The UK loves video games. In 2017, Brits spent a record £5.1 billion on games and related products. Just this weekend I was shown wonderful creations by my great-nieces as they played Minecraft. As the Minister responsible for video games, it gives me great pleasure to champion this highly-skilled and innovative industry, which is growing faster than our economy as a whole.
British video game companies are developing rich and compelling content for growing audiences. Just a cursory glance at the nominations for this year's BAFTA Best British Video Game nominations proves this. Whether it's global blockbusters like Red Dead Redemption 2, emotionally sensitive storytelling with 11-11 Memories Retold, or family-friendly multiplayer mayhem in Overcooked 2, UK video game developers are at the cutting edge.
Their games are combining some of the most creative elements of culture while driving technological advances -- including in virtual, mixed or augmented reality. Through our Industrial Strategy, our £16 million Audiences of the Future programme is designed to help companies develop these technologies into new immersive experiences. It recently awarded £4 million to the WEAVR project, led by ESL UK, which will produce a new platform that will transform the way remote audiences engage with live sports.
I want to see the sector continue to succeed and key to that is ensuring there continues to be a steady pipeline of grassroots talent into video games. This was one of the reasons we helped establish the UK Games Fund in 2015.
So far it has supported 250 university graduates and more than 90 British companies to create their own video games, with 85% of its spend to date outside London. Last week it launched the next round of Tranzfuser, its competition to nurture the next generation, by giving graduates across the UK a shot at turning their dream into a reality.
"I want to see the sector continue to succeed and key to that is ensuring there continues to be a steady pipeline of grassroots talent into video games"
Teams will be given up to £5,000 and ten weeks to develop their idea for a great game from concept to playable demo. They'll then go head-to-head for a grant of up to £25,000 as their games are reviewed by the public and industry experts at EGX, the UK's biggest consumer games show.
This is a brilliant initiative and we've recently announced an additional £1.5 million in funding to expand the UK Games Fund, with the extended activity expected to deliver GVA of £22 million.
Another major commitment on talent lies in our landmark Creative Industries Sector Deal -- £150 million of spending commitments from industry and government to support the creative industries, including video games.
Part of this is our £14 million Creative Careers Programme. By engaging young people and careers advisors, it will develop new entry routes into the wide range of employment opportunities in digital creative sectors such as games and visual effects.
Elsewhere in the Deal is the Creative Scale-Up programme, aimed at increasing the profitability and productivity of fast-growing creative businesses to ensure they are better placed to access finance. This programme will be able to support early stage scalable games businesses operating in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and the West of England.
These locations are just a few that are home to the UK's estimated 2,000 video games companies, many of which are geographically grouped together. We're investing £80 million to help boost the productivity of these creative clusters. I see them as crucial to driving regional growth and prosperity, encouraging the use of future technology and increasing our creative skills.
Of course, one of the core ways in which we continue to assist the sector is through the Video Games Tax Relief. Since 2014 it has paid out £230 million supporting 480 video game productions. Every £1 invested into the games industry via the relief has generated an additional £4 in GVA for the UK economy.
So whether it's on skills, innovation or funding, this Government is committed to helping brilliant British video game companies meet their full potential. Not just as employers or drivers of regional growth but as exporters of innovation and entertainment around the world.
Margot James is the Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries in the UK, and Conservative MP for Stourbridge.