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DSIT invites local bids for 5G innovation funding

5G Innovation Regions logo
Image source: GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

Local and regional authorities have been invited to bid for shares of a £40 million fund to accelerate the adoption of 5G and strengthen digital connectivity.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has launched the 5G Innovation Regions fund in an effort to boost innovation in public services, transport, advanced manufacturing and agriculture, and create better connected places across the UK.

It said the money will help to create 5G Innovation Regions by going to areas in which the authorities can demonstrate how they will promote the use of the technology and ensure towns, cities and rural areas can take full advantage of the benefits of connectivity – and attract commercial investment.

Applications could include air quality sensors and 5G enabled drones to scan fields and crops and collect data on weather and environmental conditions.

DSIT said that research shows widespread adoption of 5G could lead to productivity benefits of £159 billion by 2035.

Efficiency and growth

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said: “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.

“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.

“Improving connectivity through a world class digital infrastructure is one of the core components of the Government’s plans to level up every community in the UK, and I encourage local areas to apply and to be ambitious in their vision for reaping the rewards of 5G.”

The initiative derives from the Government’s UK Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, which sets out how advanced connectivity will underpin new technologies including AI, self-driving vehicles and digital twins.

The 5G Innovation Regions programme is scheduled to run until March 2025, supported through the DSIT Future Network Programme and the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), and with regions developing their own digital ecosystems. DSIT is taking applications until 3 September and will announce the winning bids later this year.

Challenges and awareness

Nick Johnson, head of UKITN, commented: “We’re working with clusters of innovation and capability across the UK to understand the challenges, raise awareness and help make it easier to take advantage of telecoms services and solutions, both now and in future.

“What this means for 5G Innovation Regions is that we’ll be collaborating with the successful local and regional authorities to understand and disseminate their learnings to all regions and devolved nations, ensuring the whole of the UK has access to actionable insights. We’ll also be developing practical and pragmatic toolkits to support different locations and vertical sectors as they navigate the complexity of what, when and how to deploy solutions.

“It is only by creating demand and helping organisations navigate the technology adoption hurdles in this way that we can realise the true potential of new innovations.”

In addition, UKTIN is to launch a nationwide campaign to bring together businesses that want to adopt 5G services with telecoms providers and vendors.

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