Production Park, which is one of the UK’s largest facilities for the live events industry, has revealed plans for a £7m research and development (R&D) project on its Wakefield campus.
The R&D centre, and its specialist equipment, will be used to deliver a support programme targeting SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) across the live events industry, covering specialisms such as music, TV, film, sports, corporate events, theatre and arts.
The development – known as XPLOR – will become one of the UK’s first specialist innovation centres in the live events industry when it is completed in Spring 2022. The facility, a partnership between Production Park’s Backstage Academy and Wakefield Council, will be based on a park in South Kirkby.
A spokesman said: “The team leading XPLOR believe the new centre of innovation will foster ‘disruptive growth’ for SMEs within the industry who might have faced uncertainty due to Covid-19, and hope it will further invigorate the live events sector, which is estimated to be worth £30 billion to the UK’s economy.”
Jim Farmery, XPLOR’s Development Director, said: “We’re incredibly excited about the launch of XPLOR, which has come at a vital time for our industry.
“Not only will it facilitate business growth in the region, but as a UK-first powerhouse for the events industry, it will also drive employment within the sector.
“XPLOR will also play a pivotal role in fostering disruptive growth of the industry’s SMEs, who might need support in taking their business to the next level or adapting to challenges posed by the impact of Covid-19.
Mr Farmery added: “SMEs will approach us with a challenge, idea or product, and our team will work closely with them to cultivate the concept and bring it to fruition.
“We’ll be holding boutique mentoring sessions for SMEs keen for support, which will include face-to-face or virtual master classes, workshops, residential weekends, hack challenges and access to an e-learning platform. It’s not only a really exciting project for Production Park, but for the wider UK live events sector, too.”
Coun Denise Jeffery, the leader of Wakefield Council said: “This is fantastic news and a welcome boost for the creative and digital industries sector and for our district’s overall economy as we begin to recover from the impact of COVID-19.
“We have amazing talent in our district and this investment will help to encourage growth and job opportunities in the live events and digital industries. It also supports our ambition to foster the development of creative and digital industries and new job creation across our district.”
“This investment also supports new business incubation and job creation capacity being brought forward in Wakefield city centre.”
The launch of XPLOR coincides with the launch of three postgraduate degrees by Backstage Academy which are designed to improve the skillsets of the sector’s graduates who are entering the live events industry in a post-COVID world.
Backstage Academy is a higher education institution based near Wakefield, offering degrees and courses for the live events industry.
Based in South Kirkby, West Yorkshire, Production Park is a community of studios, businesses and educational facilities working together to create live events technology, produce live experiences and share live industry best practice.
The Backstage Innovation Centre Project is a partnership between Backstage Academy and Wakefield Council that will see the creation of a specialist knowledge and innovation centre focusing on research and development for the live events industry and its supply chain.
SME owners interested in receiving business support should complete an online registration form at www.xplor.on