Following a few years of concerted efforts by various Maltese stakeholders, digital games development is coming ahead as the emerging sector at the confluence of the ICT and creative industries in Malta. Skills are being provided and continuously developed both at the University of Malta, Mcast and at a number of private educational institutions; the recently set up Institute of Digital Games at the University is pursuing much needed research, while a national Digital Games Fund and various fiscal incentives are covering some of the financial needs of the sector.
Indeed, we now see a number of companies, both local and foreign, being established in Malta, but they still need to make a bigger splash on the international market. Access to finance is seen as a limiting factor as neither access to venture capital nor to bank loans is easy for these companies.
While it might be opportune for Malta to take some bold steps and innovate in the area of collateral legislation to facilitate credit financing for creative projects, this will take some time. Until then, digital games companies can make the best out of public funding support, be that at national or EU level. The following are some examples of EU funding opportunities.
The Media pillar under the recently launched Creative Europe programme is currently inviting proposals for funding support for concept and project development of video games, with the deadline for applications being March 28.
The EU contribution will be up to €50,000 for concept development and up to €150,000 for project development, with the EU contribution not exceeding 50 per cent of the total eligible costs. To help with cash flow, 70 per cent of the total approved grant will be provided as pre-financing, costs being eligible as from the proposal submission date.
European production companies owned directly or by majority participation by EU or European Free Trade Association nationals and with a proven track record (i.e. that have previously developed, produced and commercialised a video game and have at least two years of sales track record) can make use of this facility.
Another relevant funding opportunity emerges from the ICT stream of the Horizon 2020 framework programme. Until April 23, proposals are being invited for research and innovation, or purely innovation focused actions aimed at the development of new methodologies and tools to produce, apply and use digital games and gamification techniques in non-leisure contexts.
The scope is expected to cover multi-disciplinary research experimentations and collaboration on advanced digital gaming technologies (including game engines, emergent narrative, virtual characters, interaction systems and alternative human-machine interfaces, 3D, textures, models for simulations, game design, learner profiles and emotional models) that will lead to the creation of a repository of core reusable, open components to enable publishers and game producers as well as user organisations to build specific games applications in non-leisure contexts.
While it may be opportune for Malta to take some bold steps and innovate in the area of collateral legislation to facilitate credit financing, this will take some time
Innovation actions should focus on coordinating and incubating small-scale experiments within SMEs for the actual development of digital games for learning and skills acquisition, and for empowerment and social inclusion.
Horizon 2020 proposals for the above are to be submitted by consortia from at least three different EU member states or associated countries and expected to have budgets in the order of €3-8 million per project.
The EU co-financing rate is of up to 100 per cent in the case of research and innovation projects and of 70 per cent in the case of purely innovation actions (100 per cent for non-profit organisations). Pre-financing will also be provided typically at a rate of about 60-65 per cent of the approved grant value.
Horizon 2020 proposals under the ICT Open Disruptive Innovation scheme can be submitted by individual SMEs, in this case for a €50,000 lump sum to assess the feasibility of an innovative concept (e.g. product, service, technology process, business model), or €500,000 to €2.5 million for its development up to full readiness for market commercialisation.
The EU funding support in the latter case will be up to 70 per cent of the total project cost. The first deadline for submission of such project proposals is June 18 and October 9 respectively.
Anamaria Magri Pantea is a freelance consultant in EU funding, innovation management and business development.