Creative Skillset has announced that animation production company Blue Zoo has become the first company to co-invest in its Skills Investment Fund, which is matched pound for pound by the UK government.

Blue Zoo’s Digby Dragon is one of the first five projects to receive a letter from the BFI’s Certification Unit confirming that the upcoming production will pass the cultural test for the UK’s new animated tax relief.

Creative Skillset Executive Director Kate O’Connor said speaking in Annecy today: “These developments mark a step change in the competitiveness of the UK animation industry.  They put out a clear message that the UK animation industry is open for business.  With the tax reliefs, industry and government co-investment into skills and the training opportunities for new entrants and professionals there has been no better time to invest in the UK animation industry.”

Oli Hyatt, Co-Founder of Blue Zoo, Chair of Animation UK and one of the leading campaigners for the new tax relief, added: “I am passionate about the UK animation industry and firmly believe in the importance of investing in our future talent. This country has an illustrious heritage in animation, a wealth of emerging young talent and is a major worldwide exporter of animation for TV but, until now, we were simply not competing on a level playing field with the rest of the world..Having now successfully secured government approval for tax credits, the animation industry must ensure that its workforce is skilled and ready to meet the predicted increase in production.”

He continued: “Blue Zoo is expanding and planning to train up both graduates and existing professionals in new senior roles such as directors, producers and storyboarding riggers over the coming 18 months.  By investing in the Skills Investment Fund we will be able to access subsidised trainees and training opportunities enabling us to do more comprehensive training not just for new talent coming in but also for existing professionals to step up to their next role.”

Also, the Skills Investment Fund will fund its first animation courses starting in July. ‘Advanced Storyboarding for Animation’ and ‘An Introduction to Storyboarding’ will be managed by Lupus Films.

Industry veteran Frank Gladstone, who has worked for Disney, DreamWorks and Aardman, will lead the courses.

Other training initiatives will be announced soon.