AN interactive virtual reality project - to mirror some of the world’s most challenging disaster zones - will take shape in Bolton.

Near-Life, in Great Moor Street, specialises in immersive learning initiatives, cultivating realistic scenarios to train people in flashpoints.

And now this expertise has secured them an Innovate UK grant to develop an emergency field hospital experience, to benefit the country’s international aid response efforts.

Their bid was backed by the Department for International Development and was advanced in partnership with the UK’s international search and rescue (ISAR) team.

Mike Todd, Near-Life’s co-founder and chief executive, said: “This award is fantastic news for us.

“It will super charge our ability to push the boundaries in the exciting world of immersive learning.

“There’s a lot of interesting work being done in Greater Manchester’s tech scene and it’s an exciting time to be working in this space – especially on a project like this that can make a real difference.”

Paul Lawless, of ISAR, the lead project partner, added: “We’re really looking forward to working with Near-Life on this very much needed piece of learning to support the difficult work carried out by the UK’s international civilian responders.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is matching the investment, which is being delivered through Innovate UK grant partners GC Angels.

Damian Mohammed, GC Angels fund manager, added: “Virtual reality is no longer considered as an emerging technology – it is already having a huge impact on our everyday lives and in business.

“Greater Manchester is truly at the forefront of this innovation, and (this sector) is primed to capitalise on the country’s position as one of the world’s leading tech hubs.

“This grant will enable the company to launch a revolutionary service that will have a longstanding impact.”

The Bolton company was recently recognised by the industry for joint work with the Norwegian Refugee Council on a ‘frontline humanitarian toolbox’ scheme.