BAE Systems, Nissan line up behind new £30m UK fund for industrial 5G
The UK government has awarded £30 million to six new 5G testbeds, as part of a wider £200 million campaign to leverage 5G to energise the UK industrial sector, and as it seeks to open up UK telecoms supply chains.
The £30 million package from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) consists of £16.4 million from the government, match-funded by organisations ranging from large tech and telecoms companies to small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and local authorities.
The projects will take place in Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Suffolk, and Sunderland, and are geared variously around smart manufacturing, smart logistics, intelligent transport, and connected social care.
Two others are looking at live music streaming and usage of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) in sports.
Three of the six projects — the 5G Edge-XR sports trial involving BT, the 5G Smart Junctions project in Manchester, and the 5G Create social-care package in Liverpool — will use open access 5G infrastructure and network solutions. The UK government has put focus on the role of UK-based SMEs in the works, which number 17 in total.
There are big names from the technology and industrial sectors, as well, inevitably. As well as BT, these include Telefónica and Three, among mobile operators, as well as BAE Systems, IBM, Nissan, and Samsung.
BAE Systems will deploy 5G at its factory in Preston, as part of the £9.5 million ‘5G Factory of the Future’ project, which seeks to enable the production of its the RAF’s new Tempest fighter jet, the UK’s so-called ‘next generation combat aircraft system’, at half the cost, and in half the time. BAE Systems said 5G will “define a new paradigm for how future factories will operate”.
Similarly, a 5G network will be established at the Nissan factory in Manchester, as part of the £4.85 million Connected and Autonomous Logistics project, to enable autonomous trucks to distribute parts and assemblies across the plant, linking to many local SMEs in the supply chain. The North East Automotive Alliance, said 5G will enable the removal of the safety driver from the process, “allowing remote teleoperations to overcome abnormal situations”.
Meanwhile, the £2.3 million 5G Smart Junctions project, also in Manchester, will deliver AI traffic control systems to reduce congestion, using a 5G small cell network to decrease infrastructure costs for the connection of sensors at every junction. A private 5G network will be developed in Liverpool well, as part of the city’s £7.2 million 5G testbed, to provide remote NHS video consultations for low-income families unable to afford good connectivity.
Details of all the projects can be found below.
The UK government has now funded 24 5G testbeds across the UK, as part of its £200 million 5G Testbeds and Trials programme (5GTT). These have trialled around 70 different 5G technologies, products, and applications.
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 will help us pioneer new ways to seize the opportunities of 5G and bring tangible benefits for consumers and businesses across the country.”
A second round of new projects to receive funding through 5G Create will be announced in the autumn.
1 | 5G Factory of the Future (FoF)
- Total project value: £9,517,019
- DCMS funding: £4,793,162
- Project location: North West
BAE Systems, Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Digital Catapult, Miralis Data, MTT, Three and IBM will lead a large project in Preston to deliver the RAF’s Tempest future fighter jet in half the time, and to drive UK global manufacturing competitiveness.
The project aims to develop integrated solutions to some of the key challenges to deploying 5G technologies in manufacturing, using 5G to test use cases such as robotic assembly, reconfigurable product assembly lines and distributed and shared VR/AR.
The programme will establish a primary site at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) North West and secondary sites in BAE Systems Warton and AMRC Sheffield.
Andy Schofield, manufacturing and materials technology director at BAE Systems, said: “5G 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.”
2 | 5G Connected and Automated Logistics (CAL)
- Total project value: £4,851,780
- DCMS funding: £2,422,370
- Project location: North East
The 5G Connected and Automated Logistics (CAL) project in Manchester will take 5G “out of the testbed into an operational manufacturing environment”, according to DCMS. The North East Automotive Alliance, Vantec, Sunderland Council, and StreetDrone will deliver autonomous 5G-connected 40-tonne trucks to distribute parts and assemblies across the Nissan plant, linking to many local SMEs in their supply chain.
As with 5G FoF, the objective is to drive operational efficiencies and improve productivity. “The vision is to develop a globally unique centre of excellence and operational test facility for CAL which includes trials at the Nissan Sunderland site,” said DCMS.
Paul Butler, chief executive of the North East Automotive Alliance, said: “Automated last mile logistics is one of the major innovation challenges, this is especially true in the automotive sector with its synchronous and highly complexed supply chains.
“This project will prove last mile delivery for an autonomous HGV, the 5G will uniquely enable the removal of the safety driver from the process, allowing remote teleoperations to overcome abnormal situations. Through our industrial base and the unique assets of our road transport sector the North East offers a globally unique location to support the design, development, and manufacture of Connected and Automated Logistics solutions.
He added: “This project represents a major opportunity to support and accelerate economic growth, creating an exemplar that will encourage further private and public sector investment.”
3 | Smart Junctions 5G
- Total project value: £2,336,392
- DCMS funding: £1,160,778
- Project location: North West
UK SMEs Vivacity and Weaver Labs, along with Transport for Greater Manchester, will deliver AI traffic control systems to reduce congestion and pollution and cut waiting times at traffic signals. The project aims to use a 5G small cell network 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.
DCMS said the 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 at Vivacity, remarked: “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.”
4 | Liverpool 5G Create
- Total project value: £7,146,261
- DCMS funding: £4,302,596
- Project location: North West
The University of Liverpool, UK 5G kit vendor BluWireless, and small UK mobile operator Broadway Partners, plus a group of local healthcare bodies, will build a 5G network designed to benefit local NHS, social care services and other public bodies.
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. The new funding builds on an existing £7.2 million 5GTT project in Liverpool, also around 5G for social care. It will develop the business case for and testing new applications in the health and social care sector.
DCMS said the project will stimulate the development of low-cost 5G technology as well as improving future pandemic resilience and reducing inequalities.
Professor Joe Spencer, professor of electrical engineering and electronics at the University of Liverpool, said: “The project will develop a private 5G network for health, social care and education services in selected areas of Liverpool. This network will reduce digital poverty for vulnerable people, providing safe, free and accessible connectivity to these services via 5G.”
5 | 5G Festival
- Total project value: £3,438,497
- DCMS funding: £2,238,692
- Project location: South East
The ‘5G Festival’ (5GF) project will demonstrate how 5G can “enable the empowerment” of the music industry to bring live festivals and music events to audiences anywhere in the world. It proposes an “immersive platform” that leverages 5G. “Audiences and artists will connect seamlessly across continents, driving new experiences from the home as well as major venues,” said DCMS.
5G infrastructure is being deployed at the Brighton Dome and the 02 Arena, with help from Digital Catapult and Telefonica.
Jeremy Silver, chief executive at Digital Catapult said: “As live performers have been totally prevented from working because of coronavirus, a lot of bright minds have been focused on how to create exciting alternative experiences for a virtual world. The result of this work was an exciting bid into the 5G Create competition to produce a virtual festival that could offer 5G enabled experiences in which performers could reach audiences in an entirely new way.”
6 | 5G Edge-XR
- Total project value: £2,558,494
- DCMS funding: £1,486,004
- Project location: East Anglia
BT is working with TheGridFactory, Condense Reality, Dance East, Bristol University, and Salsa Sound to develop AR and VR experiences to go with BT’s sports services. 5G Edge-XR will demonstrate how 5G and cloud-based graphics processing could bring immersive sporting across a broader range of devices. It will also help realise the vision for 5G to create new opportunities for UK businesses, said DCMS.
Tim Whitley, managing director for applied research at BT, said: “5G Edge-XR will combine cloud computing and EE’s 5G network to support real time services that require uncompromised audio and visuals. Our prototypes will demonstrate the benefits 5G technology can bring to people and businesses across the nation.”