Every year we announce the CE50, our annual celebration of 50 of the most exciting, innovative and disruptive creative companies and individuals across the country, which this year has been exclusively announced in partnership with The Guardian.
This year’s cohort highlights the move towards technology and creativity merging to create meaningful solutions to real-world problems, with many of the companies championing diversity, and giving a platform to unheard voices.
The list is hand-picked by Creative England, along with nominations from regional partners including The Growth Company in Greater Manchester, Cultivate Cornwall, Stoke City Council, NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Tech Nation.
Scroll down to see this year's CE50, or read the report here.
Atomhawk has an impressive track record of bringing ideas to life for movie studios, game developers and product designers, including creating concept art for Disney’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron and creating a new art style for the visually stunning Pottermore.
Its success led to an acquisition by Sumo Digital last year, allowing the studio to continue to go from strength to strength, expanding to open an office in Toronto in August 2017. Atomhawk has proved itself as a stand out choice for some of the world’s biggest franchises, truly living up to its claim to help bring visions to life.
Spun out of Latimer in August 2017, Bulbshare has already had a huge impact with its functionality to allow brands to co-create with their audience. Focused around three core principles of co-creation, social good and collaboration, Bulbshare empowers audiences to shape brand’s products, causes and campaigns. It has already attracted an impressive roster of clients, including BBC Three, Public Health England, The British Council, Cornetto and eBay.
With social impact at the heart of what it does, Bulbshare empowers audiences to shape the causes and campaigns that affect their daily lives, giving voice to diverse, often marginalised groups.
Ivan MacTaggart launched his film and television production company, Cambridge Picture Company, in February 2018, following BAFTA, Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his most recent feature, Loving Vincent.
Cambridge Picture Company is drawing on the wealth of scientific innovation Cambridge has to offer by forming partnerships with local industry leaders to develop and identify new technologies and techniques to reduce risk and increase effectiveness of development, production and distribution of audio-visual content.
The company’s first production is feature film Red Joan, co-produced with Trademark Films, starring Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson.
Since its inception in 2009, Carse & Waterman has grown in size and stature and has produced a number of award-winning projects, working with a variety of acclaimed names including Richard Ayoade, Simon West and Keith Lemon. Carse & Waterman’s service gives brands a way to tell personable stories to their audience in a uniquely engaging way.
Recent successes have kick-started further growth this year with the purchase of a new 4-storey studio (4,300 sq ft), an increased staff team of up to 20, and the facilities to deliver a new animation school supporting routes into the industry.
Nominated by Stoke City Council
Chatta has created a multimedia learning app that appeals to children’s interests in technology, increasing the rate at which children develop spoken language skills through an interactive use of visual and audio technology.
Already adopted by many schools across the UK, the app has been shown to have a marked impact on speech and language development, including those who have been identified with a specific speech, language and communication issue, improving the skills and learning of children of all abilities. Chatta is a tool which can have a real impact on children’s education from a young age.
Nominated by Tech Nation
Claire Oakley’s award-winning short films have marked her as an exciting new talent to watch and have played at more than 50 festivals worldwide including the BFI London Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival: Kids and Austin Film Festival. Her debut feature Make-up is a psycho-sexual thriller set in Cornwall. This feature has been developed and greenlit through Creative England’s iFeatures initiative and will go into production Spring 2018.
Oakley is co-founder of Cinesisters, a collective of award-winning female directors dedicated to the creation of more films by and about women.
Founded in 2016, Covatic was formed as a spin-out from the University of Oxford, when academics specialising in data science partnered with industry experts in broadcast engagement.
Covatic developed a platform to radically re-think content presentation, enabling a highly personalised experience – learning the opportunities of when, where and how individuals consume content. The platform allows increased audience engagement and advertising revenue to ensure a stronger digital future for its clients, with the aim to revolutionise the audience experience.
Creative Assembly is a highly regarded studio based in West Sussex, with an impressive list of titles including the multi-million selling Total War series. Creative Assembly has, with an exceptionally talented team of over 500, amassed a wealth of awards, including recent accolated BAFTA, Music+Sound and Develop’s Industry Excellence awards.
As well as creating incredible worlds in its games, Creative Assembly is working to improve this one through its Legacy Project, which makes significant and enduring contributions to local education, community and charity, choosing causes that the team care deeply about.
Sheffield Doc/Fest has created a must-attend annual event for documentary film makers and audiences, celebrating the art and business of documentary and all non-fiction storytelling.
The festival champions innovative storytelling techniques through its Alternate Realities programme, a leading forum for interactive, augmented reality, and virtual reality projects, bringing focus on the technologies which are changing the way stories are told with fully immersive experiences.
Duel is an enterprise platform for incentivising and collecting authentic and brand-safe user-generated content. The platform engages and rewards customers to create content and enables brands to build their own exclusive library of customer generated visual content to use across their products. It is the only platform to automate Customer Advocacy Marketing.
Duel have shown great progress since Creative England’s investment in January 2017, growing their client base to include WWF, NBC Universal, Mumsnet and Visit England.
Award winning Engine House VFX is a 2D & 3D animation, CGI and VFX company based in Redruth, Cornwall. It has worked on incredible and innovative campaigns for a host of international clients, including beautifully animated online book covers for Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch.
In 2017 Engine House created a scientifically accurate virtual reality tour of six planets for the University of Exeter in partnership with We The Curious. The 360 degree videos transport the viewer, creating the impression of standing on another planet. The video has been featured as number 1 on YouTube’s own VR channel and has already accumulated more than 1 million views.
Nominated by Cultivator Cornwall
Enlighten is a truly inspirational company which has grown rapidly over a short period of time to become an authoritative name in the world of augmented reality and e-learning.
Enlighten is addressing the gap in quality online learning resources, reducing the need for face-to-face time when learning and transferring skills, reducing the monetary and environmental costs. By embracing and leading innovation in the sector Enlighten is improving the learner’s experience at a streamlined cost.
Enlighten’s co-founder and CEO Suzanne Edwards is a highly regarded female entrepreneur and “woman in tech”, who regularly speaks at high-level business and technology and is one of only seven people globally who sits on the executive council of CompTIA’s Emerging Tech community, encouraging more women and girls to consider tech-based careers through the “Power of 1” campaign.
Nominated by Stoke City Council
Eva Riley is a powerful new voice in British cinema. Riley graduated from the National Film and Television School in 2015 and her final year short film, Patriot, premiered in competition at Cannes the same year. She was named Screen International’s Star of Tomorrow the following year. Her short films have screened at festivals including BFI London Film Festival, Edinburgh, Telluride and the BAFTA New Talent Awards.
Riley’s first feature film Perfect Ten has been developed and greenlit for production via the iFeatures initiative. Set in Brighton, the film follows the story of a teenage gymnast, and is due to shoot in 2018.
Fierce Kaiju is a games studio built on key principles of quality, innovation, focus and ambition; paired with prior experience working on some of the biggest names in gaming, such as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption and Call of Duty, Fierce Kaiju has proven itself as a studio to be noticed.
As well as offering a full-service studio to clients, Fierce Kaiju has created the Viral series, where players must avoid the threat of infection. The studio is also releasing an upcoming VR project with previous CE50 company Coatsink in 2018.
Fourth State has created a truly beautiful and original game in Lost Words, a platformer game set within the pages of a young girl’s diary. Fourth State has incorporated original and stylised artwork to bring the story within the game to life, with the words from the diary providing the player with options and actions to work their way through the world.
Due to release on Steam, PS4, Xbox One and Switch late in 2018, the game has already garnered positive press due to its original concept, style and featuring a story written by Rhianna Pratchett.
FreelanceDiary is a smart app-based diary where companies can hire in-demand freelancers for free. By swapping the old job-posting model for a smart app-based diary, companies can view available freelancers immediately and hire directly.
An industry ripe for disruption, FreelanceDiary uses a freemium model, which makes it cheaper, lean and more scaleable than competitors’ commission models. Founded and built by those who have worked in the industry for years and experienced the problems themselves, this has the potential to become the next big productivity tool.
Manchester-based Gelato Visual Effects is an innovative digital agency whose forward-looking approach to creating and selling visual effects has set them apart from competitors.
Gelato’s Scan Store is a one-stop shop of high quality, physically correct 3D items ready to insert into scenes, identifying and serving a growing demand from film, television, games and VR. The digital asset store is a blueprint for the future of digital commerce and represents the creative and technical excellence of the English regions to a global market.
Nominated by Manchester Growth Company
Happy Goon is driving innovation in greeting cards, an industry ripe for new and original thinking.
Happy Goon uses technological advancements in image recognition and augmented reality to add an extra level of personalisation to bring their greeting cards to life. In a time when consumers are choosing to spend on experiences over physical products, Happy Goon is combining both to make the act of exchanging cards more personal.
Nominated by Tech Nation
Cambridge-based Inkle Studios create compelling stories told in beautiful ways. 80 Days, released in 2014, was named both TIME Magazine's Game of the Year and one of the Telegraph's Top 100 Novels of the Year.
It is followed by Heaven’s Vault, due for release in 2019. Made up of hundreds of meticulously hand-drawn frames of 2D art within beautiful 3D environments, the game is visually stunning. The concept sees players translate an ancient hieroglyphic language to delve deeper into the narrative, playing the role of archaeologist Aliya Elasra and her sidekick Six.
InnovateHer is working towards an important goal – to decrease the gender imbalance in tech. The InnovateHer programme is run within schools across the North West, delivering innovative, informal education via volunteers and industry experts to upskill and raise awareness that females can and do have successful careers in tech.
Working together with national policy makers, local government, schools and industry leaders, Innovate Her is tackling inequality, improving young people’s life chances, and helping the UK compete on the world stage through its work.
Interactive Imagination devise innovative uses of technology to create leading-edge interactive exhibits for their clients, across VR, touch-screen and mechatronic interactions. They create and thrive on original ideas, with an impressive portfolio of work for clients including Selfridges and The Natural History Museum.
Based in Hertfordshire, Interactive Imagination is growing and developing as a company, embracing new technologies and broadening its client base.
Knowle West Media Centre is doing exceptional work within its local community, supporting individuals and communities to get the most out of digital technologies and the arts. The centre works on projects which benefit every area of the community, from after-school groups to teaching volunteers digital skills, with work benefitting school children to the over 60s.
Founded on a belief that bringing together technology and the arts solves major problems and generate exciting and innovative ideas, Knowle West Media Centre is working on a community level to drive real change.
Landmrk is a truly exciting and innovative product for bands and marketeers and has achieved significant growth in the last 12 months. A location-based experiences platform, Landmrk gives marketers the ability to place digital content into physical locations, anywhere in the world in real time, and then reward customers for going to those locations. It has taken advantage of technological advances to revolutionise how consumers can engage with brands and their content, creating a more tangible and meaningful experience.
Although a young company, Landmrk has secured great contracts with large brands like Lynx, who launched the Anthony Joshua range on the platform using hotspots nationwide, and Shakira, who launched her new album El Dorado on the platform.
Laser Dog is a two-man games studio based in Leeds. Focussing on mobile games, Laser Dog has earned a reputation of creating games with beautiful visuals and personality. Each game has a bespoke score which perfectly tallies to the emotion and intensity, meaning players stay engaged throughout the game play.
Laser Dog’s latest release, Ava Airborne, sees players take on the role of Ava and attempt to keep her in flight against various obstacles. Already popular across the indie circuit, the studio continues to release updates to maintain interest with fans.
MAADigital is a forward-looking creative studio specialising in emerging technologies. Known for crafting premium digital experiences, MAADigital has attracted a growing client base of pioneering luxury brands across the emerging digital beauty and fashion sectors, leveraging the power of cutting-edge digital solutions for emerging digital experiences and creating consumer experiences for use in-store, on mobile and online.
MAADigital is based at the Northern Design Centre in the heart of Newcastle-Gateshead’s creative hub, serving clients worldwide from a North East studio.
Nominated by NewcastleGateshead Initiative
Independent film production company Mad as Birds made a huge impression with its debut feature Set Fire to the Stars and has gone on to develop a strong slate of films which meet its ethos of uncompromising indie film-making. Mad as Birds has shown care in making creatively motivated and internationally commercial propositions, driven by the team’s wide breadth of expertise.
Working as one, each member of the team is heavily involved in every project. The company mantra is to be the place where artists can thrive, helping them fulfil their vision and make the films they set out to make.
Newsubstance is a brave and ambitious company which uses innovative, cutting-edge technology to create large-scale spectacles for clients.
Its work has resonated around the world, from its hometown of Leeds, where an immense installation of a form was installed over a shopping atrium, to 80 customised drones forming a light show above the Dubai World Cup Closing Ceremony. Newsubstance live their mantra to image, design, build and perform to create truly incredible experiences.
Northcoders is a computer coding school that, since launching in Manchester in April 2016, has gone on to achieve impressive growth. In the last year it has moved into a new, larger office, 128 students have now graduated from its courses and its employment rate stands at 89% within 6 months of graduating, higher than the University of Cambridge (87.5%).
Northcoders has a strong belief in diversity and inclusion, offering fully funded scholarships and championing women, with 25% of all places available for women in tech and those unable to pay for fees.
Ocean Spark Studios is an Indie game development studio based in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. Set up in the founders Enterprise Year at university, the studio has gone on to win awards and acclaim for its leadership and the way it has taken active measures to engage with female developers.
Alongside creating fun and memorable video games, including the upcoming Tetra: Elemental Awakening, Ocean Spark Studios strive to enhance its community and industry by inspiring and nurturing the next generation of games industry students, working with external organisations such as schools and colleges to deliver engaging workshops and seminars. Ocean Spark Studios is living proof that a balanced and diverse workforce leads to great productivity and success.
Newcastle based Pinball Films is a bespoke producer of unique and distinctive cinema in both fiction & documentary. Pinball Films work with maverick filmmakers who are pushing boundaries to create exciting and original work.
Forthcoming feature documentary The Hippies promises to continue this theme, following a bizarre English punk band formed in 1979 by the Hulse children. An energetic, jarring, comical, musical ride through a part-remembered, kaleidoscopically fractured family history, The Hippies embodies the spirit of the radical and creative production company.
Platform is a Moving Image Cluster in Stoke-on-Trent, created with a mission to drive the development of the Moving Image economy in the region.
Platform connects companies and individuals working in the region in Film, TV, Animation and Games, offering support and training, and running local events to its growing network, whilst increasing the industry’s economic value by acting as an advocate for the moving image sector in the region and lobbying government. Platform hosted an event at parliament to showcase the talent coming from Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.
Production Park is an impressive pre-production and live events centre based in Yorkshire. Founded with the intent of being ‘Where Live Industry Lives’, Production Park is now home to more than 20 live event businesses and 7 studios and has established itself as international destination of choice for technically challenging live productions. Clients include artists and brands such as U2, Jay Z, Muse, ITV and RedBull.
Production Park has set itself apart as an active player in both the local and industry community through the formation of Backstage Academy. An educational institution for industry-led learning, Backstage Academy trains students on the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the live events industry, creating a supply of skilled workers needed to help the entire industry continue to grow and thrive.
Quarter Circle Games is a small, dedicated independent games studio based in Bournemouth. Its first game, The Peterson Case, is set to release soon following an overwhelmingly positive response to its initial reveal on a Steam Greenlight page. Since releasing the first trailer it has received over 5 million views.
An innovative horror game, The Peterson Case combines fear with a compelling story, stunning and artistic visuals to build hype and momentum with its audience. Playing through the eyes of Detective Franklin Reinhardt in 1947, the audience is drawn in through atmospheric horror, suspenseful narrative, and engaging puzzles in what promises to be a popular release within the genre.
Quiddity Films is the production company of UK producer Emily Morgan, a talented and confident producer with international experience. Morgan made a name for herself producing award-winning short films including Gabriel Gauchet’s The Mass of Men and Claire Oakley’s Physics, before her career reached new heights early in 2018 with a BAFTA win for I Am Not a Witch.
Morgan is producing the psychological thriller Make-up, from writer-director Claire Oakley made through Creative England’s iFeatures programme. She was named Screen Star of Tomorrow in 2015 and received the BFI Vision Award in 2016.
Rachel Shenton brought the issue of profound deafness to the public's attention when she wrote and starred in short film The Silent Child, which then went on to win Best Live Action Short Film at the Academy Awards. Leaning on her own experience to portray the loneliness and isolation of children who are affected and the attitudes of society, Shenton crafted a touching screenplay which resonated with audiences.
Shenton is now working on turning the film into a feature and has lent her voice to promote her hometown of Stoke in its bid to be the new home of Channel 4.
Ripstone is an independent video game publisher that fully fund the development, distribution, marketing and sales of games made by indie teams worldwide. Founded in 2011 by publishing and film industry veterans, to date it has financed and published 16 games across 15 platforms and had worldwide sales in excess of 10 million units.
Their focus is on supporting indie developers to make games for PC and home consoles, making sure gamers know about them, and rewarding talent for it. Ripstone's back catalogue includes Ironcast, Stick It To The Man, Pure Pool and Extreme Exorcism. At their home in Liverpool, England, they also have a first-party development studio, and their stunning first title Chess Ultra launched in Summer 2017.
Independent games studio Semaeopus’s debut game Off Grid is a timely adventure, satire and stealth game which follows real-world events surrounding data privacy. The contemporary storyline mirrors real-world events surrounding data privacy and gameplay utilises unique mechanics that allow you to manipulate the world and people around you with the data they unwittingly leave behind.
Semaeopus has expanded out from a 2 man team initially and has received positive coverage ahead of the game’s launch, winning praise for the way Off Grid holds a mirror society’s flippant attitude to data sharing without the enjoyment of the game being hampered.
Newcastle based Shout Digital is a full service digital agency creating cutting-edge solutions for its clients’ problems with smart, outside the box. It creates modern, innovative, digital solutions for industry leading clients spanning educations from education to health and fitness to travel, with a reputation for taking the time to understand each project’s unique needs to find a viable solution that works. Shout Digital has recently worked to create the Great Exhibition of the North's Wayfinder app.
On top of this, Shout Digital invests in emerging technologies to stay at the forefront of innovation and pass its learnings on to its client work.
Nominated by NewcastleGateshead Initiative
Slanted Theory is a virtual and augmented reality company that adds a new dimension to data visualisation, through a platform that allows customers to enter their company’s data and visualise it in new 3D ways.
Slanted Theory’s offering is based around the concept that companies need to better understand their data to improve and grow, which is far easier to achieve when that data is visualised in a meaningful way. Embracing new technologies, including virtual reality and augmented reality, to offer an interactive edge, Slanted Theory empowers its clients to gain a better understand of their customers.
Nominated by Tech Nation
Slurpy Studios is an award-winning animation studio creating strong content across TV, online, education and app development. Its full in-house facilities allow it to take a project from concept to delivery for a wide range of clients working in industries as varied as advertising, broadcast and education.
As an agency Slurpy Studios champions employment within the region, boasting a young team of talented animators, storyboard artists and sound designers working on projects for impressive clients including Comic Relief, British Council and BBC Learning.
Smoking Bear is an independent production company founded by journalists turned filmmakers Rubika Shah and Ed Gibbs. Their films have screened at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Hot Docs, Tel Aviv, Sheffield, BFI London and Sydney.
Based in the UK, Smoking Bear specialises in arts and music-led documentaries. The critically acclaimed mini-doc Let’s Dance: Bowie Down Under was shortlisted for a Grierson Award, and director Rubika Shah was named Screen International Star of Tomorrow in 2017.
The upcoming White Riot, which will explore how punk influenced politics in late-1970s Britain, is based on Shah’s short White Riot: London, which saw success at festivals including Berlin, Tel Aviv and Sheffield Doc/Fest.
Social Media Makes Sense is a niche marketing company specialising in social media marketing and training. Growing significantly in the last two years, Social Media Makes Sense identified the need and importance of developing a recognisable social media voice for productions, notably in television.
Experts in online storytelling, Social Media Makes Sense curate informative and engaging content specifically designed to engage an active online audience. Following the success of building an online following for the first series of BBC’s Poldark, it has gone on to win over Mammoth Productions, the BBC Academy and ITV from its understanding of online platforms and audience engagement.
Spearhead Interactive is an award-winning ideas and solutions company, specialising in creating augmented, virtual and mixed reality solutions which visualise data to solve commercial business challenges.
Spearhead Interactive is at the forefront of immersive technology, applying new innovations to clients’ business real-world business challenges to create meaningful solutions. Spearhead Interactive focuses on B2B markets, offering visual communication, data transformation and real-time immersion which allows clients to convey, understand and experience their business in unique and instructive ways.
Ted Evans is one of the UK’s leading deaf filmmakers. Starting his career in TV, Evans progressed from researcher to director at BBC See Hear and in 2012 he co-wrote and directed two short films for the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. Ted’s award winning short films have travelled the world many times over, receiving critical acclaim and establishing him as an emerging writer-director with a unique perspective on deaf culture.
Ted’s debut feature Retreat, developed and greenlit through the iFeatures programme, will break new ground as the first ever film in British Sign Language. A thriller set in a deaf-only commune, it explores identity and to what lengths people will go in order to fight for what they believe in.
Formed in 2014, Thanksbox set out to create a product which makes peoples’ working lives better. ThanksBox is a SaaS start-up revolutionising employee engagement with a fresh approach to workplace communication. By taking existing channels and making them smarter via a suite of tools, ThanksBox is able to surface the things that really matter to employees, making work a better place to be.
Over the last 12 months, Thanksbox has expanded its team and gained further client traction with businesses from a range of sectors. Recent clients include; Sky, Gartner, Atlas Hotels, Nuffield Health, Royal United Hospital Bath, William Hill & Horwich Farrelly. They are now raising finance to scale and expand internationally.
Toxic Games was established in 2010 by former classmates, Daniel Da Rocha, Dave Hall and Jonathan Savery who began development of Q.U.B.E. as a student project in 2009. The three core members were all game designers but were able to bring Q.U.B.E. to fruition without any prior programming expertise.
Toxic Games was able to go from student hobbyists to independent developers upon graduation from University, with sequel Q.U.B.E. 2 receiving recognition, awards and positive reviews from across the board for the way it addressed user feedback from the original game to develop an engaging and fresh experience.
TriForce Creative Network works to provide opportunities within the creative industries, championing diverse writers, directors, producers, crew and actors through initiatives which benefits the wider industry discover talent from across the country. As well as initiatives to develop upcoming talent, TriForce set up TriForce Productions to create TV, film and online content, with a focus on diverse content for mainstream audiences.
TriForce’s programmes are recognised by industry leaders as a valuable way to discover and nurture upcoming talent which will help to grow the industries and provide a much-needed entry for diverse and original talent to make their mark on England’s creative industries.
Tyke Films, run by producer Rebecca Mark-Lawson, is Sheffield-based production company developing and producing projects ranging from cinematic documentary, original dramatic feature films, adaptations and TV drama.
Working with Forwardslash Films and director Iain Cunningham, Tyke Films is producing Irene’s Ghost, a feature documentary following a son’s search to find the mother he never knew. Set for release in 2018, the documentary follow’s Cunningham’s journey with a uniquely magical feel captured by stunning animation, whilst also hitting on a serious issue, raising awareness and educating on postpartum psychosis.
Virtual Reality Associates is a Manchester-based agency specialising in virtual reality production and motion capture. Formed to address a gap in the market, Virtual Reality Associates conceptualises and produces bespoke VR content for an impressive list of clients, including NBC, EA and MTV. Virtual Reality Associates has embraced new and emerging technologies and created an agency which allows brands to create immersive experiences for their audience.
Alongside this, Virtual Reality Associates is developing a platform for VR & 360 pieces of content with a monthly subscription service, applying current models of content consumption to the content of the future.
YouTeachMe is a brilliant example of a 'one-man band' which is really making a difference. Created by Paul Rose, a former Primary School headteacher who has seen from the first-hand the challenges that teachers, parents and pupils face and has created an innovative solution. YouTeachMe is a video platform where exceptional teachers can share content on very specific elements of the curriculum which work as both a teaching aid and as CPD for the teachers.
As well as creating a platform with meaningful benefits to schools, YouTeachMe has developed a sister product, YouTeachMeToo, for home schooled pupils and looked after children. Not only is this a useful way for schools to share resource, it has proved to be a business that can expand to meet the needs of a much wider audience.
Nominated by Derby Quad