North West firms share in funding boost for UK 5G innovators

The next wave of government-funded research and development projects aiming to put Britain at the forefront of 5G technology have been announced.

And among the schemes sharing £30m of resourcing are tech companies in Preston, Liverpool and Manchester.

Projects will test what revolutionary high-speed connectivity can do for UK industries, including the use of AI-controlled traffic lights to reduce pollution and congestion in Manchester.

A project in Preston will aim to deliver the RAF’s Tempest fighter jet at half its current cost. And with coronavirus requiring new ways of delivering health services, a private 5G network will be developed in Liverpool to provide remote NHS video consultations for low-income families unable to afford good connectivity.

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, 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.”

The £30m funding is through 5G Create, an open competition combining British creativity with innovative new uses for 5G as part of the wider £200m 5G Testbeds and Trials programme (5GTT).

The Government has now funded 24 5G testbeds across the UK, which have trialled almost 70 different 5G technologies, products and applications.

Today’s £30m package consists of £16.4m from the Government, match-funded by organisations ranging from large tech and telecoms companies to SMEs and local authorities.

Seventeen UK SMEs are involved in the projects, including those that will help to drive forward the Government’s work to open up the UK’s telecoms supply chains.

Three of the six projects – 5G Edge-XR, 5G Smart Junctions and Liverpool 5G Create – will involve British SMEs trialling the use of open access 5G infrastructure and network solutions.

BT’s 5G Edge-XR project will be tested in a platform that includes Samsung kit, marking the first time the South Korean telecoms vendor is participating in a UK-based 5GTT project.

In Preston, BAE, Advanced Manufacturing Catapult and IBM will lead a large project that ultimately aims to deliver the Tempest fighter jet at half its current cost, and to drive UK global manufacturing competitiveness.

The project has a total value of £9,517,019, with the Government providing £4,793,162.

Austin Cook, lead engineer for emerging technologies & systems at BAE Systems, said: “5G technology is core to enabling the next generation of digital manufacturing processes and the acceleration of digital technology adoption across the manufacturing sector.

“The 5G FoF programme will drive forward holistic connectivity and unlock the potential of industrial digitisation.

“It will define a new paradigm for how future factories will operate, enabling connectivity and business agility both across manufacturing operations and beyond into the supply chain.”

In Liverpool a group of local healthcare bodies, the University of Liverpool, BluWireless, a UK 5G kit vendor, and Broadway Partners, a small UK mobile operator, will build a 5G network designed to benefit local NHS, social care services and other public bodies in a post-COVID-19 world.

It will use private 5G networks to develop affordable connectivity for remote health and social care, improving future resilience and reducing inequalities that arise from lack of affordable access.

This builds on the existing 5GTT-funded project in Liverpool and develops the commercial business case for and testing new applications in the health and social care sector.

The project will stimulate the development of low-cost 5G technology as well as improving future pandemic resilience and reducing inequalities.

It has a total project value of £7,146,261, and the Government is providing £4,302,596.

Prof Joe Spencer, Professor of electrical engineering and electronics at the University of Liverpool, said: “We look forward to working with DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) to take the project from small scale to a wider rollout for the benefit of the people of Liverpool and to inform the national strategy for digital health, social care and education services.”

In Manchester, Visionable, Weaver Labs, both UK SMEs, and Transport for Greater Manchester aim to deliver AI traffic control systems to reduce congestion and pollution as well as improving productivity by cutting waiting times at traffic signals.

The project has a total value of £2,336,392, with the Government providing £1,160,778.

It aims to use 5G small cell networks to decrease infrastructure costs for the connection of sensors at every junction, removing the need to mount hardware onto buildings in district centre locations as well as supporting connected bus projects and other mobility based public services.

This project fosters innovation in telecoms using open architectures and a new network deployment approach that allows for new domestic SMEs to contribute.

Peter Mildon, chief operating officer for, said: “Vivacity are delighted to be continuing our collaboration with TfGM on developing our Smart Junctions product.

“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.

“We are looking forward to working with Weaver Labs, a new company formed from the team who were core contributors in delivering the UK’s first 5G pre-standards compliant test-bed at King’s College London.”