5G Innovation Regions: £40 million funding awarded across the UK

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has launched a £40 million fund to spark local digital revolutions and unlock 5G benefits across the UK, with applications now open for local authorities to bid. 

Update - Winners announced, November 2023

Ten winning multi-local authority areas spanning all four parts of the UK will now receive a share of £36 million as they become 5G Innovation Regions (5GIRs). The funding will drive the development and adoption of 5G and other advanced wireless technologies - making sure communities in towns, cities and rural areas take full advantage of the benefits advanced wireless connectivity and digital technologies can provide and attract commercial investment to grow the economy. 

  • The Belfast 5G Innovation Region: The Belfast Region is contributing to Northern Ireland’s innovation economy by making targeted investments in initiatives that will accelerate the adoption and commercialisation of advanced wireless technologies. The Belfast 5G Innovation Region will deliver across high-growth sectors including creative industries, advanced manufacturing, and transport and logistics.
  • The West Midlands 5G Innovation Region: By becoming a 5G Innovation Region, West Midlands will transform productivity, create skilled jobs, improve health and wellbeing, and reduce emissions in 2 of the region’s most important sectors, advanced manufacturing and smart communities, which covers social care, social housing, and other related local services.
  • The Greater Manchester 5G SMART Decarbonisation Network (GM 5G SDN): The GM 5G SDN project focuses on how partners across Greater Manchester (GM) will tackle the drivers of climate breakdown at a city region level, accelerating decarbonisation, improving quality of life, and growing the Green Technologies and Services sector. The project intends to enable hundreds of existing air source heat pumps across social housing. This will accelerate the creation of Smart Energy Grids and bring forward benefits for residents, industry and public services, aligning with GM’s Local Area Energy Plan, which will be scaled across GM
  • England’s Connected Heartland (ECH)ECH will aim to increase adoption of 5G connectivity focusing on regional strengths in R&D, advanced engineering/ manufacturing and education whilst aligning with other common regional dimensions such as rurality and improving public transport, particularly East to West (EW). ECH includes Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridge. 
  • The Glasgow 5G Innovation Region: Glasgow City Region will utilise existing Internet of Things (IoT) deployments and smart city applications to identify, deliver and propagate use cases for utilising advanced wireless technologies and driving improvements in public and private sector service delivery.
  • The North East 5G Innovation Region: In a visionary move towards a digitally empowered future, the 7 North East local authorities (LA7) are positioning the region at the forefront of advanced wireless connectivity. Shaping the region’s digital landscape and leveraging the power of 5G, these projects use connectivity as catalyst for a sustainable, thriving future. 
  • The Ayrshire 5G Innovation Region: The Ayrshire 5G vision is to become the UK’s premier manufacturing-focused 5G hub, driven by 5 transformative principles: technological excellence, a thriving innovation ecosystem, sustainable economic growth, skills and talent development, and influential investment strategies.
  • The Borderlands 5G Innovation Region: The Borderlands Partnership is a collaboration between the counties which make up the English and Scottish border. Rural tourism is a key part of the Borderlands economy: the region has fewer than 1 million residents but welcomed more than 63 million visits in 2019. Advanced wireless technology can enhance how the region tells its story of Borderlands communities; build the tourist economy; protect the environment and local businesses; improve the delivery of rural services and the process to collect information to support future investment.
  • The Growing Sussex 5G Innovation Region: The food and wine growing region of Sussex presents fertile ground for growers and education centres to adopt foundational technologies in the sustainable intensification of their products, helping to achieve food security, reduce carbon and use energy efficiently. Sussex Councils are actively working with Growers and Education stakeholders, conducting research, understanding sector ambitions and current connectivity constraints.
  • The River Severn Partnership Advanced Wireless Innovation Region: Becoming an Innovation Region consolidates RSP’s Innovation Programme by embedding Advanced Wireless Connectivity (AWC) technology at the heart of technological innovation across their priority sectors comprising rural industries, water management and public services, where RSP’s partners are both regional and national leaders. The River Severn Partnership Advanced Wireless Innovation Region will demonstrate, prove, and drive implementation and adoption of new digital products and services that support public service delivery, whilst enabling key enterprise in water management and rural industries to explore and exploit digital innovation.

The full list of use cases and what each region is seeking to achieve can be accessed here

5G Innovation Regions’ (5GIRs) is part of DSIT's wider programme to help drive 5G adoption, with a focus on key sectors where there is local capability and opportunities. Funding will enable places throughout the UK to unlock opportunities across the digital economy which utilise advanced wireless connectivity.

Local and regional authorities can apply for a share of the multi-million-pound fund, designed to accelerate innovation in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, transport, agriculture and public services, helping to create better connected places across the UK.

Successful 5GIR bidders will need to demonstrate how they will drive the drive the development and adoption of 5G and other technologies. Not only will this development and adoption benefit local communities and businesses, but further help accelerate private sector demand for advanced connectivity. This is something techUK has long called for, and we welcomed the earlier announcement of this funding in April's Wireless Infrastructure Strategy

Applications of the technology could include connecting sensors that analyse and help to improve air quality by better managing traffic, and deploying 5G-enabled drones that can scan fields and crops, collecting data on weather and environmental conditions. 

Running until March 2025, the successful 5G Innovation Regions will be supported by government through the DSIT Future Network Programmes team and UKTIN to develop their own digital ecosystems, take advantage of new and emerging technologies, and amplify local and national activities such as Project Gigabit, Investment Zones, and devolution deals to support local digital growth.

Sophie Greaves

Sophie Greaves

Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

Mia Haffety

Mia Haffety

Programme Manager - Telecoms and Net Zero, techUK

Tales Gaspar

Tales Gaspar

Programme Manager, UK SPF and Satellite, techUK

Matthew Wild

Programme Assistant - Markets, techUK