A new report has found the UK's immersive technologies sector is looking set for success and could make £1bn by the end of 2018.

The study is the first of its kind and shows that the sector – which covers Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies – now boasts 1,000 specialist companies across the UK.

The report was commissioned from the innovation foundation Nesta by Immerse UK with funding from Innovate UK.

It found that there are around 1,000 immersive specialist companies in the UK employing 4,500 people and generating some £660 million in sales.

If the UK market keeps pace with global growth forecasts, turnover could reach £1bn by the end of this year.

"The UK is home to world-leading tech sector and creative industries and in recent years we have seen them come together to develop innovative technology of tomorrow, but we cannot be complacent," said digital and creative industries minister Margot James.

"This is why we are investing £33m in immersive technology products, services and experiences as part of the Creative Industries Sector Deal as we build a Britain fit for the future."

70 per cent of specialist companies surveyed are exporting immersive-related products and services with a particular focus on US markets.

Immersive specialist companies have established roots in the creative industries, but many of them are applying their innovative technologies to other sectors such as education & training, architecture, advanced manufacturing and energy.

While there is strong immersive activity in London, there are also growing clusters in a number of UK cities such as Brighton, Bristol, Newcastle, Liverpool and Belfast.

Fiona Kilkelly, Immerse UK, Knowledge Transfer Network Knowledge, said: "This report quantifies and describes a fast-growing, confident and export intensive industry that is already adding economy value to the UK.

"Its findings provide the insights and intelligence needed to better support the complex needs of this emerging business community. It reveals the richness of its activity and the extent of its economic significance.

"The ingredients are there to establish the UK as a world-leader, and we will work to ensure that the support and investment is in place to maximise their potential."

Sector deals for the creative industries and artificial intelligence are focal points of the government’s Artificial Intelligence Grand Challenge, a key part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy which sets out a long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK.

The AI Grand Challenge aims to put the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution ensuring the vast social and economic benefits of this technology are felt in every corner of Britain.

Immersive companies will have opportunities for R&D funding across the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. For example the Audience of the Future challenge’s first competitions has just opened.

This challenge will bring creative businesses, researchers and technologists together to create striking new experiences.

Up to £33m will be made available to create the next generation of products, services and experiences that will capture the world’s attention and position the UK as the global leader in immersive technologies.