DSIT backs 5G use in ten regions with £36m funding package

Major cities including Belfast, Manchester, and Glasgow – as well as rural areas in England and Scotland – have been awarded a slice of money to support technology use in various industries

Main picture credit: Pete Linforth/Pixabay

Drones which monitor crops and livestock and smart systems which tackle congestion levels are among projects set to benefit from a multi-million-pound investment.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has unveiled the recipients of a £36m government fund to accelerate the deployment of 5G and wireless technologies. The 5G Innovation Regions programme will support the delivery of connectivity infrastructure in 10 UK regions, and with the aim of enhancing sectors such as transport, farming, and public services.

Glasgow is one of the areas set to benefit from the economic boost. The region will receive more than £3m to fund a project to support the health and social sector by using internet of things technology to manage social housing assets and services.

Another major city, Manchester, has also been awarded £3m to support the deployment of 5G-enabled heat pumps.

Local authorities in Belfast and the West Midlands, meanwhile, have each been given £3.8m in funding. The Northern Irish capital will use the funding to help support digitisation in areas including port operations and local film production companies, while the West Midlands will invest in using 5G in manufacturing.

North Ayrshire Council will receive almost £4m to create new 5G adoption hubs, while Sussex has been awarded the same amount to “develop and scale 5G applications to support future farming and growing practices that increase sustainable food and drink productivity”, according to DSIT.

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The £3.8m given to Oxfordshire County Council will be used to fund the establishment of 5G Science Parks at the Harwell research facility, focused on using the connectivity technology in the fields of space, health and quantum computing.

Authorities in Cumberland, Shropshire and Sunderland have also secured funding, which will help support the use of technology in areas including tourism, water management, and transport.

Minister of data and digital infrastructure John Whittingdale said: “We’re channelling millions into local areas to unlock the potential of cutting-edge 5G wireless and digital technologies which will reshape our public services, drive economic growth and boost innovation. 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. For instance, by using 5G for farming and creating science parks, we’re not just helping local communities, but also encouraging new ideas all over the UK. This is more than just linking smartphones. It’s about using powerful digital connections to transform various sectors in the economy and the public sector throughout the entire country.”

The programme forms part of the government’s Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, which states that deploying wireless connectivity “will be the foundation” of creating a “prosperous future” for the UK.

DSIT hopes that the funding programme will help unlock around £160bn in economic benefit that the 5G industry is expected to bring by 2035.

Alongside the support scheme, the government also announced the formation of an advisory group which will help local areas submit feedback on how to support their connectivity goals and encourage both investment and local adoption of the technology.

Improving access to digital connectivity nationwide is one of the government’s levelling-up projects, and forms part of the national digital strategy – which aims to give everyone access to the tools and skills needed to benefit from the online world.

Sofia Villegas and Sam Trendall

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