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TIGA welcomes Ministerial backing for Games 'Centre of Excellence'

10th January 2007

Trade body TIGA has welcomed the recent statements made by Minister for Culture, Sean Woodward, on the need for a dedicated 'Games Academy' for the sector.

Outline plans for such an Academy were first put to the Minister by TIGA representatives at a 'Games Summit' held last July with Woodward and the then DTI Science and Technology Minister, Lord Sainsbury.

The plan for a Games Centre of Excellence /Academy forms a key part of the TIGA 'triple play' strategy to support the development sector going forward from 2007. The Centre is designed to address skills shortages in the industry, and is flanked by the other two projects: a plan to stimulate new original IP from UK companies, and a scheme to assist research, debate and innovation in the technical side of the industry.

These are TIGA's overarching strategies for the continued success and competitiveness of the UK games industry in a rapidly changing and globalising market.

TIGA's strategy is driven by its mission to retain and improve the success of the UK games industry and to keep it competitive. It has been greatly informed by understanding the support schemes operating in other territories such as Canada and Korea; financial incentives and programmes that threaten to dethrone the UK from its position as third largest producers of games content. [A piece of research commissioned by UKTI and DTI and managed by TIGA is currently assessing the effects these state aids might have on the UK's competitiveness for investment].

Since July TIGA has been refining the proposal for a Centre of Excellence by talking to all sizes of development studios, including publisher-owned and independents. The aim is to understand industry requirements and to explore potential partners in the venture. TIGA's CEO Fred Hasson has visited European games initiatives in Berlin and Copenhagen in the summer to see what could be learned from these and to explore possible collaboration.

"There are a number of factors we need to take into account. Firstly the industry is crying out for more suitably skilled people to enter the sector. Secondly skills needed to cope with the next-gen transition to larger studios and changing patterns of production are needed now. There are potential gains to be made by looking at how techniques and know-how from other closely related industries can inform the way we develop product. These are the issues we are exploring with companies and partners."

"Most training is done 'in-house' or 'on the job', which is a large investment for companies and partly explains why there is general anxiety at the poaching and tempting of staff away from studios. There are also variations on the way things are done locally which differ from cluster to cluster dotted around the UK. All this needs to be taken into account if we are going to get this right."

In a former role, Hasson was responsible for training initiatives in the film and TV sectors and speaks from experience of establishing such projects. He is pragmatic however about the challenge ahead: "The key issue will be willingness to pay. We are working on the basis that few will want to put in funds for general training at present so that what we are doing now is investigating potential partners willing to pump prime this process, and developers willing to work with others."

Initial aims of the Centre would be to focus on leadership training (at Head of and Junior levels) and work on production management. The courses need in-depth involvement by the industry if they are to succeed for the industry.

The sector is already making inroads into training new entrants by ensuring through Skillset (Sector Skills Council) that Higher Education provides us with properly skilled people. This year work will start on Post-grad and FE level accreditation.

For more information please contact:

Stephanie Rickwood on 0845 094 1 095 or stephanie.rickwood@tiga.org

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