Scotland’s screen and performance industries are to be boosted by a new multimillion R&D lab with sites based in Dundee and Edinburgh.

The Convergent Screen Technologies and Performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) programme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) was launched at Beyond Conference, London. Included amongst five UK labs is the CoSTAR Realtime Lab, led by Abertay University in Dundee in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, Interface, Chroma Developments and the Scottish Government’s Techscaler programme.

The CoSTAR national network will provide researchers, companies and institutions across the UK with the infrastructure they need to conduct world-class research and development (R&D) in screen and performance technology. It will specialise in virtual production – a new cinematography technique which uses computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality and motion capture to create virtual film and performance sets.

Supported with £75.6 million of funding from AHRC with additional private co-investment, it will drive the design, development and creation of state-of-the-art facilities, resources and expertise to underpin the long-term competitiveness of the sectors.

Abertay University is the only institution to have been selected by AHRC to work across two network sites and will also be a key partner on the CoSTAR National Lab led by Royal Holloway, University of London, in partnership with Pinewood Studios, BT, disguise and the University of Surrey.

The primary CoSTAR Realtime Lab will be constructed at Water’s Edge in Dundee (a site owned by Chroma Developments) with a second CoSTAR Realtime Lab site to be based at Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh.  In addition to the core partners, CoSTAR Realtime is also supported by Scottish Enterprise, Screen Scotland and Amazon Web Services.

Professor Gregor White of Abertay University and CoSTAR Realtime Lab lead said: “The convergence of new technologies means that our screen media and performance sectors have become closer than ever before, providing a golden opportunity for companies to expand and diversify their offer. With a global reputation as a leader in technology and the birthplace of the video games industry, Scotland already has a strong backbone of large businesses and SMEs working in this space, ideally placed to take advantage of the growing demand. By working closely with our core partners and supporters, listening to the requirements of industry and linking into the future-focused work of the National Lab, CoSTAR Realtime will provide the R&D support needed to spark economic growth and innovation for this exciting new sector.”

Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh said: “Edinburgh’s arts and cultural communities are at the forefront of the creative industries. Our involvement in CoSTAR will ensure that a wide variety of creative practitioners have the opportunity and ability to engage with and access innovative virtual production facilities. In addition, the University of Edinburgh’s world-leading expertise in Artificial Intelligence will support the wider CoSTAR community. We’re delighted to be at the heart of this UK initiative, continuing to build a bridge between technology and the creative industries.”

Howell Davies, Head of Strategic Programmes and Funding at Interface said: “It is great to see the scoping, planning and strategic thinking coming to fruition as the Realtime Lab launches as part of the UKRI’s CoSTAR programme. The approach to build on previous creative cluster programmes and combine the strengths of the academic expertise, support organisations and investors are a strong foundation to help drive the next generation of visual effects technologies that will revolutionise the UK’s film, TV and performing arts industries.”

Stewart Clark, Managing Director of Chroma Developments said: “Bringing the CoSTAR Realtime Lab to Water’s Edge in Dundee further cements the city’s status as a world leader for the technology industry and there’s going to be enormous potential for companies across Scotland and further afield to take advantage of this leading-edge facility, supported by elite R&D expertise. Becoming part of the CoSTAR network represents another exciting step forward for Chroma Developments as we continue to grow our reach and we’re pleased to be laying these foundations to drive the next phase of the screen and performance industries.”

Lara Findlay, Head of Regional Engagement for Dundee & Tayside at Techscaler by CodeBase said: “The launch of the CoSTAR Realtime Lab presents an exciting opportunity for both Dundee and Scotland to explore advancements in screen and performance technology. The launch of this studio truly underscores the immense potential within our region, placing us on the path towards creative technology innovations that could significantly benefit Scotland’s tech sector, and CodeBase is excited to be a part of this collaboration through Techscaler.”

Watch the CoSTAR Realtime Lab launch video here:

Innovation Voucher funding, aimed at encouraging partnerships between a Scottish business and a university or college, receive a boost in value for the first time since they were launched in 2009.

Standard Innovation Vouchers and Student Placement Innovation Vouchers now offer a value of up to £7.5k, a rise from £5k.

Each Innovation Voucher supports businesses to develop novel and pioneering products, services and processes or develop the company’s internal workforce such as new or enhanced workplace processes, practices and expertise in collaboration with a university or college partner. The collaborations also impact academic research and teaching while enhancing business skills and industry experience to the academic teams and students involved.

Interface manages the Innovation Voucher Funding on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. Since 2009 almost 1,900 Innovation Vouchers have been issued with a value of over £9.5m.

Alan Pratt, Head of Systems and Finance at Interface said: “This increase in funding is a significant step in enabling more academic time to be funded for collaborative research and development projects. We find that businesses who work with academics for the first time through Innovation Vouchers establish long lasting links and go on to work on other projects with the same or other university or college partners. It really is the start of an exciting journey for many.”

Helen Cross, Director of Research and Innovation at the Scottish Funding Council, said: “Increasing the value of our innovation vouchers is great news for universities, colleges and the businesses they partner with.

“These partnerships are a fantastic way of combining academic expertise with the know-how and ambition of entrepreneurs wanting to create new products, services and processes. There have been some incredible examples of success in the last 14 years and today’s announcement is a commitment to that continuing into the future.”

To find out more about Innovation Vouchers please visit the website.

The search is on for Scotland’s top business-academic partnerships and individuals making a significant impact on economic, environmental and social prosperity through collaborative research and development.

Now in its ninth year, the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards is the flagship event celebrating the partnerships between business, third sector and public sector organisations and academia (universities, colleges and research institutes).

Interface, which connects businesses and academia, organises the awards. Director, Amelia Whitelaw, said: “There is a tremendous amount of ground-breaking research happening in Scotland between our innovative businesses and academic communities. They are pushing boundaries and making breakthroughs which are bringing huge benefits.

“We are excited to be shining a light on the people and partnerships behind these exciting developments, who are often working in the background. We hope that these awards inspire new projects, innovation and creativity.”

The seven award categories now open for entries are:

– Innovation of the Year – sponsored by HGF Limited
– Innovator of the Future
– Knowledge Exchange Champion – sponsored by PraxisAuril
– Knowledge Exchange Heroes
– Making a Social Difference – sponsored by Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS)
– Making an Environmental Difference – sponsored by Zero Waste Scotland
– Multiparty Collaboration

The judging panels, drawn from across the innovation ecosystem, will be looking at how the applications demonstrate collaboration, innovation, impacts achieved, and their legacies, as well as the potential to transform economic, social and environmental challenges.

The deadline for applications is 5pm, Wednesday 6th December 2023. The awards will be hosted by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, on Thursday 14th March, 2024.

Click here for entry toolkit and application forms.

2022-2023 has proven to be a strong year for the Interface team. We were delighted to welcome Amelia Whitelaw as Interface Director, and in the past year we have been working hard to ensure businesses have the right support at the right time to innovate and grow their operations. We are delighted to highlight key elements of our progress this year in our latest Annual Review.

Interface Annual Review 2022/2023

In this short video, Amelia shares a few observations of her first year with Interface. 

Research into the relationship between financial vulnerability and mental health, and the development of a portable system for monitoring hormonal fluctuations, are among the latest projects to have been backed by a national inward investment fund.

The announcement coincides with the opening of a new round of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund to support inward investment into Scotland through establishing relationships between businesses and academia.  

Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade, Richard Lochhead, said: “The latest round of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund has once again attracted diverse and innovative projects, with the expertise and support of our highly regarded universities and academia playing a significant role in attracting potential investors to consider Scotland and apply for the funding.

“The successful projects not only align with the ambitions of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation but also with the Inward Investment Plan’s key opportunity areas. I am pleased that applications for a further round of funding has launched and encourage all interested businesses with innovative projects to apply for the funding.

“Our new Programme for Government re-iterates the Scottish Government’s commitment to attracting overseas businesses to invest in Scotland, which this year was once again named the number one area of the UK outside London for inward investment projects. Through the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund and a range of other investment opportunities and initiatives, we will continue to build on this position as we develop a greener, fairer, wellbeing economy.”

Howell Davies, Sector Engagement Manager at Interface, said: “This was another excellent round of applications with good potential for these companies to base and scale their operations here in Scotland using the excellent support and world class academic community to help accelerate that journey.”

The last round of the fund resulted in 5 projects being awarded up to £10,000 each. 

The five funded projects are:

Serene (England) and University of St Andrews, awarded £10,000 for a project using financial data to identify the financial vulnerabilities and associated psychological stress in young adults. The research aims to uncover financial patterns indicative of both existing vulnerabilities and early-warning signs.

CCTV video analytics company Graymatics (Singapore) and University of Strathclyde, awarded £9,990 to develop smart audio module software, to be integrated into the existing Graymatics’ video surveillance product. This will enable their system to accurately identify and track objects, even in challenging environments.

Reaforma Ltd (England) and University of Strathclyde, awarded £10,000 to develop the company’s carbon-negative geopolymer construction composite.

Salop Design & Engineering Ltd (England) and University of Strathclyde, awarded £9,993 to conduct a life cycle assessment of energy-efficient and environment-friendly technology for producing single-sheet titanium components used in the aerospace industry.

viO HealthTech (England and U.S.) and Heriot-Watt University, awarded £9,500 to develop a portable system for monitoring hormone levels to help with conception, pregnancy, menopause, and conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

Since 2021 the fund has supported 20 companies out with Scotland on projects in partnership with Scottish academic institutions, across a range of disciplines. Several of the collaborations have led to companies having a physical presence in Scotland, including Smartify, Evolve Hydrogen and Evolve Metals (formerly Neocycl). Work carried out and networks made have supported conversations with enterprise agencies, local authorities, and Green Free Ports for developing operations and investing here.

The deadline for the next round of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund is 17th November, 2023. Information and applications form can be found here.

Farmers are being asked: “What’s the problem?” in a new campaign aimed at encouraging them to innovate to future-proof their businesses.

Finding solutions to long-term problems can be challenging for farmers because of lack of time and resource, but a national business support service can help address problems and plan for a sustainable future by offering a direct route into Scotland’s world-leading universities, research institutes and colleges.

Interface is a free service which matches businesses to academic teams and individuals to address challenges through research and development. The organisation has team members throughout Scotland who can help farming businesses achieve their ambitions, no matter the size or scope.

Mari Findlay, Interface’s Business Engagement Executive in Dumfries, Galloway and Ayrshire, said: “We can help save the farming community time, money and effort by matching them to the right expertise across Scotland’s renowned higher and further education institutes.

“From automation, data and digital, through to sensors and engineering, the knowledge base in our country’s universities is vast and can be applied in all kinds of ways and to all sorts of issues.”

Projects can support activities to reduce costs; improve efficiencies and resilience; adopt new technologies; combat weather impacts; manage waste; identify additional income streams; and diversify farming businesses.

Projects supported by Interface include:

Interface has been matching businesses to academics to undertake collaborative research and development for more than 18 years.

Since 2005, over 3,400 collaborative business-academic projects have been initiated by Interface with 83% of businesses recording impacts such as reduced operating costs, increased productivity, profits, exports, turnover and new or safeguarded employment.

To find out how Interface could support you and your farming business, please contact Mari Findlay at

Further information about how Interface can support you can be found here – Farming & Agriculture: What’s your problem?

A new research and development facility in Dundee is set to help drive the next generation of visual effects technologies that will revolutionise the UK’s film, TV and performing arts industries.

The state-of-the-art lab is part of the Creative Industries Sector Vision, published today, which sets out the government’s ambition to maximise the potential of the UK’s creative industries so they generate an extra £50 billion for the economy and support a million more jobs by 2030.

Interface is part of a consortium, led by Abertay University, which has been selected by the UK Government as a preferred bidder to host one of four new labs specialising in the future of virtual production – a new cinematography technique using computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality and motion capture to create virtual sets. Abertay has also been selected as a partner for a national lab, recognising the University’s academic expertise in the sector.

Located at Waters’ Edge Studios, the Dundee facility will bring together expertise from Abertay University, University of Edinburgh, 4J Studios, TechScaler by CodeBase and Interface.

Read the full announcement here – Network of ‘movie magic’ labs to keep UK on cutting edge of future visual effects technologies (

The Scottish Government have approved £100,000 of funding to support inward investment into Scotland through establishing relationships between businesses and academia.

The Inward Investment Catalyst Fund has been developed by Interface and the Scottish Government to attract businesses from out with Scotland to collaborate with academic institutions on their research and development activity.  The intention is that the companies develop insights, relationships, and opportunities to invest in Scotland and ultimately create jobs.

Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Richard Lochhead, said: “Inward investment is a fundamentally important part of our economic plan for growth, aligning to the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

“The Inward Investment Catalyst Fund is playing a part in linking up businesses with the expertise offered by Scotland’s world class universities and academia, and has already resulted in a variety of highly innovative projects.

“I am pleased that the Scottish Government will be continuing to support the Fund this year, and expect this new call for applications to kick-start more exciting partnerships to encourage potential investors to set-up their businesses in Scotland and support Scotland’s economic growth, with the potential for creating high-value jobs.”

Howell Davies, Sector and Business Engagement Manager at Interface, said: “The catalyst funding has proven an invaluable resource to initiate business-academic relationships which bring value to the Scottish economy. We have already seen projects develop into long-term relationships giving fresh opportunities to academics as well as companies registering and basing staff in Scotland.”

Since the fund was launched in 2021 there have been 15 collaborations between Scottish academics and businesses from seven countries including Romania, South Africa, the United States and Finland. They span an array of sectors including aerospace, energy, construction, health and wellbeing, and finance.

Case study 1: Evolve Hydrogen Ltd and University of Strathclyde

Through the fund, U.S. company Evolve Hydrogen Ltd. accessed electrochemical expertise at University of Strathclyde to develop green hydrogen production using seawater. Academic expertise has furthered the development of the technology and will support their Scottish ventures.

Case study 2: Ecomar Propulsion and the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS), University of Strathclyde.

Ecomar Propulsion, who make electric outboard motors from their base in Fareham, England, collaborated with NMIS when a supply chain manufacturer ceased supplying products, leaving a major gap in the market. Through the collaboration, opportunities were identified to explore additional supply chain opportunities and manufacturing routes in Scotland for Ecomar Propulsion’s full product range.

For more information about the Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst fund please visit

The deadline for applications is 5pm Thursday 27 July 2023.