Northern Ireland news

Ulster University seeks world-leading company for virtual production studio

Belfast Harbour Studios (MCE Public Relations/PA)
Rebecca Black, PA

Ulster University is looking for a world-leading production company for its virtual production studio.

Studio Ulster, a collaboration between academia and industry, will see a commercial virtual production company with the scale and world-class ability appointed to develop, install and operate the commercial business operation located in Belfast Harbour Studios.

Virtual production has emerged as one of the most cutting-edge techniques, used in a string of recent hits including The Mandalorian Disney+ series and The Rings Of Power on Amazon Prime.

It allows filmmakers to shoot a movie using computer-aided production and visualisation filmmaking methods so that real-time computer graphics interact with real-life characters and is regarded as a game changer for the film, television, animation and games industries.

Studio Ulster is being developed by Ulster University in partnership with Belfast Harbour and supported by Northern Ireland Screen.

It is set to include an estimated value of £26 million in specialist equipment with five sound stages and a screening room, and is projected to be the most technologically advanced dedicated virtual production complex of its kind in the world.

The tender was released in December as part of a wider committed investment of more than £70 million associated with Studio Ulster made possible by the Belfast Region City Deal, Belfast Harbour, Ulster University and levelling up funds.

The company or consortium appointed through the process will kit out the specialist Belfast studios and be the commercial operator to support large-scale productions from around the world.

Declan Keeney, professor of screen technologies and innovation at Ulster University and Studio Ulster director of research, development and innovation, said it will secure Northern Ireland's competitiveness in the screen industry.

“With this commercial opportunity we reach an exciting milestone in the development of Studio Ulster,” he said.

“The company or consortium that secures this contract will meet the demands of a fast-growing European market and be at the heart of screen production here in Northern Ireland, one of the best locations outside London in which to make film and television, animation, games and unique real-time projects.”

Richard Williams, chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen, described Studio Ulster as a “bold and ambitious example of how working in partnership we can achieve sustainable growth for the economy in Northern Ireland”.

“At the core of the Department for the Economy's 10X strategy is innovation and digital disruption, and through Studio Ulster, Ulster University and Belfast Harbour are presenting the opportunity to further strengthen Northern Ireland's impressive offering to the global screen industry, and we welcome the latest project milestone,” he said.

Construction on the Studio Ulster site at Belfast Harbour began in September and the facility is expected to be fully operational for film production from early 2024.

The first stage pre-qualification questionnaire will close to interested parties on January 24 at 3pm.

Companies interested in responding to this tender can visit

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