The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) aims to take the UK to the cutting edge of 5G technology with £30 million in funding for a series of new projects.
A total of 17 British SMEs will receive the public and private investment as part of the government’s 5G Create open competition. As part of the scheme, the UK Government will provide £16.4 million, with local authorities and private enterprises fund matching. The funds will be used on six projects in Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Suffolk and Sunderland.
UK Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “We are helping innovative thinkers across Britain use their creativity to harness the power of 5G and boost economic productivity, cut pollution and congestion, and develop the next generation of entertainment.
“The new funding we are announcing today will help us pioneer new ways to seize the opportunities of 5G and bring tangible benefits for consumers and businesses across the country.”
In Brighton, £3.4 million of funding will go to develop the 5G Festival, a remote music festival at the Brighton Dome to demonstrate how the technology can connect audiences around the world. The project will use Digital Catapult and Telefonica’s 5G facilities.
The 5G network will be deployed in Brighton Dome’s Founder’s Room and Foyer to start with, where it will let Brighton-based small businesses, community groups, and artists test and develop new 5G-enabled applications.
The project will go on to find new ways to integrate 5G technology into the city’s venues over the next year.
Digital Catapult CEO Jeremy Silver commented: “As live performers have been totally prevented from working because of the coronavirus, a lot of bright minds have been focused on how to create exciting alternative experiences for a virtual world.
“The result of this work was an exciting bid into the 5G Create competition to produce a virtual festival that could offer 5G enabled experiences in which performers could reach audiences in an entirely new way. We’re thrilled now to be able to bring the 5G Festival to life, working with world leading venues, organisations and artists to push forward with the next evolution of entertainment.”
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Preston’s 5G Factory of the Future (FoF) will receive £9.5 million, the largest share of the funds. The project, led by BAE, Advanced Manufacturing Catapult, and IBM, will use 5G technology to test robotic assembly lines to manufacture the Tempest fighter jet at half its present cost.
A primary site will be established at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) North West and secondary sites in BAE Systems Warton and AMRC Sheffield.
“5G technology is core to enabling the next generation of digital manufacturing processes and the acceleration of digital technology adoption across the manufacturing sector,” explained Austin Cook, Lead Engineer for Emerging Technologies & Systems at BAE Systems.
Liverpool 5G create
Liverpool 5G create will receive £7.1 million, which will be used by the University of Liverpool, BluWireless, Broadway Partners to build a 5G network to develop affordable connectivity for remote health and social care.
The project is expected to benefit local NHS, social care services, and other public bodies in a post-COVID-19 scenario.
“This network will reduce digital poverty for vulnerable people, providing safe, free and accessible connectivity to these services via 5G,” said Professor Joe Spencer, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Electronics at the University of Liverpool.
5G CAL will use its £4.8 million of funding to advance the Connected and Automated Logistics (CAL) project, which will use 5G-connected, autonomous 40-tonne trucks to distribute parts and assemblies across the Nissan plant.
The project will involve Nissan, the North East Motor Manufacturers Group, Sunderland Council, and Three, plus other partners. Their aim is to develop a globally unique centre of excellence and operational test facility for CAL at the Nissan Sunderland site
“This project will prove last mile delivery for an autonomous HGV, the 5G will uniquely enable the removal of the safety driver from the process, allowing remote teleoperations to overcome abnormal situations,” said Paul Butler, Chief Executive of the North East Automotive Alliance.
Smart Junctions 5G
With £2.3 million of funding, Smart Junctions 5G will see Visionable, Weaver Labs and Transport for Greater Manchester develop an artificial intelligence-powered traffic control system to address congestion and pollution issues.
By using 5G small cell networks to decrease the cost of connecting sensors at every junction, the project will remove the need to mount hardware onto buildings in district centre locations. It will also support connected bus projects and other mobility based public services.
“Small Cell 5G technology offers the perfect solution to our need for low latency communications between our sensors and junction control algorithms, making this a compelling proposition in its own right. Beyond the junction, the provision of 5G connectivity within a city centre offers opportunities to both Public and Private sector,” said Vivacity COO Peter Mildon.
The 5G Edge-XR project will receive £2.5 million and will involve BT’s Media and Research teams partnering with TheGridFactory, Condense Reality, Bristol University, Dance East, and Salsa Sound to develop virtual and augmented reality experiences to complement BT Sport’s services.
The project could enable people to view immersive sporting events from all angles across a broad range of devices.
“5G Edge-XR will combine cloud computing and EE’s 5G network to support real time services that require uncompromised audio and visuals,” said Tim Whitley, Managing Director, Applied Research, BT. “Our prototypes will be designed at Adastral Park and showcased across the UK to demonstrate the benefits 5G technology can bring to people and businesses across the nation.”
The 5G Create funds come as part of the wider £200-million 5G Testbeds and Trials programme (5G\TT), which has trialled 70 different 5G technologies, products, and applications across 24 5G testbeds. The 5G Create programme is expected to announce a second round of funding this autumn.