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XPLOR is set to foster SME growth across the region, worth £30bn to the UK economy

Production Park, the UK’s leading facility for the live events industry, has revealed details of a  £7million research and development project on its Wakefield campus. With construction well underway, XPLOR will become the UK’s first specialist innovation centre in the live events industry, on its completion in Spring 2022. 

The facility, a partnership between Backstage Academy and Wakefield Council, will be situated on the park in South Kirby, building on the site’s current provision for businesses working in the live events industry, spanning technology, creative spaces and higher education. 

The team leading XPLOR believe the new centre of innovation will foster “disruptive growth” for SMEs within the industry who might have faced uncertainty due to Covid, and hope it will further invigorate the live events sector, estimated to be worth £30 billion to the UK’s economy.

The £7 million R&D centre, and its specialist equipment, will be used to deliver a support programme targeting SMEs across the live events industry, covering specialisms such as music, TV, film, sports, corporate events, theatre and arts, further bolstering the Park’s current offering. 

Artist Impression
Artist Impression

Construction for XPLOR’s facilities launched this month with the demolition of the old building on the brownfield site, which was attended by the Deputy Leader of Wakefield’s Council, Councillor Darren Byford. 

Once complete, the site will incorporate a 2,520m2 specialist knowledge and innovation centre, offering a broad range of creative spaces and state-of-the-art technology to SMEs, and wider supply chain industries. It will also serve as the research arm of Backstage Academy.

Running from 2019 until 2022, the project was made possible through grant funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and supported by Cultural Development Fund (CDF), it will be headed up by Development Director, Jim Farmery, previously of Creative England. The announcement also includes the appointment of Matt Glynn as Concept and Product Designer, Peter Nye, as Software and Controls Engineer and Ben Schweitzer as Digital Content Designer. 

SMEs will be able to contact the team with their specific requirements, before the XPLOR team allocate an appropriate team member, who will work with the company to overcome challenges and barriers and facilitate growth through innovation. The core capabilities of the XPLOR team include concept & 3D product design, software & controls automation, prototyping, testing and digital content design. 

Jim Farmery, XPLOR’s Development Director, comments: 

“We’re incredibly excited about the launch of XPLOR, which has come at a vital time for our industry. Not only will it facilitate business growth in the region, but as a UK-first powerhouse for the events industry, it will also drive employment within the sector. XPLOR will also play a pivotal role in fostering disruptive growth of the industry’s SMEs, who might need support in taking their business to the next level or adapting to challenges posed by the impact of Covid. 

“SMEs will approach us with a challenge, idea or product, and our team will work closely with them to cultivate the concept and bring it to fruition. We’ll be holding boutique mentoring sessions for SMEs keen for support, which will include face-to-face or virtual master classes, workshops, residential weekends, hack challenges and access to an e-learning platform. It’s not only a really exciting project for Production Park, but for the wider UK live events sector, too.”

Cllr Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council said: 

“This is fantastic news and a welcome boost for the creative and digital industries sector and for our district’s overall economy as we begin to recover from impact of COVID-19. We have amazing talent in our district and this investment will help to encourage growth and job opportunities in the live events and digital industries. It also supports our ambition to foster the development of creative and digital industries and new job creation across our district.”

“This investment also supports new business incubation and job creation capacity being brought forward in Wakefield city centre via the WX3 scheme.”

The launch of XPLOR coincides with the launch of 3 brand new postgraduate degrees by Backstage Academy designed to bolster the skillset of the sectors’ graduates entering the live events industry in a post-COVID world. 

With audience habits evolving, the Academy has seen a rising demand for graduates who can effectively move between different live events disciplines and demonstrate business acumen, in order to successfully navigate the post-COVID landscape as the sector recovers.

The new postgraduate degrees include:

MA Innovation & Entrepreneurship for Live Events – offering the opportunity to develop leadership, financial, and strategic skills along with the business acumen necessary to be creative innovators and entrepreneurs within the live events and related industries.

MA in Live Event Design – offering the opportunity to cultivate the creative and collaborative skills required for emerging live event designers.

MSc Creative Technologies for Live Events – equipping students with the technical, academic and professional skills necessary to be creative innovators and technologists.

To be eligible in support from XPLOR, your business must be:

  • An SME employing fewer than 250 people and with an annual turnover of under £50m 
  • Based in the Leeds City Region – including Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield and York
  • Trading in an eligible sector

Eligible SME owners interested in receiving the business support should complete an online registration form at

For any further information, please call 01977 659 880.

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