A new £575,000 XR funding competition is bringing together innovators from our creative industries sector with our leading tourism organisations to explore how immersive technology will enhance future visitor attractions across the Belfast region, including the landmark Belfast Stories.

The Augment the City challenge competition, led by Belfast City Council’s City Innovation Office and funded by the Belfast Region City Deal, is enabling local businesses to develop ideas, proof of concepts and prototypes using immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality to enhance visitor attractions.


Belfast City Council is designing a new tourism landmark – Belfast Stories – which will open in Belfast city centre in 2029.

Belfast Stories will reflect the unique spirit of Belfast through a variety of media and a mix of immersive experiences. Celebrating Belfast’s people and places, this new attraction will enable visitors and local people to connect with the city and one another through stories, screen, and social spaces.

We are working with creative technology innovators to develop concepts and proposals which use innovative immersive and digital technologies to gather, curate and present stories about Belfast and its people.

What are we offering?

Successful applicants will benefit from:

  • funding to support innovation and R&D to develop ideas, proofs of concepts and prototypes in immersive technologies,
  • access to a venue, with state-of-the-art advanced wireless digital connectivity, to develop, trial and showcase their innovative ideas and prototypes,
  • user testing and feedback from visitors to help improve and enhance their product, and
  • a better understanding of the future needs of those creating new visitor attractions in the city and elsewhere.

Funding available

The funding competition will be delivered across three phases:

  • Phase one: Up to ten companies will be offered up to £10,000 each to develop their concepts. This will include an in-person presentational pitch in Belfast at the end of phase 1.
  • Phase two: Up to five companies will be offered up to £35,000 to further develop their proposals.
  • Phase three: Up to three companies will be offered up to £100,000 each to develop prototypes.

Phase one – Successful applicants

Ten tech innovation companies and entrepreneurs have been awarded funding from the Augment the City competition to help enrich the Belfast region’s visitor experiences. Each project has received £10,000 to develop their concept.

  • Belfast Stories Generator: Hamilton Robson will combine AI and immersive tech to create an accessible, interactive platform for exploring the city’s vibrant history and culture. 
  • Echoes of Belfast: Imvizar will focus on location-based AR to recreate and share Belfast’s historical and contemporary narratives. This initiative will create a dynamic story engine, allowing anyone with a story the opportunity to have their voice heard using immersive technology.  
  • Yarns, Craic, and Danders: Darin Smyth will utilise AI, Metahumans, AR, and game engine technology to create immersive experiences in interactive booths and a complementary AR guide. These experiences will enhance exploratory walks and inspire users to engage with and discover the city’s rich stories. 
  • SIGN: Aura Digital Studios will help to empower the deaf and hearing-impaired community to share their stories both locally and globally using haptics and AR technologies in a dedicated physical space equipped for motion capture, via a mobile app using AR, and through a network of visual triggers and QR codes guiding an independent walking tour across Belfast, linking audiences to site-specific performances. 
  • Belfast Memory Machine: SENSEcity will develop an AI-Powered Immersive Storytelling Experience using advanced technology to capture the rich tapestry of Belfast’s stories from lesser heard voices. Participant storytellers will be provided with 3D-printed miniaturised models of Belfast buildings and landmarks, e-ink displays, and a smart microphone, all providing a tactile and interactive experience, while they narrate their stories.  
  • Amergin: Liquid City will develop an AI-powered interviewer, archivist, curator, and broadcaster accessible on social media, the web, mixed reality, and in a visitor centre.  
  • Storyfields: Animorph will develop an innovative platform to allow residents to create and share immersive storytelling experiences using their smartphones in an interactive treasure hunt. Designated areas in Belfast will become Storyfields where users ‘plant’ their personal stories and discover those planted by others.  
  • Belfast Back Beats: Cooperative Innovations and The Performance Corporation is an artistic/technology collaboration aiming to develop interactive virtual environments to showcase transformative moments in Belfast’s performing arts and music scene, integrating real-world artefacts into virtual environments providing tangible connections to the city’s cultural history. 
  • Perspectives: Neurotech and Belfast Hidden Tours, in collaboration with artist Mark Mullan, will create an interactive mythology and history tour app, allowing users to experience first-person stories, and contribute their own narratives, thoughts, and reactions. The project will have a particular focus on children and young people, including those who are neurodiverse or have other accessibility needs. 
  • Memory Fractal: Ekaterina Solomatina will combine mixed reality and 5G technology to create a narrative sculpture, offering a new way of digital storytelling about the city’s vibrant artistic heritage. As well as visitors experiencing the space they are physically in, they will interact with virtual 3D-scanned and AI/community generated sculptures. 

The companies will have the opportunity to apply for further funding in phase two of the competition.

Key dates

  • 15 April 2024: Challenge Fund (phase one) opened for applications
  • 18 April 2024: Information session for local businesses interested in applying to the fund
  • 3pm, 10 May 2024: Closing date for applications to phase one
  • 17 May 2024: Successful applicants announced
  • End of May 2024: Phase one commences
  • 26 June 2024: Phase one pitch presentations (in-person in Belfast)
  • 30 June 2024: Submission of end of phase one reports
  • Autumn 2024: Phase two
  • Spring 2025: Phase three

More information

For more information, email smartbelfast@belfastcity.gov.uk.

Competition information

Belfast Region City Deal logoBelfast Region City Deal

The Augment the City Challenge Competition is funded by the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD). The BRCD is an ambitious £850 million programme of investment that aims to deliver inclusive economic growth in the Belfast region and cuts across the responsibilities of local councils, the Northern Ireland Executive and UK Government. The BRCD partnership is comprised of the Belfast region’s six local authorities, four further education colleges, and two universities.