Ten new 5G Innovation Regions share £36m 

Government awards funding to new 5G Innovation Regions (5GIRs) to lead on delivery of UK Wireless Infrastructure Strategy. 

In April, the government published its strategy for communities across the UK to take full advantage of advanced wireless connectivity and digital tech. It’s now announced the 10 regions that, as 5GIRs, will lead on this initiative. They are: Belfast City Council, Cumberland Council, Glasgow City Council Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Oxfordshire County Council, North Ayrshire Council, Shropshire Council, Sunderland City Council Sussex County Council and West Midlands Combined Authority.

cell tower, 5g, signal

Photo by ArtisticOperations

The newly established Digital Infrastructure Advisory Group will also support regions to adopt 5G and other advanced wireless tech. What’s more, the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) will  run a nationwide programme to drive the adoption of 5G and advanced communication tech in key economic sectors, such as manufacturing, health and social care. UKTIN will work closely with the 5GIRs. 

Each of the 10 regions selected faces a different set of challenges and opportunities, with factors such as their location, and local industries and tech needs. Each region will therefore develop its own project to meet local demand. They will then demonstrate the scalability, replicability and sustainability, sharing what has been learned so that other regions can benefit. 

The hope is to stimulate demand for 5G connectivity, bringing to life the government’s vision of unlocking the power of 5G wireless and digital tech. Indeed, some research suggests that widespread adoption of such tech could boost productivity by £159bn by 2035. 

The projects to be developed by each 5GIR are: 

  • Belfast City Council 
    £3.8m awarded to use 5G tech to digitise port operations, develop ‘5G-in-a-box’ tech for high-capacity uplinks for on-location filming and production studios, as well as exploiting advanced wireless connectivity on transport routes 
  • Cumberland Council 
    £3.8m awarded for the use of 5G and advanced wireless tech at key sites across the Borderlands region to demonstrate how it can help build the tourist economy, protect the environment and local businesses 
  • Glasgow City Council 
    £3.2m awarded to use ‘Internet of Things’ and smart city apps for asset monitoring and maintenance, net zero social housing, and health and social care monitoring. 
  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority 
    £3m awarded for 5G-enabled heat pumps to accelerate creation of smart energy grids, plus a digital road network to help reduce congestion and CO2 emissions 
  • Oxfordshire County Council 
    £3.8m awarded for the creation of 5G Science Parks at the Harwell campus supporting R&D in quantum, space, health and energy clusters 
  • North Ayrshire Council 
    £3.8m awarded for new regional strategic wireless innovation hubs, with the aim of making Ayrshire a UK leader in advanced manufacturing by accelerating the adoption of digital and wireless tech 
  • Shropshire Council 
    £3.7m awarded to embed advanced wireless connectivity tech in innovation across rural industries, water management and public services 
  • Sunderland City Council 
    £3.8m awarded for 5G-enabled port operations to enhance competitiveness and safety, as well as for cooperative intelligent transport systems that improve road transport efficiency   
  • Sussex County Council 
    £3.8m awarded to develop and scale 5G apps to support future farming and growing practices that increase sustainable food and drink productivity 
  • West Midlands Combined Authority 
    £3.8m awarded to scale proven 5G apps in advanced manufacturing and smart communities through new adoption hubs 

Nick Johnson, Head of UKTIN, says: ‘We’re thrilled to see the recipients of the 5G Innovation Regions fund encompassing a broad range of places across the country, helping to boost the adoption of advanced communication technologies across a range of vertical sectors.  

‘While this is fantastic news for the 10 regions chosen, UKTIN will play a pivotal role in taking their innovations and learnings to the whole of the UK. 

‘We will collaborate with successful regions to overcome adoption hurdles and deliver best practice and insights to communities across the country, so that all regions and nations can benefit from the lessons being learned through both 5G Innovation Regions and other relevant initiatives.’ 

Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive of Mobile UK, adds: ‘We look forward to working with the winning regions in demonstrating the significant potential of 5G technologies to revamp and modernise public services across the country. 

‘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.’ 

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