Business wins R&D funds in 5G innovation boost

A West Yorkshire business has secured funding to boost its innovative activity in the telecommunication sector.

Slipstream Engineering Design, a Shipley based SME, will receive a share of the Government’s £35m open Radio Access Network (open RAN) for 5G technology fund after being successful in the Future Radio Access Network Competition (FRANC).

The company is one of 15 winning consortia from across the UK which will develop technical solutions – such as radio transmitters, signal processing equipment, power management systems and the software required to roll out open RAN solutions across the UK quickly and attract new home-grown telecoms suppliers to the 5G supply chain.

The investment will be spread across the UK, with two winning consortia having a presence in Yorkshire.

Slipstream Engineering Design’s part of the project will cost close to £500,000, of which £292,000 will be funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Slipstream Engineering Design’s consortium will be looking to develop a 5G O-RAN platform able to provide better efficiency, higher security and a wide frequency range enabling it to be ready for future 5G bands.

Current radio platforms for O-RAN are typically bespoke solutions able to cover only a narrow band of operation.

With the opening up of the spectrum towards 10GHz, there is a need to develop systems which are flexible in their frequency range but are able to output the powers needed for a communication platform for dense environments.

Slipstream Engineering Design’s consortium will develop a novel modular platform using a new Software Defined Radio chip, able to operate up to 10GHz coupled with a very efficient, wideband power amplifier.

As well as developing a more flexible and scalable platform the team will also integrate a new security layer with encryption that is unbreakable – even with a quantum computer.

Ultimately for users, it is hoped this will lead to greater network coverage, at higher data rates and reduced cost.

Dr Mike Roberts

Dr Mike Roberts, technical director and co-founder of Slipstream Engineering Design, said: “We’re delighted to have secured this funding to support our research and development activity in the telecommunications sector.

“As an SME it’s a major boost and will allow us to carry out highly innovative 5G product development secure in the knowledge we have Government backing.

“Power efficient, wideband operation is an area that constrains the flexibility of current telecommunication hardware.

“We want to break through this technology barrier and enable wider network coverage.”

Sarah Gregory, commercial director of Slipstream Engineering Design, said: We’re privileged to work with many of the best design engineers in our sector and are dedicated to bringing on the next generation of innovators.

“This R&D funding will secure highly skilled jobs in Yorkshire but also allow us to grow the engineering talent who will be a key part the region’s future prosperity.”

Matthew Evans, director of Markets at techUK, added: “Today’s announcement of the successful FRANC bids is testament to the role our tech and telecoms sector can play in preparing and empowering the UK’s networks for future prosperity and security.

“It is a clear indication of the talent, expertise and innovation the UK can offer the global telecoms market.

“While more can be done to accelerate the commercialisation of UK innovation in advanced connectivity, opportunities like FRANC show the willingness of our tech companies, SMEs and academic community in helping deliver the long-term aspirations of secure, resilient, open and disaggregated networks.”