Why the government thinks VR is the 'future’ of the UK's creative industry

John Whittingdale

The UK government is turning its attention to the virtual reality industry in the UK, which it believes is “the future” of the creative industry and is mulling tax incentives to help support companies in Britain who are already working in the space.

This comes as the latest figures from the government show that the creative industries are now generating almost £10m an hour for the UK economy, with jobs in the sector increasing three times faster than the UK average. Occupations which have particularly flourished include programmers and software developers, where jobs are up 30 per cent.

Speaking to The Drum secretary of state for culture, media and sport, John Whittingdale said that VR will provide “phenomenal opportunities” and outlined how the government will help to support UK companies in a post-Brexit environment.

“I think that virtual reality is without a doubt the future, I don’t know how long [it will take to arrive] but it is very easy to see the phenomenal opportunities that it offers. It will have a whole host of applications and it is something that I think we are in the lead at. We will look to see what help we will give – we have already provided a lot of incentives to different areas of creative industries. We’ve started with film, we moved to electronic games, to high end drama and if there is a case for providing tax incentives in this area it is one I’d be happy to put to the chancellor.

“The benefit of being outside the EU is that we don’t have to go and seek permission from Brussels before we provide that kind of incentive, which we’ve had to before now. Obviously skills are going to be essential and that is something we are trying to ensure in the curriculum to develop the skills that we need.”

Whittingdale also urged young tech companies that are considering leaving London for alternative European headquarters to stay in the country to take advantage of new opportunities such as new trade agreements.

When questioned on the now thorny issue of keeping EU talent in the creative industries in the UK due to new immigration laws that will come into effect, Whittingdale was unclear, instead suggesting that not all talent comes from within Europe.

“What I would like to see are changes to the immigration policy attracting people with skills that will be valuable in this sector and many others. They may come from the EU they may not, some of the most advanced people in this field are likely to be coming from India and from China.”

Whittingdale spoke to The Drum during a visit to creative software developer The Foundry, whose clients include Pixar and Framestore, and recently released a report that found of 2,590 people based in the entertainment and advertising industry, nearly a quarter (23.2 per cent) are ready to invest in VR tools and expertise.

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Natalie Mortimer

I look after all things creative.

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