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SODA sets the scene for the future of digital and creative

Categories: Creative and Media


Related sector

Creative and Media

The new School of Digital Arts (SODA) at Manchester Metropolitan University will build on the city region’s rich history of digital, media, skills, technology and innovation.

With a prolific heritage in broadcast and media production that started with Granada TV through to major investment in the likes of MediaCityUK, the Sharp Project, and innovation zones including the Salford Innovation Triangle, Greater Manchester is a place where creativity and technology are jointly driving the next wave of innovation in the digital, creative and media industries.

On the back of growing recognition as the UK’s Top Digital Tech City and as one of Europe’s largest creative, digital and technology clusters, demand for specialist skills and talent has increased sharply across Greater Manchester, and the wider UK, in recent years.

Addressing an urgent demand for skills in the sector while building on the city region’s existing reputation, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is creating a new academic centre, the School of Digital Arts (SODA), which will nurture the future talent of the industry, readying them for the world of work.

The £35m school – which will welcome its first cohort of students in September 2021 – offers purpose-built facilities allowing students to become qualified in subjects including animation, filmmaking, photography, UX, games design, sound, media production and AI. It expects to produce more than 1,000 graduates every year.

With demand for digital skills growing, SODA aims to develop expert graduates who will spend part of their studies embedded within the region’s £5 billion digital ecosystem, through live projects with industry partners in a bid to retain talent after graduation.

The arrival of SODA will be a landmark moment for Greater Manchester as the sector recovers and rebuilds from the disruption caused by Covid-19. The school will be a powerhouse for digital arts; driving ideas and innovation across all forms of creative content, and in doing so, future proofing a rich and long legacy of creativity.

SODA will be shaped and led by some of the world’s leading experts, two of whom have strong ties to Greater Manchester, where they started their successful careers.

Academy award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting and Shallow Grave), who grew up studying in Bolton will be co-chair of SODA’s industry advisory group alongside Nicola Shindler. Originally from Rochdale, Shindler started her career in television at Granada Studios before founding Red Productions which has produced some of Britain’s most popular series, both filmed and set in Manchester, including Queer as FolkHappy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax and international smash hit The Stranger.

Boyle and Shindler will shape the School’s academic learning and provide invaluable industry expertise for students along other members from organisation such as the BBC, Channel Four, Sharp Futures, Universal Music, Apple, HOME arts centre and Sony VR.

Professor Toby Heys, Head of SODA, said: 

“Our ambition is to become a world leader in digital arts, producing the next generation of creative talent which will drive regional growth in this rapidly expanding area.

“The involvement of internationally acclaimed media figures on our External Advisory Group is hugely exciting for us and will help to ensure that everything SODA does is attuned to the needs of our creative and digital sector.”

The school has received £14.9m in funding from the Local Growth Fund via the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Together they have jointly committed to investing in Greater Manchester’s digital future to support jobs, skills and economic growth.

Lou Cordwell OBE, Co-Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, and founder of Manchester’s magneticNorth digital design studio, said:In partnership with GMCA, the GM LEP is proud to invest £14.9m of the Local Growth Fund into the School Of Digital Arts, a purpose-built facility for one of the UK’s leading modern universities.

“The Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy is our plan to deliver an economy fit for the future, with prosperous communities across the city-region and radically increased productivity and earning power. This project showcases one of the ways we can realise that vision: strengthening our creative, digital and media industries by generating the digitally skilled workforce of tomorrow.

“SODA reflects the scale of Greater Manchester’s digital burgeoning digital sector and ambition as well as our ongoing commitment to inclusive growth. As is the Manchester way, the private sector will continue to play an integral role in ensuring that the city region’s creative and digital sector continues to thrive and that drive a growth in opportunities for everyone.”

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