pathdoc -

UK government announces 5G Innovation Regions fund

Applications now open for £40m financing designed to unlock 5G benefits across the UK with aim of sparking local ‘digital revolutions’ and pioneer digital connectivity for residents and businesses

In the latest part of its Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, which set out a strategic framework for the development, deployment and adoption of 5G and future networks in the country, the UK government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has announced a £40m fund designed to help local areas across the UK boost their digital connectivity and develop advanced wireless technologies in areas such as healthcare solutions, futuristic farming, and smart systems to improve transport and cut congestion.

Launched in April 2023, the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy has the ultimate ambition of unlocking growth, innovation and potential across the country by deploying new technologies that it said would change people’s lives and the way businesses operate, at a time when connectivity is significantly evolving.

The plan looks to “blanket” the UK with what is envisaged as the fastest, most reliable wireless coverage available. While 77% of the population already has access to basic 5G from one provider, the plan commits to all populated areas to be covered by standalone 5G by 2030. The UK government cited research showing widespread adoption of 5G could result in productivity benefits of £159bn by 2035.

With these technologies, the UK government said innovation is set to be supercharged, with applications and use cases ranging from driverless vehicles, robots and drones on the factory floor to making cities smarter, cleaner and less congested. Other applications could include connecting sensors that analyse and help to improve air quality by better managing traffic and deploying 5G-enabled drones that can scan fields and crops, collecting data on weather and environmental conditions.

From today, local and regional authorities can apply for a share of the investment to create so-called 5G Innovation Regions by awarding funding to areas that can demonstrate how they will drive the development and adoption of 5G and other technologies. This, said DSIT, will make sure communities in towns, cities and rural areas across the UK take full advantage of the benefits advanced wireless connectivity and digital technologies can provide, as well as attracting commercial investment to grow the economy.

To further accelerate the adoption of 5G in key sectors ranging from transport to manufacturing, the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) will also launch a nationwide campaign. Working alongside the 5G Innovation Regions, the campaign will bring together businesses that want to adopt 5G services with telecoms providers and vendors, helping them to understand the benefits 5G-enabled services can bring to their companies and how they can access this alternative technology.     

Running until March 2025, the 5G Innovation Regions will be supported by the government through the DSIT Future Network Programmes team and UKTIN to develop their own digital ecosystems, take advantage of new and emerging technologies, and amplify local and national activities such as Project Gigabit, Investment Zones and devolution deals to support local digital growth. Applications will close on 10 September 2023, and winning bidders will be announced later this year.

“Greater adoption of 5G-powered technologies will help deliver more efficient public services, new opportunities for residents and businesses, and a boost for economic growth – and this new fund will give local areas from across the country the opportunity to be at the forefront of Britain’s world-leading 5G revolution,” said Sir John Whittingdale, UK minister for data and digital infrastructure.

“5G Innovation Regions will be uniquely positioned to benefit from breaking down barriers which hinder the roll-out of such technologies at a local level, and this initiative offers every community the chance to gain these opportunities. Improved connectivity through 5G and advanced wireless technologies could have a transformative effect on local areas, providing faster, more reliable and more secure connectivity for residents and businesses, boosting local economies and improving the delivery of public services.

“The government’s launch of the 5G Innovation Regions competition is a welcome move, bringing together public and private sectors to harness the transformative capabilities of 5G,” remarked Nick Johnson, head of UKTIN. “The telecoms industry has a real opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives and businesses – but success has always depended on us looking first at the challenges we’re trying to solve. It can’t just be technology for technology’s sake.

“Delivering advanced connectivity in one isolated region would have some impact, but innovation only works if it’s meaningful and people are able to rely on it everywhere – not just in one part of the UK. The establishing of 5G Innovation Regions creates the kind of joined-up approach that will be critical in delivering tangible innovation nationwide,” added Johnson.

Hamish MacLeod, chief executive of Mobile UK, the trade association for the UK’s mobile network operators, added: “Driving adoption of 5G is key to releasing the full benefits of this technology, and the government’s new £40m fund to support Innovation Regions is an important step. I look forward to seeing the active participation of local and regional authorities whose communities and businesses will be better positioned to realise the benefits of advanced wireless connectivity.”

Read more about UK 5G

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

Data Center
Data Management