Perhaps no other corner of creativity offers more promise or potential for return that the UK’s media tech industry. Right now, businesses across the country are hard at work developing new concepts that will quite literally change the way we interact with digital media and each other. From an investor’s point of view, there couldn’t be a more fertile landscape on which to stake your claim – however, it can be difficult knowing exactly where to start with this explosive and rapidly evolving market. Thankfully, Creative England’s latest Evolve investor panel discussion, hosted in partnership with UKBAA and the BFI, took aim at unpicking this exact topic and shedding some light on the leaps and bounds being made in a new frontier of digital connection and innovation.
“Media tech is all about combining media – whether that’s music, movies, television, gaming, advertising, information, news media or social media platforms, with technology,” explained Creative England CFO Mejabeen Patrick, kick starting a discussion that featured panelists like Anstream Arcade CEO Steve Cottam, Supernode Global partner Gina King, Dimension co-founder Simon Windsor and Makerversity CEO Fiona Dent. “The definition is fluid and a lot of sub-sectors are converging,” she continued, “but one thing is certain: media tech is one of the fastest growing sectors – and it’s here to stay.”
Of all the game-changing concepts being created by media tech SMEs, one in particular stands out as the disruptor that’ll impact almost every aspect of our daily lives. The Metaverse – or a shared virtual/augmented reality space where users can work, socialise, play and learn – encompasses most of what makes media tech so exciting. As such, it’s no wonder viewers heard the term used so frequently by our Evolve panelists. “For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the Metaverse and the mixed reality future we’re working towards,” said Windsor, whose company Dimension Studios specialises in creating mixed reality characters and landscapes. “We’re really excited about the opportunities that the Extended Reality and immersive ecosystem offer at the moment – it’s a fantastically exciting time for storytellers and we see this very much as the dawn of a new era for content.”
It’s a sentiment that was shared by Windsor’s fellow speakers: “What we’re seeing is a glimpse at what’s going to happen in the next ten years – everyone operating in a digital environment,” suggested King, commenting on the current state of immersive media tech content. “From the way that we work, to the way that we connect with friends and family and entertain ourselves – the Metaverse is an area that has huge opportunity. We’re starting to see glimpses of these trends that have already accelerated,” she added, reflecting the rapid speed at which the sector is currently moving, “but we’re also anticipating much more acceleration because digital technology is so pervasive in so many different forms.”
With so much untapped talent ready to be introduced to mainstream audiences, early funding is crucial in ensuring the UK’s media tech sector continues to grow and lead the way. “The UK’s got a really rich heritage in the creative industries, and historically one of the challenges it faces is early stage investment in nascent technologies at a time where the market evidence isn’t established,” reasoned Cottam. “It really needs that early-stage funding to help these new companies come to the fore.” For investors, one of the keys to understanding the full potential of this burgeoning sector is to look beyond its entertainment value and at the way it’ll shake up working environments too. “There’s a lot of B2B potential in this sector,” explained Dent. “I think telling the success stories in B2B as well as B2C is very important. Some definitions about what this sector can really do would really help investors.”
So, what practical steps can anyone looking to support the media tech sector take? Dent offered her advice: “There are lots of events showcasing start-ups in the sector, so I would advise anybody to attend those events because they’ll give you a really good flavor of what’s important, what’s cutting-edge, what’s happening now and what people are invested and interested in – but also reach out and talk to companies. There’s huge value in that exchange,” she reasoned. “If you’re new to the sector, take a broad sweep, then narrow it down.” Whatever route investors decided to take, the overriding point raised at the start of our panel remains the same: media tech is here to stay. “We’re only scratching the surface right now,” smiled Windsor. “For me, it feels like a natural evolution for how we experience digital and social content – and investors should be really interested.”
To learn more about the opportunities in the UK’s media tech sector, what our full Evolve panel discussion.