The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has awarded the University of Portsmouth £3.6M towards the development of a Centre for Creative and Immersive eXtended Reality (CCIXR). The CCIXR focuses on digital skills and technology, and is the first major capital investment that the Solent LEP has made following the Covid-19 pandemic. Pippa Bostock, Business and Development Project Manager in Creative and Cultural Industries has answered some questions for us about the project:

What has your involvement in the project been, and who are the team behind this?

CCIXR has been very much a team project from the initial idea 18 months ago, through to securing the funding. The core team comprised of Professor Trevor Keeble (Executive Dean of CCI), Alex Counsell (Technical lead for CCIXR) and myself. As the Business Development and Project Manager for CCI, I led on the development and management of the Solent LEP CCIXR application. We were fortunate enough to have incredible support from Pam Jones & Sarah Duckering from RIS from the very beginning – which was incredibly useful. A number of other colleagues across the University have also played key roles in helping to make CCIXR a reality – and in particular Mel Johnson in Finance, Dan Walldridge in Estates, Claire Cruthers in Procurement and Ted Turnbull, Tom Garner and Adrian Hull in CCI have all been key. The collaboration across the University has been fantastic – and even enabled us to finalise the Grant Funding Agreement itself in 7 days. I’d like to say a huge thank you to them all. A very special mention – and thank you –  also has to go to Sarah Parham for all of her help and support throughout.  

How did the idea for a Centre for Creative and Immersive eXtended Reality come about?

CCIXR has been developed through our understanding of our own expertise, the needs of industry and the needs of the wider sector as a whole. It brings together the incredible expertise we have across the Faculty in Immersive XR and related areas in a very exciting way. CCIXR is unique in providing the entire immersive project pipeline, and the development of CCIXR has been centered on meeting the clear needs of the region, the Creative Industries, aswell as the University.  

How will this project benefit the University?

Our staff and students will benefit from a £3.6 million investment into state of the art  technology, bringing new areas and possibilities to not only our research and innovation – but our teaching too. Our students already work on real industry projects, and this will further that process – bringing incredible opportunities for our students to gain crucial experience and expertise whilst working alongside a fantastic team. Immersive skills are highly sought after, and are a key growth area – as highlighted in recent national reports from Immerse UK and StoryFutures. The investment also gives us a unique USP, as we are the first Immersive XR Centre of this type. We are already working closely with some of the R&I Themes teams to scope possible future collaborations, and would be very interested in talking to other areas who would like to consider possible future collaborative projects. So please do get in touch if you would like to know more, or to discuss this further.

How will it benefit the business community? 

In order for businesses to benefit from the transformative power of Immersive XR, they need to be able to understand what is possible and how it can bring benefits to them. CCIXR is an early stage R&D enabling facility which will help businesses to do just that, increasing their understanding of what XR can do for them. The Centre will develop collaborative R&D projects – and run a number of courses and workshops, which will enable the businesses to go on to fully utilise these skills and knowledge. We submitted nearly 50 letters of support from regional, national and international businesses, national bodies and funders with our Full Business Case – and this incredible insight from our target sectors allowed us to design CCIXR in order to ensure it meets Industries needs, as well as our own.

 What are the long term hopes for the centre?

Long term CCIXR will be delivering a wide range of collaborative projects, courses, knowledge transfer activites and much more. We can’t wait to see the Centre grow into it’s place in Eldon Building – bringing an extra dimension to all the wonderful teaching, research and innovation that already takes place in this very special building. CCIXR will enable many future collaborative funding applications – as having the facilities in place will inspire and enable a multitude of new and exciting projects. I can’t wait to see the Centre full of our students, staff and industry partners – helping to shape the future of Immersive XR together. 

How will you be celebrating the investment in the project?

For me, I think celebrations will be best held once we are all back in Eldon building together. Receiving such wonderful news in lockdown has been unique – but it’s certainly something we will all remember! Saying that, there may have been a happy dance in a zoom meeting or two by some of my wonderful colleagues.