Collaborate and Compete – The Path to Innovation for UK Telecoms 

Pushing forward with its ‘collaborate and compete’ approach to innovations in the Telecoms sector, the government has now invited universities and telecoms companies to apply for up to £25 million to research the next generation of 5G and 6G network equipment. This is a drive to ramp up innovation and encourage creativity to boost the sector. It is part of a £250 million Open Networks R&D Fund which plans to allow operators to utilise multiple suppliers when building and maintaining networks. 

The intended outcome is that these solutions will accelerate a digital revolution with the UK at the forefront, giving the economy a much-needed uplift. It should also create a wealth of academics with experience in the sector as it works with universities across the country in its first stage of research. 

The UKTIN (UK Telecoms Innovation Network) will, it says, act as a hub of knowledge and a bridge between universities and innovative organisations. The team at V12, as always, is keen to see what comes of the idea and looking forward to seeing what is achieved. It’s a pity we will likely only hear about the projects which make it to the pilot stage and not the ideas which become discarded. An ‘ideas that didn’t make it’ list would be food for thought over the coming years or at least make for interesting conversations at the coffee machine. 

Lockdown demonstrated what can be achieved when creatives and academics from different sectors pull together to develop solutions. Hopefully the level of funding and opportunity should lead to some incredible teamwork. 

Our passion for the ‘fibre in the water’ project which will see broadband delivered to homes through the water system stems both from using what already exists and the fact that it’s a business outside of the telecoms sector (a water company) implementing the idea. The solution itself manages to be both extraordinary and obvious at the same time. Working within the industry makes it harder to think out of the box. Inviting new sectors in gives a fresh look at what can be done. 

The same could be said for working with other leaders in other countries to develop new solutions. It’s interesting to read that the UK has also partnered with South Korea, and a few other countries to fund and encourage innovations in telecoms and technology. 

Lastly, it was announced this week that from September onwards Digital Catapult, Cambridge Wireless, University of Bristol, and West Midlands 5G have won the competition to oversee and guide how funding should be focussed for the UKTIN.  This means another collaboration between academia and commerce is guiding the way. This can only be a good thing and should pave the way for more collaboration. 

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