M3 region: Tech and creativity hubs are drivers for gaming and film growth

Enterprise M3 is rapidly forging a niche as the UK region where ‘creativity meets tech’. The LEP is ambitious to maximise this asset as part of its strategy to grow the local economy in its forthcoming Local Industrial Strategy.

Enterprise M3 areas of support include:

  • Investment in Guildford and Aldershot as major hubs for game-making;
  • Shepperton Studios expansion and Netflix hub creation;
  • StoryFutures, led by Royal Holloway, University of London.


The success of the EM3-sponsored Guildford Games Festival consolidated the town’s reputation as the UK’s ‘Hollywood of Games’. The cluster in Guildford and nearby Aldershot can look forward to further growth after the Department for International Trade recognised the commercial strengths of the gaming industry there and  is marketing the area to overseas investors under its High Potential Opportunities scheme. Innovation foundation Nesta has also designated Aldershot and Guildford jointly as a UK game-making hub.

Enterprise M3 chief executive Kathy Slack said : “It is incredibly exciting to watch the growing success and recognition of  our createch sector. We have been working with partners to support this strength and we are delighted to see our local businesses and the economy of the entire Enterprise M3 region benefit from the funding, guidance and support we have offered.

“Nesta has highlighted how the games industry benefits from co-location with other creative sectors, and also highlights the importance of a strong broadband and talent infrastructure for the development of games hubs. Our Local Industrial Strategy will look at these ideas and how we can further support the games industry in these elements.”

Film and television

Shepperton Studios’ £500 million expansion involves the construction of new sound stages, workshops, and additional infrastructure. This will position the company, part of the Pinewood Studios Group, on a truly global scale and increase capacity for film and high-end television production in the UK.

In a major coup for the Studios, ahead of the expansion, Netflix has chosen to create a dedicated production hub, featuring 14 sound stages, workshops and office space, at the iconic Studios.

Corporate affairs director of the Pinewood Studios Group, Andrew Smith, said: “Shepperton is already one of the most significant film studios in the world, with a global brand, internationally recognised. Ridley Scott’s films were all shot here and more recently ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ and ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’.   

“This expansion will make it the second largest film studio in the world. There is an acute global shortage of sound stages and Shepperton’s expansion will meet directly, not just the UK’s but the global demand.”

Shepperton’s vision is aligned with Enterprise M3’s emerging Local Industrial Strategy which includes among its key themes: science, innovation and enterprise; people and skills; a step change in digital connectivity; exporting.

The future of storytelling

A further ambitious createch project is revolutionising the future of story-telling by harnessing hi-technology to engage audiences in new experiences.

Under an impressive consortium, led by Royal Holloway, University of London, StoryFutures, brings together universities, world-leading creative and technology companies, with SMEs to tackle the challenge of next-generation storytelling and ensure that the UK’s creative workforce has the world-leading skills to take it forward.

Based at Royal Holloway’s campus in Egham, technologies such as augmented, virtual, mixed and cross-reality (AR, VR, MR, XR), smart devices and artificial intelligence, are  being  used to create new experiences. The Story Futures Academy is presently working on a VR documentary that explores the Aylesbury Estate, the largest council estate in Europe.

Professor James Bennett, Royal Holloway, said:  “The UK has a world leading reputation in storytelling, whether that’s TV, film, theatre or computer gaming. We also have great technology companies and the challenge for the future will be to bring them together and find new ways of telling those great stories.”