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Sony Interactive Entertainment Group – The power of a network

Punn Chatupanyachotikul
Sony Interactive Entertainment Headquarter

Are you interested in the possibilities of university-business collaboration? Meet our new organisational member Sony Interactive Entertainment Group who share that same curiosity. We spoke with Academic Development Manager Lucy Hattersley, who is part of the Future Technologies Group at PlayStation to discuss the challenges and motivations for Sony in academic engagement and what first attracted them to UIIN.

Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is a global leader in digital entertainment, responsible for PlayStation products and services and with that, their research and development. SIE engages with academia via numerous different avenues, for example, working with PhD students.  Within the Future Technologies Group there are engineers from a variety of academic backgrounds who work on the PlayStation platform. These close relationships with academia allows new and more collaborative ways of thinking and applying knowledge and resource-processing that garner great results and keeps SIE at the forefront of innovation.

As the games industry develops, we want to be trailblazing the future of games technologies” 

SIE is fortunate to have a strong foundation in the UK and long-standing relationships with many institutions, many of these are part of the Centre for Doctoral Training programmes that operate through the UK, these have been also very beneficial to their talent with many students joining the SIE family upon completion of research. However, Lucy added, they would like to expand their reach further in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia with the view to better understand what universities are looking for and what SIE could offer as a partner, e.g., in the form of joint publications where universities could supply the applied research piece. There have been many successful outputs of SIE’s engagement with academic including everything from patent creation to student involvement in the development of controllers and the PlayStation 5 console. This tangible impact and involvement in the whole process, from game and research development right to the consumer can appeal to academics and, in Lucy’s opinion, is perhaps a reason why students remain with SIE following placement.

We want to be disruptive and want academia to be a part of it, but how that looks and how we get people involved and excited about it is something we are still trying to figure out.”

Lucy reported that one of the initial things that attracted SIE to UIIN in the first place was its diverse network, and how UIIN connects people. The power of a network is something SIE is keenly interested in, and also something they would like to see grow within the group in future as a medium for knowledge exchange. It is SIE’s hope that by joining the UIIN community, they will be able to better connect with academia, meeting colleagues in similar roles to exchange best practices, working to bridge the gap between blue-sky thinking and applied research. Though SIE currently have many programming PhD students joining their team, they hope to blend all levels of academia into more of their work in future to foster bi-directional exchange.

Ultimately, we’re trying to get that dialogue with academics – whether that be doctors, professors, early career researchers or students.”

In terms of challenges to university-industry engagement, Lucy mentioned the common obstacles of communication and cultural differences. “Communication is the biggest hurdle,” she admitted, with a certain amount of translation required on both sides in order to effectively match and collaborate. The complexity of a university’s organisational structure can also be a challenge, she added, as each institution has a unique structure, making finding the right contact person with the right expertise even more difficult for externals looking to approach. Regarding cultural differences, Lucy argued that occasionally academia’s view of commercial players such as SIE can be quite limiting to collaboration efforts. Though sometimes pigeon-holed into solely game-making, SIE and the wider sector continually marry art with engineering and electronics to create an immersive entertainment experience and getting the academic community to understand these wider artistic and imaginative capabilities would more suitably position SIE as an attractive creative partner.

We want to bring innovative theories and ideas into gameplay to make a better experience for gamers, and we need academia and their expertise to be a part of that”

In a final word to the UIIN network, Lucy added that SIE is excited to be joining the community and to begin talking to and learning from each-other in order to help industry navigate what academia might struggle with and break down barriers between them together.

Would you like to know more about the Future Technologies Group at PlayStation or start a conversation with Lucy Hattersley, you can directly contact her via email.

Image credits: Sony Interactive Entertainment

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