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Kevin Williams | KWP Limited | Founder

10 Apr 2020 | 5 min read

Getting funding for your latest XR venture is hard, though investment had been flowing toward XR in the so called “gold rush” years following Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus back in 2014, high expectations and valuations from VC’s, coupled with a lack of returns have seen a series of high-profile ventures descend into administration and bankruptcy. This is a worrying trend, with Blippar being the latest casualty of the changing landscape of investment in immersive technology.

With that said, all is not lost, getting funding might be slightly more difficult than it once was, but there are funding sources available, you just need to know exactly where to look. That’s where our comprehensive list of XR funding sources comes in, helping to connect talented startups with great ideas to the right sources of funding and guidance. Before applying for grant funding or preparing to pitch to venture capital firms, be sure to get to grips with our guide for making your VR company more attractive to investors. 

In this article, we cover in detail, some of the best and most relevant funding sources specifically for immersive technology projects. Check out our even more exhaustive list through the attached spreadsheet which covers 50 of the top VC’s across the globe who have experience in investing in XR as well as a number of other international grants.

Government Funding Sources

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (UK):

We’ve briefly covered the ISCF in How VR Could be the Next Big Platform for Esports, but to offer a summary of what the Audience of the Future initiative is and to elucidate the amount of funding going towards immersive industries, UK Research and Innovation are pledging £33 million to immersive technology split between three initiatives. The criteria for application is fairly broad with UKRI stating that the funding goes towards “businesses and researchers to develop new products and services that exploit immersive technologies.” The three specific areas of funding are:

  • Demonstrator Program – £18 million in funding that goes toward Immersive experiences tested with large audiences.
  • Collaborative Research and Development – £12 million will go toward research and development in audience perceptions and behaviours, improving the production of high quality content while making it cheaper, faster and more accessible and attracting private capital to XR.
  • Industry Centre of Excellence – £10 million will support the creation of creative training and research programmes in immersive storytelling. Royal Holloway University will run the centre alongside the National Film and Television School. It will support and co-fund 60 immersive productions with a focus on storytelling.

Applications for Audience of the Future closed in November 2018 though there will be chances to reapply throughout 2019. You can get involved with Audience of the Future and find out more about the fund here. A quick summary on eligibility and criteria for application, UKRI are looking for companies who can “develop tools, products or services for creating and delivering immersive content” and “demonstrate innovation in software, hardware of development methodology.” UKRI are focusing on 9 specific industries:  

  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Architecture
  • Crafts
  • Design, including products, graphics and fashion
  • Film, TV, Video, Radio and Photography
  • Computer Games and Services
  • Publishing
  • Museums, Galleries and Libraries
  • Music, Performance and Visual Arts

International Grants

Google Daydream Impact:

Daydream Impact is a philanthropy program that empowers XR creatives by offering them inspiration and guidance as well as the tools to improve VR and AR content. Previous successful projects have been informed by a dedication to addressing pertinent social issues from across the globe. Google aim to enable any nonprofit to create and share these evocative experiences.

Unreal VR Grants:

Epic Games, creators of Unreal Engine, have established $5 millon development fund for innovative projects that utilise Unreal Engine 4. Unreal VR Grants range from $5000 to $50,000 and come with absolutely no restrictions, you still own the IP, your free to publish however you wish, and can use the funds without any obligations to Epic. The remit for application is incredibly wide, Epic are looking for anyone who works with Unreal Engine 4 including gamemakers, students, and developers of animated features, architectural visualizations, and marketplace content.

HTC VIVE’s VR Accelerator – VIVE X:

VIVE X is a VR Accelerator that aims to help cultivate, foster and grow the global VR ecosystem, supporting startups and providing education, investment and mentorship. At the moment, accelerator programs are located across the globe in the following locations: Beijing, San Francisco, Taipei, ShenZhen and Tel Aviv.

Unicef Innovation Grant:

The fund provides $50,000 – $90,000 in equity free seed-funding to startups registered in one of Unicef’s programme countries, see the list here, with a strong team and a clear path to impact on children’s lives. For this cohort, Unicef are looking for startups with a working XR prototype (hardware, software, or content).

Youtube’s VR Creator Lab:

Youtube is offering an education in VR tools and training from VR experts in VR video production as well as funding of $30,000 – $40,000 to go toward the production of  “dream projects” to youtubers with a minimum of 10,000 subscribers and independent filmmakers. Find out more here.

Venture Capital Investment Sources

Venture Reality Fund

The Venture Reality Fund is working to fund the future of computing including immersive and spatial technology. Together with world-class limited partners, the Venture Reality Fund invests in innovative solutions and promising entrepreneurs across a variety of sectors, from infrastructure and development tools to content and applications. The Venture Reality Fund have previously funded Owlchemy Labs, Beat Games and Facemoji among others.

Super Ventures

Super Ventures specialise in getting Augmented Reality projects funded. Previous successful startups that have benefited from Super Ventures investor network include Gravity Sketch, Cognitive3D and Fringefy. Super Ventures work with start ups and guide them through the funding process including pre-seed and seed capital.

Outpost Capital

Outpost Capital is one of the first Silicon Valley based VC funds that focus on VR/AR and frontier technologies, while maintaining a strong presence in China. Outpost have a strong portfolio of projects including the likes of MOAC, Fable Studios, and UploadVR.

Premier Ventures 160m Investment Fund

HTC and the Shenzhen Municipal Government have partnered up to create a 160m investment fund for VR projects. Details on the fund are scarce but it has been reported that the fund has a global focus outside of China. You can read more about the fund here and get in contact with the firm here.

45+ funding sources for your next XR project

Free download to our XR funding sheet, complete with grants, funds, VC’s and more

Free download

About the author:

Kevin Williams is founder and director of the out-of-home leisure entertainment consultancy KWP Ltd, an interactive entertainment consultancy focusing on the development, research and application in the sector. He is also co-author of the leading publication on the sector (The Out-of-Home Entertainment Frontier).