Channel 4 bosses have confirmed that Birmingham will be the national hub of its new £10 million digital media fund.
The broadcaster’s Four Innovation for the Public fund (4IP) will kick start a new wave of investment in public service digital media, helping around 100 firms across the West Midlands to become a part of the venture.
The fund, which includes £5 million from Channel 4 and £5 million match-funding from Advantage West Midlands, will run for at least two years and will be managed by Screen WM with a team of commissioners from Channel 4 based in the Jewellery Quarter.
Midland media firms will be able to apply for investment of between £20,000 and £1.5 million to produce content and services for mobile phones, social networking sites like Facebook and online drama series.
Suzie NortonCT, chief executive of Screen WM, described the announcement as "a major coup".
"Securing a major broadcaster like Channel 4 to base their commissioning hub for 4IP in England and Wales in Birmingham is a major coup for the region, and positions us at the cutting edge of digital media production in the UK," she said. "The fund will provide fantastic opportunities for screen media companies across the West Midlands to lead innovations in areas such as online drama, interactive education and games development.
"In addition, the fund will work to attract major investment from international blue chip companies such as Google, Microsoft and Bebo, along with public sector partners like the NHS and Arts Council."
Television and film companies already employ 10,000 people across the region, generating £1 billion in revenue a year, which is set to grow as the digital and new media sector continues to expand.
More than 20 per cent of the UK’s games developers are based in the Midlands, the latest to relocate to the region being gaming giant Sega now based in Solihull.
Liam Byrne MP, Minister for the West Midlands, is now urging Ofcom to base its Public Service Publisher arm - which monitors new media output - in Birmingham.
"At my first culture summit with James Purnell last year, I said the West Midlands could become Britain’s digital media capital," said Mr Byrne. "Channel 4’s announcement is proof we were right.
"The growth of Eastside with Birmingham City University moving its creative centre there, the Brit School coming and surrounding new businesses converging with digital media and creative industries.
"This investment and commitment is reinforcing the fact that Birmingham and the West Midlands is the place to base new media businesses."
He added that the digital media industry "could be as lucrative as manufacturing has been in the past for the region".
"One of the major benefits will be this will bring value added manufacturing to the Midlands, as I believe we will see more manufacturing research and development linking up with digital companies in the future. We want to be the capital of the UK’s brain power in digital media as it won’t just create new jobs but will actively pull value added manufacturing to the Midlands."
Channel 4 are due to officially launch 4IP in July, with chief executive Andy Duncan heading the 4IP steering group, which will be focused on working with the best talent, both individually and within digital production companies.
Mr Duncan said: "Media consumers are changing rapidly and Channel 4 must find imaginative new ways of communicating with them. We have to work with the most creative and dynamic companies and many of them are based in the West Midlands, which is why we are delighted to be working with Screen West Midlands on 4IP."
Mick Laverty, Chief Executive of AWM added: "This announcement underlines the West Midlands’ position as a leading player in the digital media world.
"The new fund will not only support development amongst our home grown talent, but will encourage further investment from major digital media companies outside of the West Midlands through commissions and collaboration."