Another city known as a centre for digital and smart tech, Brighton is the location of two of Digital Catapult’s high profile 5G projects. In April 2019 Brighton Dome became one of the first large-scale performance, arts and cultural venues to be equipped with 5G technology allowing audiences to engage and interact with artists experimenting with new work enabled and delivered over 5G infrastructure, as well as giving Brighton-based small businesses, community groups and artists the opportunity to test and develop new 5G-enabled applications.
The 5G testbed in Brighton Dome added to the existing Digital Catapult 5G testbed located in Fusebox in Brighton and provides end-to-end commercial and open sourced access to a secure 5G network, interconnected with the 5G University Test Network (5GUK) through the 5GUKExchange, for local local businesses of all sizes. This is the home of Digital Catapult’s 5G Testbed Accelerator Programme, a 20 week accelerator programme empowering startups to discover, develop and test next generation connectivity with 5G facilities and experts. We’re discovering startup businesses in the manufacturing and creative industries, such as Mativision, VR Craftworks, Extend Robotics and Sceenic, that have incredible ideas which are being unlocked with 5G.
Boosting the west of England innovation powerhouse
Long recognised as one of the most innovative cities in the UK, Bristol is at the heart of the UK’s creative sector and is home to a number of Digital Catapult projects. With the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and 19 other partners, the pioneering 5G Smart Tourism was hosted by a range of venues in the city blending 5G and immersive technologies to create interactive visitor experiences for the cultural, heritage and tourism sectors.
Focused on manufacturing, the two-year DETI (Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation) project will accelerate digital engineering across multiple sectors for future generations of engineers and engineering products. It’s run in partnership with the National Composites Centre (NCC), the Centre for Modelling & Simulation, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol and the University of Bath, alongside Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce and High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
In June 2020, the £46 million University of Bristol led MyWorld project was announced, bringing partners including the BBC, Aardman Animations, BT, Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Trust to generate more than 700 new jobs and boost the economy by £223 million by forging collaborations to progress innovation, creative excellence, inclusive cultures and knowledge sharing.
Leading innovation from the heart of the Knowledge Quarter
London is fast becoming a global hub of a new advanced digital technology stack that will transform how we live, work and play in the near future. Our London headquarters are home to over 100 of our expert people, the Future Networks Lab, Immersive Lab London and the 5G London testbed.
The Future Networks Lab is one of the first facilities in Europe designed to help companies of all sizes gain access to leading IoT and 5G technologies, and brings together network, services, platform and solutions providers in a technology-neutral space to de-risk innovation and show how these technologies can be rolled out in practice, not just in theory.
We partnered with the South London Partnership (the London boroughs of Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Richmond upon Thames and Sutton) on the InnOvaTe Project, an initiative exploring the use of IoT technologies to address community challenges and deliver sustainable economic growth.
Digital Catapult was commissioned by the Mayor of London to look forward, inform and advise on technology research and innovation trends over the next 15 years, in the report “London: A Global Leader in Advanced Digital Technologies”.
DIRECTOR POLICY AND STRATEGY
Jessica has over 20 years’ experience working in business and government. Previous roles in DCMS, BEIS and the Cabinet Office have given her a deep understanding of the importance of innovation and emerging technologies to the UK economy. Jessica has developed new policy initiatives in the life sciences and cyber security sectors and large-scale multi-stakeholder programmes in emerging technologies.
CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER
Joe recently joined Digital Catapult from Ofcom, where he was CTO for radio spectrum and director of AI and machine learning. Formerly a chief scientific advisor to DCMS, Joe was also one of the authors of the National Infrastructure Commission report on 5G and the future of mobile communications, and his extensive technical background spans working in visual fx startups to some of the UK’s largest technology and infrastructure projects at the heart of government.
DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Digital leader, technologist and strategic thinker, Geraldina is passionate about turning innovative ideas into concrete business benefit and helps businesses drive a culture of innovation to deliver growth. Geraldina’s global career spans working with Silicon Valley startups to key roles at Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile, spanning a broad range of sectors from mobile telecoms, to fintech, manufacturing and digital health. She is also a strong advocate of women in digital industry leadership.
Dr Dritan Kaleshi
HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY - 5G
Widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading experts in 5G, Dritan established Digital Catapult’s 5G programme and has over 20 years’ experience in communication networks, distributed system design and data interoperability. Dritan combines research with industrial collaboration and has contributed to practical implementations of 5G in networking, interoperability, smart energy, cities and digital health. Dritan was a Senior Lecturer in Communication Networks at the University of Bristol and is currently a Visiting Research Fellow.
Dr Anat Elhalel
HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY - AI
Anat is an experienced researcher of behaviour analysis and prediction with over 15 years’ experience in real-world data and mathematical modelling. She has led global data science teams at startups including: Peak – the cognitive training app; VisualDNA – consumer profiling for fair credit card scoring; and Faroo, a distributed peer-to-peer search scheme. Anat trained in physics, statistical modelling and cognitive science, and has a PhD in modelling human memory using neural networks.
Dr Alex Gluhak
HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY - IOT
Alex leads our IoT programme, applying this technology to solve realworld problems, translating research into prototypes, demonstrators and pilots, finding early adopters, co-creating new testbeds and accelerator programmes to help leverage IoT technology. Alex has more than a decade of experience working with IoT technologies, firstly in academia and later at companies such as Ericsson and Intel Labs. He has over 80 peer reviewed papers and runs the 1,000 member strong LPWAN London Meetup.
HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY - IMMERSIVE
An immersive technology leader with specialist understanding and insight into audiences and testing new broadcast technologies at scale, Jessica’s hands-on experience in immersive is shaping Digital Catapult’s support to industry. She has previous experience at BBC Research and Development, as well as a range of roles across each part of the immersive industry from startups and NGOs including the Cornerstone Partnership where she developed VR training for children’s services, to business development and content production.
Dr Rob Learney
HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY - DISTRIBUTED SYSTEMS
Rob develops new programmes to explore the potential of distributed systems technologies. An active member of the UK Government’s Blockchain APPG, Rob co-founded the Imperial College Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering to create a cross-disciplinary academic focal point for blockchain research in London. A qualified doctor, Rob returned to academia after six years of clinical practice to complete a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College, funded by the James Dyson Fellowship.
HEAD OF STRATEGIC POLICY DELIVERY
Named in Forbes 30-under-30 in 2016 as the co-founder of the charity Future Foreign Policy, Phil has a background in emerging technology policy, research and strategic decision making with both domestic and international experience. At Digital Catapult he works with the UK government, industry and startups to help design interventions that can help to reduce the technical, regulatory and business barriers in its technology programmes.
Dr Maria Nelson
SENIOR HEAD OF INNOVATION
With a background in innovation management, strategic communications and programme management, Maria runs a portfolio of innovation and acceleration programmes at Digital Catapult that help small companies grow, large companies innovate and innovation ecosystems flourish. Passionate about fostering collaboration between bright minds, Maria previously led collaborative innovation at Cisco’s Internet of Everything Innovation Centre, and has published a book about creativity and innovation as core assets of contemporary economies.
Dr Ramona Marfievici
SENIOR IoT ENGINEER
Ramona builds proof of concepts and pilots using disruptive IoT technologies for real-world scenarios and environments. She spent 16 years at Nimbus Research Centre in Cork, Ireland, and was a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca in Romania. Ramona is an advocate for gender equality and inclusion, and established CIT Advance, a programme designed to encourage and empower young women along their technology career path.
HEAD OF PRODUCT INNOVATION
Peter is a seasoned technologist and leads Digital Catapult’s Product Innovation team, helping to turn ideas and concepts into tangible assets and services. Peter was instrumental in establishing Things Connected, the UK’s largest LPWAN network. He has over 20 years’ experience in telecommunications services and product management of digital consumer applications, previously working for large telecoms companies including NEC and Vodafone, where he helped launch five new mobile networks across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Developing long term partnerships to boost immersive and AI technology adoption
Supporting innovative new technology businesses with the resources, mentorship, collaboration and support needed for success.
Giving a helping hand to large businesses to become early adopters of advanced digital technologies to deliver competitive advantage and commercial growth.
From angel investors to corporate venture capital, we work with investors and venture capitalists to discover more about our innovator ecosystem for mutual benefit, to confidently improve their pipeline, increase their visibility of the wider innovator ecosystem and raise their own profile with sought-after businesses.
Working with the UK government to advise, design and deliver programmes for the UK’s advanced digital technology ecosystem.
Working with world-leading researchers from top UK universities to bring the latest thinking right into the heart of industry and increase the impact of research.
Creating better cultural experiences
The pioneering 5G Smart Tourism project in Bristol and Bath was one of the first large-scale demonstrations of the combined power of 5G and immersive technologies to revolutionise how we socialise and interact with cultural experiences
The multimillion pound project led by the West of England Combined Authority and funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, brought together 19 organisations including Digital Catapult, to change how the cultural, heritage and tourism sectors create interactive immersive experiences in a way never seen before by launching a virtual and augmented reality tour of 2,000 year old Roman Baths, 360 degree immersive experiences, and an entirely new way of looking at art enabled by 5G.
This kind of cultural experience would have been unimaginable with previous iterations of network technology, and that’s mainly because it’s hard to strike a balance between the technology advances in infrastructure and the real impact on improving where we live, work and play. 5G lets us bring it to life.
Using the most advanced network infrastructure at the University of Bristol 5G testbed and demonstrating exactly how immersive cultural experiences will benefit from 5G, and how the experience of the ordinary visitor will change with it, companies large and small showcased their experiences in Bristol and Bath.
BBC R&D blended 5G with virtual and augmented reality to bring the 2,000-year history of the Roman Baths in Bath, to life. Innovators Landmrk gave visitors an interactive, 360 video-guided tour around Bristol highlighting just the vast contrast between 4G and 5G capabilities. And Mativision presented simultaneous 360° VR experiences, revealing how 5G removes barriers to multiple users experiencing shared synced content. Smartify is using 5G to enhance its app, which provides information on artworks from around the world, via bonus content including audio stories and videos.
The stark contrast between current networks technologies and the potential of 5G to cultural experiences carries on behind the scenes as well with other partners including the University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab, King’s College London, Zeetta Networks, CCS, BT and Bristol City Council demonstrating how interconnecting 5G testbeds and network slicing unlock numerous benefits, from better shared experiences across different locations, to support large-scale events making them safer and better managed.
These experiences in venues including M Shed, Millennium Square and We The Curious demonstrated the momentous and transformative change 5G is having, not just on the infrastructure that you don’t see, but on the art, historical and cultural experiences you might visit on a normal weekend.
Innovating across the manufacturing value chain
We’re working across the manufacturing value chain, and on projects across the UK that are helping to develop pockets of capability harness advanced digital technologies.
Two major projects we’re currently undertaking are centred around Cambridge (INZIC) and Bristol (DETI) and target multiple parts of the manufacturing value chain. What both also have in common is that the lessons and outputs are not confined to the region where these projects are based.
We’re also working on projects with large organisations like Thales, NSG Group, and BOC to create proofs of concept that can be scaled for real business impact. This focus on helping to grow the capabilities of UK manufacturing has helped Digital Catapult to grow significantly from the same time last year.
The new Industrial Net Zero Innovation Centre (INZIC) will target asset and energy intensive industries such as aerospace, utilities and energy. Digital tech has a key role to play in improving sustainability and efficiency in order to reduce both the carbon footprint of industrial processes and supply chain logistics, through better optimisation of resources.
We are delighted to partner with Digital Catapult on this new venture to drive new regional research and technology capability for the acceleration of digitally enabled industrial net zero, and reducing the UK’s CapEx by creating new business service models in maintenance, repair and overhaul to extend the life of industrial assets
The West of England is home to the UK’s largest advanced engineering and aerospace cluster and a vibrant digital community. As such, the region delivers the expertise, living labs and a technology test bed that companies need to progress.
We’re thrilled to be working on the Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) project to push the boundaries of digital engineering for the future, to help UK businesses maintain engineering leadership. DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre (NCC) the Centre for Modelling & Simulation, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, the University of Bath, Airbus, GKN Aerospace, and Rolls-Royce.
Cutting edge immersive facilities and accelerators
Our facilities at Dimension and the Imaginarium are leading edge pioneers in volumetric and motion capture for the film and TV industry, and the expertise that resides in these facilities is truly leading the way in global virtual production developments. Most recently, Dimension has been involved in helping people get back to work in Covid-safe ways and aiding economic recovery, whilst our immersive acceleration programmes continue to help startups reach investors and commercial partners, or pivot to create at-home experiences to be accessed by audiences on their phones or computers.
CreativeXR and Augmentor
Hundreds of immersive teams have applied to take part in our immersive acceleration programmes. CreativeXR, now in its third year, has recently selected 20 new teams to test the boundaries of how immersive technology can be used and experienced. The programme allows for freedom to raise new forms of art, storytelling and entertainment using content delivered through VR, AR, haptics or immersive audio technologies. 60 teams have taken part in CreativeXR raising £2.7m since leaving the programme.
Augmentor focuses on boosting investment readiness, commercial viability and product market fit for immersive startups. Success stories from this programme include HoloMe, the technology provider behind Asos’ ‘Virtual Catwalk’; Arcade which has since developed worked with Digital Catapult and MUNCH; Somewhere Else which developed the BodySwaps immersive training platform that recently received funding and business support from HTC VIVE X; and Kagenova, which raised over £400,000 for its interactive realism products.
Dimension is a world-class volumetric video capture studio. One of the most advanced facilities of its kind, Dimension has given a significant contribution to the UK’s capability to produce volumetric video which enables an array of new audience experiences.
The Imaginarium Studios
Imaginarium is the UK’s leading performance capture studio, and is revolutionising storytelling by applying the latest innovations in performance capture technology, helping to cement the UK’s global leadership in creating immersive content. Based in Ealing, London, the studio constantly explores new platforms, technology, and ways of using motion and performance capture to tell stories - from a major Hollywood feature, a live theatrical performance, children’s TV or an emerging platform such as mixed reality.
Working around the world