Authorities around Belfast are planning to set up a network of technology testbeds following the award of a £350 million, 10-year investment deal to the region.
The plan is part of the Belfast City Region Deal, which was confirmed by Chancellor Philip Hammond as part of his Autumn Budget, with the expectation that the Northern Ireland Executive will add £350 million and local councils more than £100 million.
The proposal document for the deal – which is aimed at boosting economic growth in the region – includes a plan for a Smart Districts and Testbeds Programme, which will provide scope for testing technologies such as 5G at a large enough scale for use in different sectors, including healthcare, tourism and logistics.
The latter will provide space within each of the participating local authority areas for techies, communities and businesses to work on innovation projects at small and medium scale.
Six councils are taking part in the deal: Antrim and Newtonberry, Ards and North Down, Belfast City, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Mid and East Antrim, and Newry, Mourne and Down. Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and Belfast Metropolitan College are also involved.
Belfast received support from the Future Cities Catapult in its bid. The organisation said it had shown the potential of 5G and fibre internet, as well as the importance of increasing people’s digital skills and supporting innovative companies.
Image: by Ty CC BY 2.0 through flickr