Forecasting the future of screen and performance tech

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Goldsmiths is leading an expert team to provide insight into screen and performance technologies, as part of a £75 million project to ensure the UK remains a leader in the cutting-edge sector.

The College is the lead partner for the £8 million CoSTAR Foresight Lab which is part of a national network of labs.

Under the overall CoSTAR banner, which stands for convergent screen technologies and performance in realtime, these labs will support the design, development and creation of state-of-the-art facilities, resources and expertise to underpin the long-term competitiveness of the UK’s screen and performance sectors.

Established with £75.6 million of funding and delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the CoSTAR national network comprises a National Lab, three Network Labs and a Foresight Lab.

The CoSTAR programme was announced alongside the government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision in June 2023, and launched at the Beyond Conference in November 2023.

The CoSTAR Foresight Lab is being led by Goldsmiths in partnership with: 

  • BFI
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • i2 media
  • Julie’s Bicycle
  • Data Thistle
  • Arup
  • Olsberg SPI
  • Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre

The CoSTAR Foresight lab is being headed up at Goldsmiths by psychology Professor Jonny Freeman, who is also Managing Director of the i2 media spin-out which is housed at the College.

In this Q&A Professor Freeman explains what CoSTAR is, why it is important and why Goldsmiths has been chosen to lead this ground-breaking work.  

Q: Can you explain what CoSTAR is and what it will do for UK creative industries?

Professor Jonathan Freeman: Technology is fundamentally changing the way that content is produced. The same technologies are being used whether you are making a game, a film, a TV programme, or assets for a live performance. Considering this context, UK creative industries don’t have sufficient access to the infrastructure or the skills capable of using these technologies.

CoSTAR recognises that production technologies and processes are changing and that UK creative industries companies and collectives – in studios, creative teams, theatres, dance companies, music and more – must evolve. 

In response, CoSTAR is providing a national infrastructure so that UK creatives can access these new creative technologies, supported by the skilled workforce needed to enable them to experiment and explore their potential in productions. It’s about future-proofing UK creative industries by both upskilling and making better use of these technologies.

Q: The creative industries covers a broad range of outputs, so which are CoSTAR aiming to benefit?

JF: The big ones that CoSTAR is targeting support towards are screen – which includes film, high-end TV and games – and performance, which spans everything from theatre to music and pop concerts, opera and dance. Importantly, there will also be spillover benefits that will span a huge range of sub-sectors both within and outside the creative industries. CoSTAR-related technologies originally from the world of computer games, for example, will be applicable across training, education and health and wellbeing sectors.

 Q: Why was Goldsmiths selected and what is its role in CoSTAR?

JF: Goldsmiths is a natural location for the CoSTAR Foresight Lab, one of the five labs that make up the national CoSTAR network. We’re deeply embedded and connected with the creative industries through our academic practitioners who are making film, TV, dramatic productions, music, and performance. But we’re also brilliant at collaboration.  We’ll be joined by the BFI, the Edinburgh College of Art at Edinburgh University and Loughborough University. By bringing together their unique expertise respectively in screen and high-end TV, world-leading perspectives on capturing data on these new technologies, and translating these into policy priorities, the Foresight Lab will support a thriving creative industries sector going forward.

Beyond the core partnership, we have a fantastic slate of delivery partners including Olsberg SPI, Arup, Julies’s Bicycle, i2 media research, and Station 12.  Our partners will help us focus on topics including the international market, ecological sustainability, audience engagement and tracking critical business development metrics to help with developing investment strategies to realise value. The creative industries still haven’t cracked the benefits of equality, diversity, and inclusion across the sector, something we address through our partnership with Deborah Williams (CEO of the Creative Diversity Network.)

Q: CoSTARs outputs are meant to benefit the creative industries, but do you see any benefits of Goldsmiths involvement benefiting teaching, learning and research here?

JF: Yes! First, the CoSTAR Foresight Lab will fund new academic research roles in my team at Goldsmiths – a benefit in itself. Second, because we will be working with CoSTAR labs across the country, we will develop a deeper understanding of sector skills gaps. This will give us an excellent vantage point to inform our curriculum development, for our production courses. Third, as the CoSTAR Foresight Lab our job is to understand the direction of travel for the sector and its future R&D agenda.  This will help point the way for our researchers to be more impactful in producing timely and relevant research grant applications that will generate more income. 

Q: What's different about the CoSTAR Foresight Lab?

JF: We’re not going to be academics talking amongst ourselves, we’ll be embedded within the industry from the start. In their set up the CoSTAR Labs are co-located with commercial production facilities: The National Lab at Pinewood Studios, Live Lab at Production Park, Screen Lab at Belfast City Docks, and Realtime Lab at Abertay games studios. Our delivery partners will also keep us focused very explicitly on the impact and value of our insight and foresight. They will have a keen sense of the topics their clients want and need to know about the direction of travel in the sector, about virtual production, and associated technology. The CoSTAR Foresight Lab will a forensic focus on value and impact. It’s the very opposite of “just” another university research centre.

Q: How should/can students and academics at Goldsmiths interact with the new CoSTAR Foresight Lab?

JF: Goldsmiths students will have access to the lab and along with opportunities for work experience we will also be advertising for full time roles. For academics we plan to deepen our collaborations across Psychology, ICCE, Design, Music, and Computing to establish more collaborative work in the form of new modules to train the next generation of creatives. The CoSTAR Foresight Lab will attract companies wanting to establish or deepen relationships with Goldsmiths as knowledge exchange partners, and we’ll be looking to involve our students and academics in this activity.

Professor Jonny Freeman and partners discuss the CoSTAR Foresight Lab and the role it will play in the £75 million project to boost the creative industries.

Find out more about the CoSTAR project backed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council