Creative England’s CE50 2018 is the fourth annual list of the 50 best up and coming disruptors and innovators from across the English Regions.
Spanning the film and TV, gaming and digital media industries, the CE50 are chosen for their talent, ingenuity and ability to turn a bright idea into a commercial success.
Previous CE50 have gone on to receive BAFTA nominations, opened international offices, revolutionised the way Western products are sold to the Chinese market, and received the prestigious Nora Ephron prize at the Tribeca Film Festival.
This year’s cohort highlights the move towards technology and creativity merging to create meaningful solutions to real-world problems, with many of the companies championing diversity, and giving a platform to unheard voices.
The list is hand-picked by Creative England, which champions and supports the creative industries across the regions outside of London, along with nominations from regional partners including The Growth Company in Greater Manchester, Cultivate Cornwall, Stoke City Council, NGI (NewcastleGateshead Initiative) and Tech Nation.
Film and TV
Caroline Norbury, CEO of Creative England, comments: "The people and businesses featured in this year’s CE50 are at the very forefront of creativity. Through their work – be it games, film or TV productions, interactive platforms or immersive experiences – they produce the original ideas, the entertaining content and the innovations which make this country truly world-leading in the creative industries.
“According to the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS), the UK creative sector contributes £92 billion to the UK economy, yet despite the fact that the creative industries are growing more rapidly than other sectors in 9 out of every 10 locations in the UK, they still struggle to get finance.
“Creative England exists to fill the access to finance gap and continues to provide a combination of tailored investment and support to help creative businesses develop new business models, deliver products and services and take risks on innovation."
Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, said: “Our creative industries are an economic and cultural powerhouse enjoyed by millions around the world and it is great to see the innovative and creative talent on this list. We are working closely with industry to make sure this upward trajectory continues as we build a Britain fit for the future.”
According to the 2018 Tech Nation report the UK’s digital tech sector grew 2.6 times quicker than the rest of the economy between 2016 and 2017, with the industry now being worth nearly £184bn. The report also found that digital tech companies’ turnover grew by 4.5% between 2016-17, whilst UK GDP grew by 1.8%.
This year’s CE50 reflects the expanding world of immersive technologies, with virtual reality and augmented reality companies such as Interactive imagination in Hertfordshire, making innovative use of technology across VR, touch-screen and mechatronic interactions within public spaces.
Enlighten has become an authoritative name in the world of AR, with cutting-edge work which, among many applications, provides learners with virtual access to a construction site, a sports stadium or even an art gallery.
CE50 companies using technology within children’s education include YouTeachMe, the brainchild of Derby-based Paul Rose, a former primary school head teacher who has used his first-hand experience to create an innovative video platform for teachers to share materials, and Chatta, which is a unique training programme designed to accelerate children’s speech and language skills.
Businesses using tech to tell stories include newly formed, Manchester-based, Virtual Reality Associates, a company producing narratives with immersive media; software company Covatic, which has launched the world’s first broadcast personalisation engine to help media companies adapt the content viewers’ see in an increasingly competitive digital media marketplace and Slanted Theory in Sheffield, whose technology enables companies to visualise and explore their data in new 3D ways.
CE50 companies helping to boost skills and help the growing technology sector to thrive are Manchester-based Northcoders, whose bootcamp is designed to get coding beginners into entry level software engineering roles; InnovateHer in Liverpool, which is on a mission to enhance the coding and digital sector as a more attractive place for young girls and women.
Utilising tech for social change is Bulbshare, an audience collaboration tool that empowers people to shape their causes and campaigns, often giving voice to diverse or marginalised groups and Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol, supporting social action for individuals and communities using technology, community arts and education.
Utilising tech to increase workplace productivity and engagement are FreelanceDiary, a smart app based diary, via which companies can view available freelancers immediately and hire directly, and London based start-up ThanksBox, a company revolutionising employee engagement with its online workplace communications system.
Landmrk, a company that span out of 2017 CE50 company Strange Thoughts, is a location based experiences platform built on the mobile web that has attracted the attention of Lynx for its Anthony Joshua campaign, and Shakira, both of whom have used the platform to created mixed-reality experiential marketing campaigns, creating hotspots UK and world-wide to interact with consumers in real time.
Film and TV
Over the last five years, inward investment in Britain's film and high-end TV industries has grown by more than 100 per cent, to over £2 billion production expenditure a year, and with the right conditions that annual figure could double again by 2025, according to CIC.
This year’s CE50 features emerging female Film & TV talent, including London-based producer Emily Morgan of Quiddity Films, and writer-director Claire Oakley. Claire’s debut feature Make Up has been developed through Creative England’s iFeatures initiative, and is being produced by Emily, whose career reached new heights this year with a BAFTA win for I Am Not a Witch. A powerful new female voice in British cinema, Scot Eva Riley’s feature film Perfect 10 will shoot later this year, also through iFeatures.
Another exciting female talent is Stoke-on-Trent born actress and writer Rachel Shenton, who brought the issue of profound deafness to the public's attention with Academy Award-winning short film The Silent Child. The topic of deafness is also being brought to the big screen by Ted Evans with his debut feature Retreat, an iFeatures-produced thriller which is set to break new ground as the first ever film in British Sign Language.
CE50 independent production companies include the Cambridge Picture Company; launched by Oscar-nominated producer Ivan MacTaggart, the company’s first feature film Red Joan, a co-production with Trademark films, stars Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson. Meanwhile, Chester-based Mad as Birds has received critical acclaim and international success for debut feature film, Set Fire To The Stars, which stars Elijah Wood and Celyn Jones.
According to the Creative Industries Council (CIC), the UK’s video games industry is already established as the largest in Europe and the fifth largest globally. Exceptional growth is forecast in the next five years, with UK consumer spending on video games set to reach £5 billion by 2021.
Amongst the innovative CE50 companies in the gaming sector are Semaeopus, which has produced Off-Grid, a game which mirrors real-world events surrounding data privacy; the team at Brighton-based Toxic Games, who have gone from student hobbyists to independent developers with puzzle game Q.U.B.E., and in Huddersfield, Ocean Spark is winning acclaim for its leadership, skills development and engagement with female developers, as well as its unique gaming titles.
In the spirit of collaboration, CE50 games company Fierce Kaiju is working in partnership with one of last year’s cohort, and fellow VR pioneers, Coatsink, to produce a new top secret VR IP due to be released this year. Ripstone is a prolific publisher and indie games developer, with a focus on the digital gaming space, which aims to foster honest and equal relationships between development and publishing to create better games for all.
CE50 companies developing visually stunning games include Inkle Studios in Cambridge, soon to launch the stunning Heaven's Vault, which is made up of hundreds of meticulously hand-drawn frames of 2D art within beautiful 3D environments and Quarter Circle Games, who have the innovative horror game The Peterson Case set for release this year.
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