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  • £575,000 Augment the City Challenge Fund

    A new £575,000 XR funding competition, opening on 15 April 2024, will bring together innovators from our creative industries sector with our leading tourism organisations to explore how immersive technology will enhance future visitor attractions across the Belfast region, including the landmark Belfast Stories

    The Augment the City challenge competition, led by our City Innovation Office and funded by the Belfast Region City Deal (link opens in new window), will enable local businesses to develop ideas, proof of concepts, and prototypes, using immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality to enhance visitor attractions. 

    An online information session will take place on 18 April 2024 to provide interested businesses with further information on the competition.


    We are designing a new tourism landmark - Belfast Stories - which will open in Belfast city centre in 2029.  

    Belfast Stories will reflect the unique spirit of Belfast through a variety of media and a mix of immersive experiences. Celebrating Belfast’s people and places, this new attraction will enable visitors and local people to connect with the city and one another through stories, screen, and social spaces. 

    We are looking for creative technology innovators to develop concepts and proposals which will use innovative immersive and digital technologies to gather, curate and present stories about Belfast and its people. 

    The full challenge brief will be published on 15 April 2024. 

    What are we offering? 

    Successful applicants will benefit from: 

    • funding to support innovation and R&D to develop ideas, proofs of concepts, and prototypes in immersive technologies, 
    • access to a venue in Belfast, with state-of-the-art advanced wireless digital connectivity, to develop, trial and showcase their innovative ideas and prototypes, 
    • user testing and feedback from visitors to help improve and enhance their product; and 
    • a better understanding of the future needs of those creating new visitor attractions in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. 

    Funding available 

    The funding competition will be delivered across three phases: 

    • Phase 1: Up to 10 companies will be offered up to £10,000 each to develop their concepts. This will include an in-person presentational pitch in Belfast at the end of phase 1. 
    • Phase 2: Up to five companies will be offered up to £35,000 to further develop their proposals. 
    • Phase 3: Up to three companies will be offered £100,000 each to develop prototypes. 

    Key dates: Phase 1 

    • 15 April 2024: Challenge Fund opens for applications 
    • 18 April 2024: Information session for local businesses 
    • Mid-May 2024: Closing date for applications 
    • End of May 2024: Successful applicants announced 
    • June 2024: Phase 1 commences – concept development 

    Information session: 18 April 2024 

    Date: 18 April 2024 
    Time: 10am to 11am 
    Location: Online 

    An online information session will take place on 18 April 2024 to provide applicants with further information on the challenge brief and an opportunity to ask questions. 

    Register for the Augment the City Challenge Fund information session 

    More information 

    Full competition details, criteria and application form will be available on 15 April 2024. 

    This is a Small Business Research Initiative challenge and is being supported by the NI Strategic Investment Board (SIB). 

    For more information, email

    Belfast Region City Deal 

    The Augment the City Challenge Fund is funded by the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) (link opens in new window). The BRCD is an ambitious £1 billion programme of investment that aims to deliver inclusive economic growth in the Belfast region and cuts across the responsibilities of local councils, the Northern Ireland Executive and UK Government. The BRCD partnership is comprised of the Belfast region’s six local authorities, four further education colleges, and two universities. 

  • XRBelfast

    We’re supporting people working in Belfast’s innovation and creative industries sectors to build their capacity in using emerging technologies (with a focus on immersive), so they can access funding and finance opportunities for product development and prototyping.

  • Creative Capacity

    We’re working with Digital Catapult NI to offer two free Creative Capacity sessions, aimed at a broad range of Belfast based SMEs, from those working on sports science, tourism and cultural projects, to manufacturing and engineering.

    You’ll hear inspiring stories and case studies from a mix of Global XR brand leaders and NI based creative industry start-ups. They’ll give a unique insight into the exciting world of Immersive Technology, an understanding of the tools and skills required to create compelling, successful Immersive Technology projects across a range of sectors - and how you can apply them to your business.

    We’ll cover next-generation interfaces, XR workflows and give the inside track on how immersive tech giants and local businesses are already working with major companies, SMEs and creatives to put this technology into real use cases. You’ll also have the chance to try some amazing immersive experiences for yourself.

    The Tools and Business of Immersive Technology workshop

    2pm to 6pm on 8 November 2023, Ormeau Baths

    We’re working with Digital Catapult NI to offer two free Creative Capacity sessions, aimed at a broad range of Belfast based SMEs, from those working on sports science, tourism and cultural projects, to manufacturing and engineering.

  • Creative Mentorship programme

    You might be working in graphic design, illustration, advertising, animation or gaming, or with 2D or 3D design via CAD software, but haven't yet realised how implementing AR, VR or MR workflows could enhance your business. 

    Following the Creative Capacity sessions, Digital Catapult will provide the opportunity for a limited number of businesses who have attended to pursue one-to-one mentoring.  It’s an opportunity to delve deeper into Immersive Technology and how it can make a difference to your projects or working practices through efficiencies, cost savings and marketing impact, and more.

    We’ll share further details at the Creative Capacity sessions.

  • Belfast HUB-IN Challenge Fund

    The fund awarded £120,000 to six proposals from Belfast's creative and digital businesses, artists, and innovators to develop innovative visitor experiences that will animate and enrich the city’s Maritime Mile (link opens in new window).

    They will collaborate with heritage organisations and communities along the Maritime Mile in early 2024 to develop prototypes which use technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, to encourage more visitors and local people to explore the historic area which connects attractions, sculptures and viewing points on both sides of the River Lagan. 

    The projects are part of the Belfast HUB-IN (Hub of Innovation) programme, developed by our City Innovation Office in partnership with the Maritime Belfast Trust and funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 initiative to explore how digital innovation can help to sustain, enhance, and preserve the Maritime Mile’s rich and unique heritage. 

    To read more information on the Belfast HUB-IN, go to Smart Belfast City (link opens in new link).


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