A grant of more than Pounds 500,000 has brought the University of Abertay Dundee a step closer to setting up a centre of excellence for computer games technology.
The Pounds 530,000 grant comes from a Pounds 10 million Scottish Higher Education Funding Council programme to help meet Scotland's needs in the next century, and boosts Abertay's plans for the country's first dedicated research and development facility for computer games. It will fund a research director, two full time researchers, two PhD studentships and an industrial liaison adviser to ensure the work is relevant to the industry.
Abertay's proposed international centre for computer games and virtual entertainment, IC-CAVE, will help to develop ideas and techniques for British based companies, boosting them in the world games market.
Grahame Wright, Abertay's deputy principal, said: "In America, it is an enormous business, bigger than Hollywood. Even in the United Kingdom, it is a phenomenal size, but the skills developed from computer games animation are in desperately short supply in many, many industries."
The university has close links with industry through the Scottish Games Alliance, chaired by Abertay graduate David Jones, creator of the games Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto and Silicon Valley and head of games design firm DMA.
Ian Marshall, head of Abertay's school of computing, said: "We want games companies to approach us with areas they want investigated, either as short or long term projects." This would often be carried out free, Dr Marshall said. But if companies split the costs with the university on researchers' salaries, this would effectively double the effort and could provide detailed technical work exclusively to that company.
John Sutherland, acting head of IC-CAVE, said: "Since 1997, we have put more than Pounds 600,000 of our own money into games teaching facilities and staff. Now we have the money to help companies look over the horizon to see and prepare for what will be the coming markets."
Abertay is currently promoting the use of games as learning environments, which is expected to have a huge worldwide market from both children and adults. The university already runs courses in games programming and games creativity and artwork. Mr Wright said students not only had to have good mathematical and computing skills, but also had to have artistic flair and an entrepreneurial approach to their studies.
"Companies are desperately short of people who not only have computer skills but also business acumen," he said.