19 digital media projects get $2M government funding

An e-learning tool focusing on the War of 1812 and a geopolitical strategy game based on World War II were among the 19 new digital media projects that will benefit this year from a $2 million funding from the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC).

The money comes from OMDC’s Interactive Digital Media Fund, created in 2005, and will be used for various projects, ranging from online games to digital learning tools. In 2008, there were about 1,000 interactive digital media companies in Ontario alone, generating $1.2 billion in revenue. The fund provides up to $150,000 to a selected project, covering a maximum of 50 per cent of the project budget.

TEACH Magazine, an education magazine, was one recipient of the funding. It will put the money towards its latest venture, Project 1812, an e-learning tool aimed at middle school students and their teachers. The project is taking advantage of the upcoming 2012 anniversary of the War of 1812. It will use a graphic novel focusing on an Aboriginal family as its main learning tools, and will also incorporate digital archive material.

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“It’s great that there’s an organization like OMDC out there,” says Wili Liberman, the magazine’s publisher. “I think it’s just a fantastic organization and the people there are great.” Project Ethiopia, another education program by TEACH Magazine, was also partially funded by the OMDC. The project received just over $148, 000.

Supreme Ruler 1936 is a geopolitical strategy game created by BattleGoat Studios, another recipient of the funding, based in Ancaster, Ont. Users can play as any country, controlling its economy, military and government. Players can try to avoid World War II or aim to win it- the idea is to try various moves and alter history.

According to BattleGoat co-founder David Thompson, the provincial support for the gaming and digital media industry is very helpful, especially considering recent hits to the economy. “It’s an industry that has the potential to boom and continue to boom and Ontario is really well positioned,” Thompson says.

Funding applicants go through extensive process

OMDC received 55 applications for the current cycle of funding, according to Kristine Murphy, OMDC’s director of industry development. A small jury of industry professionals chooses the recipients, within about three months of applications coming in. The jury changes from year to year, Murphy says, usually including around three judges who aren’t directly involved with any of the applicants.

The application process is extensive. Candidates must prove that their projects will benefit Ontario’s economy, whether by creating revenue or through creating jobs. Potential projects are also judged for their feasibility, originality and potential for commercial and critical success, says Murphy.

Thompson of BattleGoat says the money from OMDC will likely cover his project’s development costs. Liberman of Project 1812 says the funding they receive will go towards human resources and recruitment.

Talent poll not limited to GTA

“What’s really great to see is the depth and the wealth of the talent,” says Kim Gibson, program consultant for interactive media at OMDC. She points out that several new companies have been applying for funding for new projects. “It really is a clear indicator of growth in the industry.”

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The Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance has also played a role in supporting the digital media industry. Its manager of business development, Joe Kevens, agrees that the industry is a booming one. “It’s a good fit for our organization to connect with this sector,” he says.

On Feb. 7, the GTMA hosted the International Digital Media Forum, which involved industry professionals from Paris, Rome, London and Munich and students from local colleges and universities. “Schools are instrumental in communicating the strength and talent in the area,” says Kevens, as they provide a lot of the talent in the industry.

But Gibson is quick to point out that the talent pool is not limited to the GTA. “We’ve seen projects from across the province,” she says. It’s great, she adds, because OMDC is able to support projects all over Ontario, including London and Ottawa.

Both Liberman and Thompson say their companies will likely apply for funding from OMDC again for future projects. The deadline for funding applications for next year will likely be in the late summer or early fall of 2011.

Harmeet Singh is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follower her on Twitter, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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