UK gov opens £30 million competition to spark 5G innovation in enterprises

IT pros across a broad spectrum of UK industries can compete for £30 million in the government-funded 5G Create competition to encourage business use of 5G wireless technology

5G light trails
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IT pros across a broad spectrum of UK industries can compete for £30 million in a government-funded competition to encourage business use of 5G wireless technology.

The 5G Create competition is aimed at developing new use cases and business models for 5G applications and services. Start-ups and established companies may apply for the funds as part of the competition, which opens in early March and runs until the end of June 2020, according to the government announcement of the program. The government expects to receive bids from film, TV, video gaming and tourism industries, as well as sectors such as energy, water, logistics, health and social care.

Several briefing events are being planned for companies interested in taking part in 5G Create, according to UK5G, a national innovation network dedicated to the promotion of research, collaboration and industrial application of 5G in the UK. The competition and the briefing events will be open to organisations involved in the development, testing and use of 5G applications, products and services. This includes network providers, mobile network operators, technology vendors and local authorities. The next briefing takes place March 9 in Bristol; additional briefings are scheduled this month for Glasgow, Salford, and Belfast (see the current list of briefings here).

“The UK government believes it has a responsibility to stimulate the investment and research in to 5G technology on a national scale, for the benefit of all citizens and businesses,” said Ian Smith, programme director, 5G testbeds and trials, in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), in a statement.

The UK government also announced that nine projects are receiving a share of a separate £35 million as part of its rural and industrial 5G development efforts. Seven of those projects are connected to the Rural Connected Communities (RCC) initiative, which launched in August 2019. The RCC initiative includes projects that will trial the use of 5G for remote farming, monitoring livestock and reducing water pollution, for example.

The RCC projects will receive £30 million of the £35 million, and the rest will be awarded to two ongoing industrial projects led by Ford Motor Company and Zeetta Networks to test the benefits of using 5G to boost productivity in the manufacturing sector.

One of those projects is the 5G-ENCODE project at the National Composites Centre in Bristol. Zeetta is leading a consortium of 10 companies working on 5G-ENCODE, which aims to examine new business models for private mobile networks in the manufacturing sector. It will investigate three industrial 5G use cases related to interactive augmented reality; asset tracking across multiple sites and locations; and industrial system management.

In the big picture, the new £30 million 5G Create competition and the £35 million earmarked for rural and industrial 5G development are part of a £200 million investment in 5G testbeds and trials across the UK. The purpose is to explore ways that 5G can boost business growth and productivity, improve the lives of people in rural areas, and maximise the productivity benefits of new technologies, according to DCMS.

The competitions come at a time when the government hopes to spread the benefits of technology across the country.

“The potential of 5G is so great that it is impossible to know the full extent of its impact without a visionary trials and testbed programme. In phase two, the [5G Testbeds and Trials Programme] is evolving to focus on demonstrating the value that 5G will bring to the UK economy as well as tackling the real social problems that 5G can solve,” Smith stated.

“We’re determined to make the UK a world-leader in 5G and deliver on our promise to improve connections for people and businesses across the country,” said Oliver Dowden, digital secretary, in a statement.

DCMS emphasises that there will not be any equipment from high-risk vendors, like Huawei, used in any of the projects.

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