The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the BFI have launched the UK Global Screen Fund, a one-year pilot fund designed to boost international development and distribution opportunities for the UK’s independent screen sector.
The £7m fund will target support across the screen sector, including narrative games, TV, animation and documentary content. Financed by DCMS and administered by the BFI, it will focus on accelerating export growth, boosting revenues to independent UK screen companies and deepening international relationships.
We catch up with Neil Peplow director, industry & international affairs, at the BFI, to discuss in more detail, who can apply, what the criteria are, and how to go about it.
How much money is available for interactive digital projects (games)?
The UK Global Screen Fund is a £7 million fund for targeted investment across the screen sectors including film, TV, animation, documentary and interactive narrative video games.
The Fund does not have set allocations for the different screen sectors and will assess applications based on a range of criteria including companies’ ability to increase their international reach and revenues. We have built in flexibility from the start because it’s a pilot fund and we don’t yet know where the demand will be. We need to be adaptable depending on the applications we
receive but having consulted UK-wide with companies and trade associations across all sectors including games we have set criteria to ensure that we’re judging them equally.
UK interactive games (or content) companies can apply for support via the UK Global Screen Fund’s International Business Development strand. Eligible companies can apply for any amount between £50,000 and £200,000 in total over the three year period and the support will be in the form of non-repayable grants.
Can you expand a little on the phrase ‘business strategies that drive international growth and IP development’ – will this apply to me?
The UK Global Screen Fund is all about supporting independent screen sector companies to compete in the global marketplace. We’ve focused on areas that will have the biggest impact on increasing export and international reach for UK content, talent and business. We want to encourage business sustainability to support international activity and boost the UK’s international partnerships.
Through the International Business Development funding we’re looking for business strategies that identify opportunities to develop and expand in terms of turnover and scale of content creation, exploitation and/or acquisition. We want to support companies working with interactive narrative games intended for distribution on commercial digital platforms with the intention of generating revenue. The aim is to increase companies’ international revenue, activities and profile.
Business strategies should begin in 2021 and span three years, demonstrating the future potential impact of ambitious but achievable, export-focused business plans. We’re looking for companies who are already established with some success and want to do more with exportable projects and growth strategies. It’s about taking companies to the next level, building on them and helping them to be ambitious.
Is this match funding, do I need other funding in place?
There is no fixed match funding requirement but applicants’ perceived ability to secure additional funding for use during the period of the Business Strategy will be scored in the assessment process. This contribution can include debt or equity funds from external sources as well as self-generated funds. We can fund new activity up to 25% of the company’s annual turnover, so it’s a good boost for trying out something additional or new. As we will be scoring finance plans and financial resilience in the assessment process, being able to evidence partnership funding is helpful and strengthens the business case.
The full details of this can be found in the guidelines which are now online.
How does the BFI judge the worthiness of entries?
The focus of the International Business Development funding is to support revenue generation through export and international expansion. We want to enable eligible companies to achieve measurable results which would not otherwise have been achievable. This is not about editorial judgement, it’s about commercial impact, so a key focus of our assessment is on evidence of commercial intent and finance plans. The full assessment criteria are in the guidelines, including weighting, as we want to be transparent about how decisions will be made, and to help people make good submissions. We will look at past success, quality of the team and track record, and partnerships – so will consider the whole strategy not just the content.
I see that there is regional bias, is it worth applying if I’m based in London say?
Yes absolutely, this is a UK-wide fund, but we are working to ensure a UK-wide benefit and address geographic imbalance within the industry. So as part of our assessment we’ll be considering where companies are based, where projects are made, how projects reflect the culture and talent of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English regions outside Greater London. We are focused on prioritisation but not working to any ring-fenced allocations as we need to remain flexible and adaptable depending on the applications we receive. With 55% of game development roles based outside London we hope this approach works well for the sector. It’s about ensuring equitable access to opportunity and addressing imbalance.
What tips would you make for those applying?
Fully familiarise yourself with the guidelines and bear in mind that this is about presenting compelling strategic plans for corporate growth through international activity. We really need to see a clear case for how this funding would achieve significant results, supporting your business to open up new global export opportunities. Register your interest and get your application in, in good time. We’re anticipating a lot of interest from different sectors so having enough time will help with queries and requests for information, meaning we can do the application justice. And be specific – show us what you’ve done and how the plan is credible.
How will the pilot be judged as a success, and will it continue if that’s the case?
We believe that the commitment of this £7m fund at a time when public funds are so stretched is testament to the support that the Secretary of State has provided to the sector and vital recognition of the value of the UK screen industries. We are working to gather evidence of success, through proof of concept, early results and impact. Essentially the fund’s impact will be measured by international revenue, international audiences and international partnerships.