HomeInsightsGovernment announces £25 million for 5G projects on anniversary of UK’s Digital Strategy

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On the first anniversary of its Digital Strategy (10 March 2018), the Government announced the winners of a £25 million competition to pave the way for a future rollout of 5G technology in the UK.

From the Orkney Islands to the West of England, the six projects led by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), universities and local authorities represent the best of UK innovation, resources and expertise, the Government says. They will test 5G across a range of applications, including smart farming with drones, using the “Internet of Things” (IoT) to improve healthcare in the home, increasing manufacturing productivity and maximising the future benefits of self-driving cars.

They are part of a £1 billion commitment through the Digital Strategy to keep Britain at the forefront of connectivity by accelerating the deployment of next generation digital infrastructure and driving forward new 5G business opportunities.

Each test bed will receive between £2 million and £5 million in government grants, as part of a total investment of £41 million from private sector and other public sector funding, to explore new “fifth generation” mobile communications technologies that use high frequency spectrum to deliver internet speeds of over a gigabit per second.

The Digital Strategy was launched in March 2017 to drive the UK’s connectivity, telecommunications and digital sectors, and invest in industries, infrastructure and skills. Infrastructure is also one of the key foundations of the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy, and both seek to create the conditions for the UK’s digital economy to thrive by overcoming barriers to growth and promoting more high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future.

A year later, and there are nearly 60,000 tech businesses in the UK, the UK remains the number one location for tech investment in Europe, and has cemented its position as a leader in some of the most innovative and strategically important digital sectors, the Government says.

In particular, the UK’s fintech sector is larger than New York’s or the combined fintech workforce of Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. Healthtech, accelerated by needs of the NHS, is also now a thriving digital sector in the UK.

Delivering on its commitments to future-proof the economy through the Digital Strategy, the Government says it has, in the last twelve months:

  • delivered more than 2.5 million free digital skills training opportunities with industry as part of the Digital Skills Partnership, with almost half a million new pledges made;
  • reached its target for 95% of premises to have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017;
  • committed £75 million investment to take forward key recommendations in the independent review of AI, including a new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation;
  • announced the creation of new AI fellowships and funding for 450 PhD researchers to secure the UK’s leading position in the global AI market;
  • confirmed a £21m investment in Tech Nation to establish regional hubs throughout the country, widening access to Tech City’s training, mentoring and development programmes;
  • announced £84 million to boost the skills of 8,000 computer science teachers to make sure every secondary school has a qualified computer science teacher by 2022;
  • announced a plan to unlock over £20 billion of patient capital investment in innovative firms by doubling the annual allowance of the Enterprise Investment Scheme and the Venture Capital Trust scheme;
  • supported and funded the Tech Talent Charter, an industry-led initiative committing over 170 industry signatories to diversity in tech;
  • supported the creation of a fantastic environment for early stage tech businesses – there are more than 200 incubators and 160 accelerator programmes located across the UK offering a mix of funding, mentoring and training; and
  • introduced and updated the 5G strategy to deliver high quality coverage where people live, work and travel including setting out actions to ensure that mainline rail routes, major roads and connectivity “hotspots” are 5G-ready.

The Government says that the Digital Strategy also focuses on building and maintaining public confidence in the use of data by businesses, while ensuring the power of data can be unlocked for innovation.

The Government warns that many organisations still need to act to make sure the personal data they hold is secure and they are prepared for the Data Protection Bill, which will become law on 25 May.

The Strategy also reflects the Government’s ambition to make the internet safer for children by requiring age verification for access to commercial pornographic websites in the UK. In February, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was formally designated as the age verification regulator.

In time, the BBFC, as regulator, will undertake a public consultation on its draft guidance, which will be launched later this month.

For the public and the industry to prepare for and comply with age verification, the Government will also ensure a period of up to three months after the BBFC guidance has been cleared by Parliament before the law comes into force. It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here.