The Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey has announced the publication of the funding criteria for the first round of funding via the UK Games Fund (the “Fund”), which the government hopes will kick-start the next Tomb Raider.
The UK Games Fund is a new £4 million fund to help boost the UK’s growing video games industry, and provides a welcome opportunity for fledgling developers to gain the support they need to boost an industry which has already produced such gems as Little Big Planet, Runescape, Monument Valley, Batman: Arkham Knight and of course the Grand Theft Auto series (though notably the latter has been, diplomatically, absent from Government announcements on the topic). The project takes over from the Abertay Fund, which ran from 2010 to 2014 and helped companies in Scotland such as Stormcloud Games and Blazing Griffin.
Companies can apply from Thursday 12 November 2015.
This is the first round of distributions from the fund, aimed at more established companies and those with the infrastructure to turn a project around quickly. In future the criteria will broadened, reaching out to earlier stage ventures, and the next call will be on 19 January 2016.
Can you apply?
If you meet all requirements listed in the Fund’s checklist then you should be eligible to apply for this round of funding:
- UK SME games developer, with less than 50 employees (an SME is a small or medium-sized company which is not a member of a large group, generally with a turnover of less than £25.9 million, but the Fund is targeting smaller companies).
- 2 – 15 employees paid via PAYE (companies with up to 50 employees will be considered, but are not the focus)
- 2 references
- Working capital to cover 6 weeks expenditure on your project upfront
- Registration with HMRC for PAYE
- Directors included in the project budget to be paid via PAYE
- Company has not received more than €200k in public funding over the past 3 years including this grant
- An eligible project (see below)
What information must be provided?
The Fund will require:
- authorisation to undertake credit and other due diligence checks;
- your company’s PAYE details;
- assurances that directors will be paid via PAYE for work on the project (and NOT via dividends, directors loan repayments, or via invoices for services);
- a State Aid de Minimis declaration (in a form provided by the Fund); and
The de Minimis declaration relates to State Aid rules which broadly mean that applicants will not be eligible for grants if the grant will mean they will receive more than €200,000 in public funds (from any sources) over the previous 3 year period. You would therefore be expected to declare that this will not apply to your company as a result of any grant awarded by the fund.
Projects that are eligible for funding will include games development to create new games IP, or to further develop existing IP that you own, with focus on launching a minimum viable product (say, a beta) by end March 2016 or soon thereafter.
It will therefore be important, both to support a strong application and to ensure you are able to fulfil the conditions of the grant, to ensure you have sufficient infrastructure in place to deliver your project in a relatively short space of time (notably, offer letters are stated to be issued in early January 2016)
Details of the grant
A grant is an amount of money given to an individual or business for a specific project or purpose (in this case, it will be to fund the project described in your application). Grants are not generally repayable, save for in certain circumstances whereby the grant is not used properly, or the conditions of the grant document are breached.
Grants are being offered in two scales: up to £25,000 and up to £50,000.
For “£25k projects”, executive directors will be expected to make a public pledge to re-invest an unstated proportion of any significant returns in talent /IP development for the UK games ecosystem via the UK Games Fund on a discretionary basis, should their company benefit “disproportionately” as a result of the support. Your company would be expected to volunteer to make staff available to support UK games talent development projects as mentors and judges, again on a discretionary basis.
For “£50k projects”, similar conditions will apply, but in cases where there are co-funders who have been offered a return, the UK Games Fund would want to discuss receiving a similar payment to reinvest in the UK games development community. These larger grants will only be considered where there is evidence of co-funding or a publisher relationship trigger, with a view to providing approximately half of the costs of the project.
12 November 2015: Application form available from
30 November 2015: Deadline for full completion of applications and nominations
w/c 21 December 2015: Successful applicants notified
January 2016: Offer letters issued (these must be returned co-signed within 1 week)
The Fund will be using a universal scoring system to evaluate applications which meet the initial criteria, on the basis of fit with the Fund’s objectives around potential impact.
It is important to note that the fund’s objectives are broadly to boost the UK’s games business and talent ecosystem, to create jobs, promote diverse new teams, enhance skills and increase the amount of new games IPs in the UK. Therefore your application should be strengthened if you can show your project will further these aims.
The Fund will also be looking at quality, development and creative potential of the applicants, workforce diversity, the level of innovation in the context of market potential and the overall sustainability of the business. It will also expect that you demonstrate that the funding can’t be found elsewhere and that its funding is additional.
The fund’s guidance can be found here http://ukgamesfund.com/how-to-apply/.
Before applying for a grant, it is important that companies ensure they are not only eligible for funding, but that if successful there will be no negative impact on any existing funding they may have. This will also include ensuring that they comply with employment and tax requirements, as well as the broader project eligibility criteria.
It will also be crucial to get your application right first time, as the answer will generally be a yes or no, with no room for further dialogue.
Prospective applicants would also be wise to seek advice on the terms of any co-funding agreements with third parties, as well as on the terms of the grant itself and compliance with those terms, to avoid finding themselves in a position where they may need to repay.
BWB has substantial experience in public funding and social finance, understands the dynamics of the sector and can help guide your company through these complex areas in a pragmatic and holistic way. If you require further information or assistance drafting your application for the grant, our digital entertainment team at BWB can help you. Just contact Gemma Boore (email@example.com) for more details.
Posted on 17/11/2015 in Legal UpdatesBack to Knowledge