BFI National Lottery Innovation Challenge Fund opens call for not-for-profit organisations to explore use of AI in screen archives

The £175,000 fund is to support projects to examine and better understand the benefits and challenges of using AI in moving image archives.

Stacks of film cans in the BFI National Archive

The BFI National Lottery Innovation Challenge Fund today opens its second call for applications. Established to provide solutions which tackle the UK screen sector’s most critical challenges, the area of focus for this round is AI in Screen Archives, setting out to unlock the potential of using AI in screen archives and identify where the key challenges lie. 

“This fund gives us the flexibility to support the screen sector to break barriers, learn and develop new ways to deliver public value,” said Rishi Coupland, BFI Director of Research and Industry Innovation. “AI presents significant opportunities to support archivists in a range of tasks – from documenting, developing, and sharing moving image heritage – but we need a much more comprehensive understanding of the benefits and challenges, and this funding sets out to bridge that gap.” 

The £175,000 Innovation Challenge Fund for AI in Screen Archives seeks applications for ideas which would advance skills, insight and capacity in screen archives. Organisations are invited to experiment with AI, or progress areas of existing knowledge and experimentation, to significantly impact the screen archives of the future. The fund is open to applications from not-for-profit organisations working in this area and is intended to deliver for a wide range of beneficiaries, from archives and collections owners, to researchers to audiences. The fund provides support to organisations to build networks, test possibilities through “sandpits” and then crucially share the insights generated.   

This call is part of the BFI’s wider exploration of what AI means for the future of the screen sector. Broader issues such as how this technology might affect areas such as production, training or skills are all being explored separately through sector consultation and research, and insights from this may lead to a future Innovation Challenge Call.    

The deadline for applications is Thursday 5 September 2024, with funding awards expected to be made in January 2025. 

The BFI National Lottery Innovation Challenge Fund, as part of the BFI’s National Lottery Funding Plan, 2023 to 2026, seeks to support new solutions to the UK screen sector’s most critical challenges. Between 2024 and 2026, up to £1.8 million will be distributed across up to six challenges, to help not-for-profit organisations to innovate, developing new approaches to persistent problems, while also gaining insights that benefit the whole screen sector.  

The fund’s first call was for two separate challenges for innovative proposals to support the video games industry.