Case study by Anglia Ruskin University

Harnessing the power of games to create innovative solutions for human problems

REACTOR is a regional development project led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Designed to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the project helps businesses based in the Cambridgeshire/Peterborough region grow through the use of applied gaming techniques.

Since 2017, the project has been helping over 100 organisations from a range of sectors by providing funding grant support, access to academic expertise, networking opportunities through an events programme that includes the Big Gamification Challenge, and more recently access to gaming software and high spec technology through the launch of a new Incubator Space.

Our community of networked organisations now stands at over 100 and some of these people are receiving tangible benefits from being involved in the project. Take YoYoLet’sGo for example. The company was keen to take their idea forward by creating a family friendly app which enabled users to be their own tour guide, discovering the most inspiring and interesting spots on a city visit with children.

The REACTOR project connected the company to game designers with experience of working with mobile games development. By connecting the two together, YoYoLet’sGo were able to avail expertise that let them build in a map and GPS into the app and explore gamification as an enhancement technique for the product.

The project has not been without its challenges though. One of the biggest the project has faced relates to translation. The world of business and academia often speak different languages and innovation is a complex entity that can mean many different things to different audiences. In the beginning, there was a misunderstanding amongst the community as to what we were offering. We’re not making games, but applying those techniques from the games industry to other areas. We discovered that the naming of events, support and the incubation space was critical to how people understood what they were. The Big Games Challenge became the Big Gamification Challenge. The REACTOR innovation space became the REACTOR Incubation Space. These subtle changes meant the difference between an event being fully booked or not, or enquiries coming forward to join our community network.

“We as designers know that if a design doesn’t work, you change it. The same can be said for a project such as REACTOR. So our advice would be to be openminded and be willing to make changes to a project as it progresses. This is a typical start-up problem which even universities can experience” said Dr Jan Storgards, REACTOR Director and Sector Lead for Digital and Creative Industries at ARU. “The early stage technology cluster in Cambridge is curious and support from the community superb. The next challenge for us is to harness this support to create a world-class cluster that grows beyond the Cambridgeshire enclave.

“Our aim is to be the global thoughtleaders in gamification and the SMEs participating in the project best in their class.” Dr Jan Storgards, REACTOR Director and ARU Sector Lead for Digital and Creative Industries

ARU already plays a vital role in the games ecosystem in Cambridge. Along with industry partners, we run Brains Eden, the largest student games festival in Europe, bringing talented students to Cambridge for an annual games jam.

Published: 18 September 2018


This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.