Crossrail & John Lewis head hunt for virtual & augmented reality innovators

arvr headset

Once the domain of science fiction fantasy, the AR/VR market is now forecast to hit $150bn revenue by 2020 according to Digi-Capital. Inventive startups and small business are now invited to apply for a share of £210,000 in funding to trial ideas across relatively new and untested areas of the field such as music, retail, healthcare, education, construction and tactile technology.

Britain is already a global player in AR and VR innovation. Earlier this year, ‘augmented virtuality’ start-up Surreal Vision, winner of IC tomorrow’s 2014 Entertainment on the Move contest, was acquired by Oculus Rift, proving the strength of UK digital talent and the calibre of IC tomorrow-funded projects.

As well as a share of the funding, the six winners will enjoy valuable partnerships with industry leaders including Crossrail, John Lewis, Pearson plc, Columbia Records, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) with Enteric HTC and Royal London Hospital, and King’s College London with Konica Minolta and Ericsson.

The winning entrepreneurs will keep 100 per cent of their IP and will receive mentorship and promotion to help bring their solutions to market.

The six categories and their respective partners include:

  • Smart construction– Crossrail
  • Immersive retail– John Lewis
  • Enhanced medical training and care– Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Enteric HTC and Royal London Hospital
  • Next-generation vocational education– Pearson plc
  • Tactile experiences– King’s College London, Konica Minolta and Ericsson
  • Amplified music experiences– Columbia Records

Matt Sansam, programme manager at IC tomorrow, said: “The re-emergence of virtual and augmented reality is attracting a lot of attention, with pioneering start-ups like Surreal Vision leading the way in the UK. But the potential for innovation goes far beyond gaming and entertainment.

“Successful applicants will use AR/VR to re-shape the way we approach many industrial and technical challenges, such as bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping experiences to help British retailers, or empowering healthcare professionals to carry out remote diagnosis and virtual training. In launching this contest, we are looking to nurture original, creative ideas that have the potential to stimulate the economy and drive growth.”

Marie Gilmour, Crossrail Innovation Programme Manager, added:  “Innovation has a key role to play in delivering improved performance. Crossrail’s Innovate18 programme is excited about this opportunity to find new applications of AR/VR technologies that could potentially contribute to a significant change in how construction projects are delivered, further enhancing the UK’s ability to deliver the major projects of the future.”

The deadline for applications is Tuesday 18 August 2015. Shortlisted entries will be invited to a live pitch and Q&A with a panel of judges. The final trial launch for successful applicants is scheduled to take place in summer 2016.

Full information on the contest is also available at