BCC Call For Applications To Augment The City Challenge Fund

Northern Irish businesses who wish to explore the future role of immersive technologies in visitor experiences have been invited to apply to the new Augment the City Challenge Fund, led by Belfast City Council's (BCC) City Innovation Office and funded by the Belfast Region City Deal.

Chair of Belfast City Council's Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, Councillor Tina Black, said: "This new competition is going to bring together innovators from our creative industries sectors with our leading tourism organisations to explore how immersive technology such as augmented, virtual, and mixed reality will shape and enhance future attractions, including our highly anticipated Belfast Stories.

"Successful applicants will have the opportunity to develop and then showcase their innovative ideas and prototypes. And we're providing state-of-the-art wireless digital connectivity to support companies to push the boundaries of what is currently possible with this technology.

"By working directly with innovators, the region's tourism partners will be able to gain valuable insights which will help to inform the design and development of new visitor attractions."

Professor Liam Maguire, Chair of the Belfast Region City Deal's Digital Advisory Board and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Ulster University, added: "Augment the City demonstrates a key aim of the Belfast Region City Deal's digital pillar. It's encouraging collaboration with some of our most exciting creative digital companies. And by doing so, it's stimulating R&D investment in one of the region's high growth sectors. Ultimately, such investment contributes to a more productive economy, while helping to ensure that new visitor experiences are better placed to harness digital technologies – and our visitors are more engaged."
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Minister for the Economy, Conor Murphy, said: "Today's launch of the Augment the City Challenge Fund, funded by the Belfast Region City Deal, is excellent news.The fund offers a significant opportunity for businesses in Belfast and the surrounding region to receive crucial support to develop immersive 5G tourism products and visitor experiences which will help to enhance our tourism offering. This aligns with my economic vision which emphasises the pivotal role of investing in innovation to enhance productivity and to create good jobs. I look forward to seeing the positive impacts that the fund will deliver for the region."

The Lord Caine, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said: "The creative industries sector is an exciting and rapidly changing environment, and one that is crucial for the future needs of Northern Ireland's tourism sector and economy.

"I am delighted that the Augment the City Challenge Fund, funded by the Belfast Region City Deal, which is being supported by the UK Government to the tune of £350 million, is now open. This funding will provide enormous support to local innovation businesses to develop their ideas and technologies to boost Belfast's digital tourism. Through supporting local SMEs, we will help to ensure that Northern Ireland, as an integral part of the world's 6th largest economy, is the best place in the world to invest and visit."

The Challenge Fund competition is now open for applications at www.smartbelfast.city. Local businesses interested in applying for funding can find out more by registering for an online briefing event taking place this Thursday, 18 April 2024.

The Augment the City Challenge Fund is part of Belfast City Council's XR Belfast programme which provides a range of funding, skills development and business support to people working in Belfast's innovation and creative industries sectors to help build their capacity in using and exploiting emerging technologies.

For more information on Augment the City, visit www.smartbelfast.city or the Belfast Region City Deal, visit www.belfastregioncitydeal.co.uk

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