TODAY sees the launch of the University of York's new £18 million Digital Creativity Labs. Business editor Laura Knowlson finds out how the move will see the creation of a new national hub linking research with business in the digital sectors.

Last summer, in his first Budget of the new Government, Chancellor George Osborne revealed York had been chosen to host one of six new Next Generation Digital Economy Centres, worth a total of £45 million.

The move saw £18 million make its way to the University of York to lead a national Digital Creativity Hub in which academics will work with Government, business, the third sector and the public to harness the power of digital creativity in a bid provide new technologies for digital games and interactive media.

Today sees the official launch of the Digital Creativity Labs (DC Labs), creating a world centre of excellence for research at the University's Ron Cooke Hub.

Involving three UK research councils, four universities, and more than 80 collaborative partner organisations, the DC Labs have been tasked with helping organisations access the world-class research on offer at universities to ensure that the UK capitalises on the business, cultural and lifestyle benefits of digital creativity.

Alongside the York labs, spoke sites will operate at the University of Falmouth, Goldsmiths - University of London and Cass Business School, working with partners including Creative England.

Professor Peter Cowling, director of the DCLabs and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence, said: "York is already a UNESCO City of Media Arts in recognition of leading position in with digital research, innovation and enterprise.

"The addition of the DC Labs strengthens this yet further.

"We will be the first place to come to draw on research expertise across a range of disciplines, working with industry experts, and so find the information and forge the connections that will turn ideas into outcomes and challenges into solutions.

"The hub is a little different from a standard research grant. We are driven by the need for impact. We need to deliver economic impact but also social and cultural impact."

Professor Cowling said the DC Labs build on a £90 million portfolio at the University, adding to existing research, technologies and ideas.

He said: "What the DC Labs enable us to do is take this research, develop this further and produce impact.

"It's not enough for us to sit in ivory towers and come up with this great ideas. We have to get out there and engage with companies and the public sector.

"We have a great history at the University of York in terms of digital creative research. The feather in our cap is the fact that York is a city where there are great things happening. There's a thriving scene of digital creative business in York."

With the creation of 15 new digital creativity research roles, at levels from professorial to post-doctoral, the DC Labs have already been lined up to work on a number of early projects.

These include:

• Scientists, social scientists, government and third sector employees working together to explore how games and interactive media can be used for social good

• Museums, galleries and games publishers exploring how to improve engagement with digital archives and assets, maximising positive digital opportunities for creative culture

• Broadcast companies and producers developing new ways of interacting with TV programmes and theatre performances

• Local authorities exploring games and media to help them better reach citizens to improve understanding of policy changes

• Games companies working to embed novel artificial intelligence and decision-making techniques in new games

Charles Cecil, co-founder of York based video game developer Revolution Software, who will be speaking at the launch event today, said: "It's extraordinary in York at the moment, there's a real hub of video game developers.

"The DC Labs and what they are doing is a great way of allowing academic research to tie in with the work of others.

"They allow us to become really ambitious because we have the academic knowledge behind us, and digital developers can specify what research they want to help them grow."

The five-year project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and InnovateUK.

Caroline Norbury, chief executive of Creative England, the not-for-profit agency which supports England’s creative industries, and is partnering on the project, added: "We are delighted to support and partner with the University of York on this exciting initiative.

"The DC Labs reflects Creative England’s own ambition to connect and grow existing and emerging creative businesses with wide-ranging research and development expertise, and we constantly strive to develop programmes which stimulate cross-innovation and creative spillovers between creative sectors and other industries.

"We have got access to lots of new and existing companies that are developing these new and exciting products and services. The University of York is a centre of excellence for research and development, and we are linking research with these companies so it can be exploited commercially. In return these companies can feed back real world problems they are trying to solve.

"The creative industries is a growing sector. It's expanding on a global scale and right here in the UK.

"Quite often what stops companies in this sector from growing is not having the ability to raise captial to develop their IP and be in the right networks to exploit what they are doing. The DC labs will enable them to do that.

"We look forward to helping some of best ideas become reality as a result of this partnership."