UK Offers £1 million for 5G R&D

19 March 2019

5G funding

The UK government is loosening the public purse strings to stimulate 5G technology development with a new competition for a share of £1 million for R&D projects. Sponsored by Innovate UK and the European CELTIC-NEXT programme, the funding is also designed to encourage UK companies to partner with international organisations for 5G innovation.

The competition is open to any-sized UK businesses that partner with at least one organisation from a country that participates in the EUREKA programme (there are 41 members) as well as at least one UK-based micro or small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SME).

The programme is looking for projects that develop either innovative 5G infrastructure or new user experiences. More specifically, projects need to focus on “innovative 5G infrastructure technologies that make use of artificial intelligence (AI) in network operation or multi-access edge computing (MEC).” Alternatively, projects should work on “applications that use 5G networks for new or improved user experiences, including features in satellite networks or services integrating satellites.”

In addition, proposed projects must focus on one or more of the following areas: AI in network operation, MEC, Internet of Things (IoT), tactile Internet, mission-critical apps, infotainment or immersive content in industrial environments.

Innovate UK advises organisations to aim for grants in the realm of £500,000. The projects should run for 12 to 24 months and have eligible costs in the range of £400,000 to £2 million. For anyone interested in applying, the competition opens on April 1 and closes May 29 this year.

Supporting 5G R&D

It’s certainly not the first time that the government has made funds available to support 5G development. The UK kicked off a similar £1 million grant programme back in 2015 and has since contributed tens of millions of pounds to next generation mobile research efforts.

In 2017, the government made £25 million available for the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, which has created a national 5G test network, multiple testing centres and the 5G Innovation Network to coordinate and promote government-funded research projects. There are now six 5G testbeds that are up and running and already producing results, including AutoAir for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), 5GRuralFirst, 5G Smart Tourism and 5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT), which is exploring how 5G-powered drones can monitor crops and livestock.

Michelle Donegan is a tech writer who has covered the communications industry for more than 25 years on both sides of the pond. Having worked for various industry titles, including Communications Week International, Total Telecom and Light Reading, she specializes in mobile network technology trends. 

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