Netflix and Amazon take up residence in Shepperton Studios’ expansion

Surrey is now home to the world’s second biggest film studio as Shepperton Studios welcomed two of the largest production companies to their new home.

The £500 million expansion was recently completed and now Amazon MGM Studios and Netflix have occupied the new space.

The state-of-the-art development will add to Shepperton’s world-class amenities and provide an additional 17 sound stages, 548,000 sq ft of production and workshop spaces as well as two backlots. 

Amazon MGM Studios have taken a total of nine new stages and Netflix will be taking eight in addition to their existing 14 leased stages on the original Shepperton site. 

The development makes Shepperton Studios – which is part of the Pinewood Group – the second biggest film studio in the world with a total of 31 purpose-built sound stages alongside ancillary production accommodation, the whole site covers 1.5 million sq ft.

Shepperton Studios lit up at night time

Commenting on the announcement, Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council, said: “This is fantastic news for Shepperton and for Surrey as a whole, cementing our reputation as a region for innovation, creativity and top class talent. 

“The fact that two of the largest content producers in the world have chosen Shepperton and Surrey for a global base speaks volumes for the amazing offer the county provides to businesses, large and small. 

“We look forward to deepening our relationships with Shepperton, Amazon and Netflix in the months and years to come, so we can ensure our residents and businesses benefit from the investment, jobs and opportunities this brings.”

Chris Bird, Managing Director, Prime Video UK said: “It feels fitting that, ten years from the launch of Prime Video, we’re beginning our tenure in brand new facilities at Shepperton Studios.

“It’s so exciting that some of our most loved series and movies around the world will be made right here in the UK, including season three of our fantastic UK Original The Devil’s Hour. Shepperton Studios have long been synonymous with world class filmmaking, and we’re delighted to continue supporting and investing in the UK creative industries.”

Anna Mallett, Vice President Production EMEA/UK Netflix said: “The UK is our most important production hub outside North America. This announcement reinforces our long-term commitment to Britain’s creative sector. 

“Since 2020, we have invested over $6 billion in the UK creating shows like Sex Education, The Crown and Bridgerton here. The completion of Shepperton will allow us to expand our footprint even further, creating incredible new shows, jobs and a boost for the economy.”

Paul Golding CBE, Chairman, Pinewood Group said: “We’re incredibly pleased to have opened our new state-of-the art facilities at Shepperton Studios and to see Netflix and Amazon MGM Studios making this long-term commitment to the studios and to the UK.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The decision by the two largest content producers in the world to choose their long-term home in the UK and base their global productions at Shepperton Studios backed by private sector

investment is testament to the support the Government has given to the UK’s screen sector.

“I am thrilled that Amazon MGM Studios and NETFLIX have taken possession of 17 new state of the art sound stages at Shepperton Studios making Pinewood Group, the biggest studio complex in Europe.

“The UK is now the second largest production hub, second only to Hollywood, in the world.”

AI and public services of the future

From board rooms to bus queues, there’s no hotter topic of discussion right now than Artificial Intelligence (AI).

As the recent AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park looked to establish a rulebook for how this powerful technology will be utilised, society remains divided over the new technology.

For some, it will herald the start of robots taking over; others are enthused at the opportunities to transform, innovate, and improve efficiencies.

Within local government, the question is how do we harness AI to elevate our economies and increase accessibility to public services without damaging our communities?

It’s a discussion that we here in Surrey are already thinking about deeply.

On the eve of the Bletchley Park summit, government announced funding to create a new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) within Surrey, establishing more than 80 industry-ready PhDs to lead the transformation to responsible AI-enabled inclusive media.

It will be led by academics at two world-leading centres within the county: the University of Surrey’s Institute for People-centred AI, which has been pioneering research within AI and machine learning for 35 years; and the StoryFutures unit at Royal Holloway University of London, which is leading creative innovation in next-generation inclusive digital media.

The CDT will seek to remove significant real-world barriers to media inclusion, using AI to create intelligent content that adapts to individual preferences, such as age, language, and sensory and physical abilities.

As the authority for strategic oversight of our regional economy, Surrey County Council was pleased to support the proposal.

For a start, it places the region at the centre of this exciting, innovative, and emerging technology.

The CDT will complement Surrey’s already highly-skilled workforce which has world-leading cybersecurity, gaming, and creative industry clusters.

The challenge for us now is to work with industry and academic partners to develop a regional economic ecosystem which champions training, community-building, and knowledge exchange around AI.

If we get it right then, rather than making roles redundant, AI will be the driver for upskilling the labour force and freeing people to use their talents in more creative ways.

It will also place Surrey as a national – perhaps even world leader – in digital media inclusion, supporting job creation, inward investment, and wider economic prosperity.

But utilising AI within digital media goes beyond the bottom line.

Creating content and services that are inclusive and accessible for all is essential for society.

While Surrey has a thriving and vibrant economy second only to London in size, we know there are sections within our 1.2 million population who need a little extra help, as reflected in the County Council’s organisational mission of No One Left Behind.

If we can harness AI technology in a safe and trustworthy way, it could have a significant positive impact on our ability to deliver high-quality and sustainable services for all.

We could use the learning from the CDT to improve service reach to our most vulnerable residents, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Collaborative research projects could also focus on improving the accessibility and impact of services on hard-to-reach groups, leading to greater overall resident satisfaction and increase in participation.

The development of more interactive and creative content in fire prevention and community safety services could also increase engagement – reducing demand for emergency intervention down the road.

AI could also be used to drive community engagement around green agendas, such as identifying and promoting measures where local authority interventions could catalyse a broader change on the transition to net zero.

The balance between opportunities and risks remains very real. But harnessed the right way, AI could have transformative impacts on our regional economies and delivery of public services, creating a safer and fairer society along the way.

Dawn Redpath is Director for Economy and Growth at Surrey County Council. This article first appeared as a thought leadership piece in The MJ in November 2023.

Abstract image of a woman with computer code projected onto her face

Surrey Women’s Entrepreneurship Network applications welcomed

The Surrey Women’s Entrepreneurship Network (SWEN) is a burgeoning network which fosters innovation and investment-readiness through mentoring programmes, expert business support and links with the local ecosystem of funders, policy makers, investors and other stakeholders.

It is a collaboration between Surrey Research ParkSETsquared Surrey & University of Surrey, aiming to improve opportunities for business growth and innovation.

This includes access to information and support for women entrepreneurs, creating positive impact locally and beyond.

Surrey Women's Entrepreneurship Network

In addition to bringing people together, its focus is on:

  • Championing women
    • Spotlighting and promoting the contribution of women in the innovation ecosystem, raising the profile of entrepreneurs and companies across all sectors who are underrepresented
  • Investor-readiness
    • Supporting women to access funding for their businesses and source and prepare for investment raises and grant applications
  • Growth opportunities
    • Creating opportunities for women to grow their networks, build interest in their ideas and receive expert business advice

The network launched in December 2023 at the Surrey Research Park in Guildford.

The audience heard a keynote by Nathalie Hinds delivered beautifully by Monique Raats on “Three Powerful Words”, before two inspiring panels took to the stage.

The panelists – Tobi EyinadeFiona SwenyShelley Coleman – MarshSusannah McClintockDr Alison Callwood and Matthew McCann – brought a wealth of experience and were incredibly generous with their advice and guidance for the women entrepreneurs in the network.

Kathy Slack OBE closed the event with great energy and a clear message to the audience to “feel that buzz in your belly” and keep the momentum going forward.

SWEN Co-founder Kat Mack says, “It was wonderful to see so many people in the room committed to the support and pursuit of women’s entrepreneurship. The community is vibrant and poised! I can’t wait to see the network flourish!”

To apply to join the SWEN network click here.

Surrey Women’s Entrepreneurship Network

Nominations open for the Runnymede Business Awards 2024

Businesses in Chertsey, Addlestone, Egham and surrounding areas are being encouraged to submit their entries to the 2024 Runnymede Business Awards.

Organised by Business Runnymede and Runnymede District Council, the annual awards have nine categories for companies and individuals to enter.

It is free, quick, and easy to apply, with the deadline for applications Wednesday 24 April 2024.

Shortlisted businesses will be invited to a gala lunchtime awards ceremony in the Founders Dining Hall at Royal Holoway University of London on Friday 21 June. 

A spokesman for Business Runnymede said: “Winning an award is a fantastic way to raise the profile of your business and to build contacts with other leading businesses in the area.  

“All you have to do to enter is choose an award category, read the relevant judging criteria, and write no more than 500 words on why your business deserves to win the award.” 

The nine categories are: 

  • Growth Award
  • Sustainability Award
  • Entrepreneur and Innovator Award
  • Community Hero Award
  • Best New Business
  • Best Town Centre Business
  • Best Neighbourhood Business
  • Employer of the Year
  • Outstanding Contribution (Individual or Team)

Businesses can enter more than one award category, but they must submit an application for each award category you enter.  

The overall winner will be awarded Business of the Year.

The headline sponsor for the event is Royal Holloway, University of London with additional sponsors including Tesco, Thorpe Park, and Surrey Careers Hub.

Apply and find out more here.  

Runnymede Business Awards

LEP functions transferred to Surrey County Council

Businesses will be at the heart of Surrey’s economic growth as they are set to benefit from a single strategic vision and leadership for the Surrey economy as part of the transfer of formal powers to Surrey County Council.

From April, the Council will take up the key functions currently held by the county’s two Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), Enterprise M3 and Coast to Capital.

The change will see the council lead on an enhanced oversight and delivery role in driving sustainable economic growth across the county. It will absorb formal responsibilities to deliver business support through the new Surrey-wide Growth Hub and deliver government-funded programmes focused on skills.

Matt Furniss, Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Growth at Surrey County Council said: “Surrey has a great economic story to tell. We’re the UK’s leading regional economy, with more than 100,000 businesses which generate more than £50 billion a year to the UK economy.

“We know there is huge potential to grow this further – through targeted support to key sectors, and through working with employers, training providers and local residents to create a high-quality skilled workforce for the future.

“I very much welcome the transfer of these powers into Surrey County Council. 

“It will mean for the first time we will have one organisation who, together with a strong independent business voice, will provide a clear, coherent and comprehensive approach to developing a strong sustainable economy. This is positive for business and for residents.

“I want to thank the government for hearing our case and also to our partners in the LEPs for working with us to ensure there is a seamless transfer of service at the start of April.”

Surrey has historically been divided across two LEP boundaries – Enterprise M3 operating in the west of the county and Coast to Capital in the east – which has presented challenges in terms of strategic coherence and created confusion for local businesses.

In March 2023, the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget statement announced the intention to integrate of LEP functions into upper tier local authorities.

Aware of the positive impacts that could have for Surrey, the County Council took steps to engage early with partners to ensure it was ready to absorb and deliver these functions from the point of transfer.

report discussed and agreed by the Council’s Cabinet on 27th February acknowledge the move could have a range of positive benefits for local businesses and residents including:

  • Setting a single economic vision for the county, ensuring Surrey-wide solutions are developed to support local economic growth.
  • The development of a new Surrey business brand and website to make it easier for businesses to know where to access the right information, advice and guidance.   
  • The creation of a Surrey Growth Hub service to provide universal signposting support for business, as well as targeted interventions to help eligible local businesses in their journey to becoming high-growth.
  • The creation of a Surrey Careers Hub (launched in September 2023), which delivers a range of activities focused on ensuring schools and colleges can help young people take their next best step.   
  • Improved join-up and efficiencies with existing council services and teams.
  • Greater democratic accountability for decision-making related to local economic growth, that will be informed by a strong, independent, and diverse private sector voice.
  • Future government funding to support local growth will now be focused on the whole of Surrey, instead of it being spread across larger regional areas.   

Further announcements will be made in the coming months regarding the launch of the new Surrey business brand, website, and Surrey Growth Hub.

Surrey County Council offices

Boost for gaming sector with £2.4 million GAIN programme

Businesses working within the gaming sector in Surrey are being encouraged to get involved with a new £2.3 million programme to tackle challenges in the industry.

The Games and Innovation Nexus (GAIN) will focus on ways to promote growth and innovation in this growing sector.

Already more than 60 companies and 3,000 developers work within the gaming sector in Guildford, earning the town the title of “the Hollywood of Gaming”.

Among the priorities for GAIN will be developing infrastructure for the sector to enable greater collaboration, with the aim of ensuring Surrey continues to be a world leader in this creative sector.

The catalyst for the project is £1.5 million of funding from Research England aimed at allowing two of the UK’s biggest gaming clusters – Guildford and Leamington in Warwickshire – to drive innovation in the sector.

If you’re working in or interested in gaming, the GAIN project team are keen to hear more about your industry challenges, opportunities and ideas for research collaboration.

Sign up here.

GAIN launch

GAIN was officially launched at the Guildford Games Festival in February.

The project will look to:

  • Connect university researchers with games companies with challenges to solve
  • Connect the Guildford and Leamington games clusters
  • Invest in an innovation ecosystem, including a new Games Innovation Zone at the University of Surrey; and a town centre incubation centre at UCA Farnham that support games innovation commercialisation.

As part of the launch, Caroline Fleming, Director Surrey Innovation District, University of Surrey, chaired a panel session titled ‘Connecting Capabilities, Research to Revenue’ involving industry and academic representatives.

The prestigious panel comprised of Charity Joy from Criterion Games, which is part of the gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA); Steve Cuss of The GamePlan Consultancy; Andrew Bossom from the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) and the University of Surrey’s Dr Stephen Mooney.

Together, the industry experts explored the relationship between universities and the games industry, delving into issues around people and skills, research, and the value of connections and networks.

Caroline Fleming, Director Surrey Innovation District, University of Surrey, said: “The University of Surrey is particularly excited to develop our innovation collaboration with Guildford’s vibrant and exciting games cluster.

“GAIN is designed to tackle the challenge of development of a new diversified innovation model that bridges across academic research and the IP sensitive Games industry, creating opportunity for regional economic growth and positive societal impact.

“I would like to thank the Guildford Games Committee, for inviting us to host this session, Surrey County Council for their ongoing support for the games sector in our region, and Research England, for recognising the value of our regional games cluster and committing £1.5m to funding it.”

Why does GAIN matter?

Dr William Lovegrove, Director of Innovation Strategy at the University of Surrey, who led the consortium bid, said: “The UK consumer games industry generates over £3 billion a year for the UK GDP and hires almost 50,000 people. It’s a UK success story.

“This project will help connect world-class researchers in the fields of AI, psychology, music, media, literature and languages with the two largest regional games clusters in the UK to collaborate, solve industry challenges and drive growth. It’s an exciting initiative which will redefine how universities collaborate with the UK games industry.”

Dr Amer Alwarea, Acting Director of Research and Innovation at the University for the Creative Arts, said: “This collaboration will stimulate our research communities, invigorate innovation in CreaTech, and champion sustainable expansion within the gaming sector. The fusion of academia and the gaming industry sets this partnership apart and establishes a new standard for the creative sector.”

Cllr Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Economic Growth, said: “The games industry is one of Surrey’s real success stories, showcasing our county and its talented workforce on a global stage.

“This funding has the potential to take this growing, innovative sector to new heights, creating high-quality jobs and generating inward investment into our communities – both of which would be good news for our residents.”

For more details visit:

GAIN funding

2024 Surrey Festival of Skills

Businesses and training providers across Surrey can now sign up to showcase their opportunities at the 2024 Festival of Skills.

The first ever Surrey Festival of Skills took place in November 2023 and left hundreds of young people fired up about their futures.

More than 1,300 people from schools and colleges across Surrey attended the free one-day event, engaging with 80 exhibitors, including Samsung, British Airways, Pfizer, Haleon, and BAE Systems.  

The event was organised and funded by Surrey County Council, with support from the Association of Learning Providers Surrey (ALPS) and Surrey Event Professionals.

Planning for the 2024 event is now underway with the festival set to return in the autumn. Businesses, training providers and educational settings who wish to attend can register their interest via

Man trying helmet on at Surrey Festival of Skills

The Festival of Skills is open to young people 14 to 18 who are in education in Surrey. 

Those attending access inspirational talks and interactive displays, while also learning about potential career opportunities.

Sectors represented included the creative arts, construction, cyber security, health and social care, technology, engineering, public sector, and hospitality.

Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council, described the 2023 event as “a big success”.

In opening the 2023 event, Cllr Oliver said: “We have a vibrant, thriving, and diverse economy in Surrey, which generates roughly £50 billion a year for the UK.  

“With a skilled workforce, high business success rate and enviable location, there is huge potential to grow the economy of Surrey sustainably in years to come.

Young people at Surrey Festival of skills

“The single most important component to achieving that growth is the individual contributions of our workforce. It’s their talent, their ideas, their passion which makes organisations thrive and prosper.  

“That is why the Festival of Skills is so important. Because it provides opportunities for our local young people to experience, to connect, to be inspired about their future.”

Star attractions on the day included a prototype supercar worth more than £2 million created by Guildford-based Gordon Murray Automotive and a robotic dog, which construction firm Balfour Beatty utilised on the M25 improvements and other major schemes.  

Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport & Economic Growth, said: “The first-ever Festival of Skills was a day to remember for all involved – providing young people with the chance to rub shoulders with major employers and be inspired about their futures.

“Providing opportunities for employers to connect with the county’s future workforce is integral to our wider Skills agenda and achieving our mission to ensure No One is Left Behind.”

Man presenting at Surrey Festival of Skills

AI training hub coming to Surrey

Surrey is set to become home to a high-quality training hub in Artificial Intelligence (AI), a move which could have transformative impacts in the way vulnerable residents engage and access public services.

Government has announced that the University of Surrey and the StoryFutures unit at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) will be the home of a new UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in AI for Digital Media Inclusion.

The funding will help establish a unique creative industry hub for high-quality training in responsible AI, inclusive design, and creative skills within the county.

In addition to creating 80 PhD posts, the centre will look at using AI to transform digital media into intelligent content that adapts to individual preferences, such as age, language, and sensory and physical abilities.

The aim will be to place Surrey – and the UK as a whole – as the world leader in media inclusion for the whole population.

Surrey County Council was proud to support the bid with leaders keen to work with the new centre to establish how public service could be made more accessible to its 1.2 million residents.

In a letter of support to the bid, Cllr Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council, said: “We are excited by the CDT’s proposed approach to responding to the national need for a new community of experts who individually and collectively will deliver resilience for our digitalised Critical National Infrastructure. 

“We recognise and support the CDT’s aim to develop the underpinning research, training, community-building, and knowledge exchange, contributing 80 highly skilled and connected resilience experts to the workforce.

“The funding bid and subsequent CDT and associated research and expertise will have a significant positive impact on our organisation’s ability to deliver high-quality and sustainable services for all.”

Cllr Oliver added the local authority was interested in exploring how new technology could improve the way its most vulnerable residents access services, including those with special educational needs and disability. 

There was also potential to look at increasing engagement with businesses, fire prevention and community safety services and community engagement around greener futures and net zero.

The Surrey hub will be one of 12 Centres for Doctoral Training in AI across the UK that will benefit from £117 million of funding through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), 

It was announced at the global AI Safety Summit held at Bletchley Park held in October 2023. Since then, teams have been working together to progress the project.

Cllr Oliver added that Surrey County Council has an established track record of working successfully with the county’s universities to drive innovation and economic growth.

This includes the local authority’s cabinet agreeing to investment £3 million to support the establishment of a new CoSTAR (Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime) satellite studio and incubator space on the RHUL campus.

The new centre for the creative industries – which will have direct links to the national lab based a short distance away at Pinewood Studios – will create 300 jobs, support 200 businesses and contribute £30 million to the Surrey economy.

The Council is also partner in a successful bid by Surrey’s Guildford Games Cluster and Warwickshire’s Silicon Spa for £1.5 million from Research England.

The funding will support two of the UK’s biggest gaming clusters to work with higher education to drive innovation, invest in infrastructure and support growth in the wider regional economy through the Games and Innovation Nexus (GAIN) project.

Cllr Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Economic Growth, said: “The games industry is one of Surrey’s real success stories, showcasing our county and its talented workforce on a global stage. 

“This funding has the potential to take this growing, innovative sector to new heights, creating high-quality jobs and generating inward investment into our communities – both of which would be good news for our residents.”

Artificial intelligence

The Sussex and Surrey Institute of Technology opens at Nescot

A multimillion pound investment into Surrey’s future workforce has officially opened.

The Sussex and Surrey Institute of Technology (IoT) at North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) in Epsom provides new cutting-edge facilities for higher level technical training with a focus on digital, sustainable technologies, engineering and construction.

The IoT at Nescot is the first new space to open as part of the Sussex and Surrey IoT. Available courses and apprenticeships include software development, cyber security, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and networking to cloud computing, data handling, ‘internet of things’ and IT support.

Applications from individuals and employers are open now, on the links below

Institute of Technology launch

The Sussex and Surrey Institute of Technology (IoT) at Nescot officially launched at the end of February with more than 60 guests at its opening event. 

Visitors had the opportunity to explore the state-of-the-art facilities, participate in hands-on activities and discover the wide range of resources and training opportunities available at the newly opened IoT.

Attendees included representatives of Business Surrey, Surrey Careers Hub and partners and employers from varied industry sectors who were able to find out the many ways in which they can support the future of skills development in the IT sector. 

Anchor employers including NatWest, Roche Diagnostics, Southern Water, Pearson and Gatwick Airport pledged their ongoing support in various ways, from recruiting apprentices and upskilling existing staff to working with curriculum experts to help shape study programmes and providing mentoring.

Computing staff, and students on our computing courses were on hand to showcase the specialist technology facilities and share their excitement with visitors about the courses available.

Man wearing a virtual reality headset and holding controls

Julie Kapsalis, Principal and CEO at Nescot said: “We were delighted to welcome our first guests to the IoT at Nescot which was buzzing with activity the whole day. It’s been wonderful to showcase our specialist digital technology facilities, resources and training. We are looking forward to working with businesses and partners to address current skills gaps and prepare for future skills needs.”

Paul Rolfe, Director of the Sussex & Surrey IoT said: “It was fantastic to be at the opening of the first Institute of Technology space here at Nescot. I am very proud to have such state-of-the-art facilities, teaching and learning, to enhance skills development across our region. I am thrilled that so many important employers and businesses could join us today.”

Demonstrating some of the technology, Joseph, a student on our Level 3 Computing course said: “The focus on specialist digital technologies is a great opportunity to enhance my knowledge. Nescot is the perfect choice for the IoT with great access and networking opportunities.”

Peter Goodenough, Computing tutor at Nescot, said: “With the Institute of Technology we can offer progress. Computers are in every walk of life and every industry. The IoT at Nescot is offering courses to enhance future skills and aid long term sustainability. You can choose from a wide range of courses on offer, from learning how to design, create and program smart devices, industrial and home robotics to making you mindful of your digital footprint.”

Woman talking to a young student in front of a robot

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Group of people talking at an event