West Midlands secures £4 Million funding to boost tech growth through accelerated 5G adoption
In a significant development for the West Midlands, the Combined Authority (WMCA) has been awarded £4 million to fast-track the adoption of cutting-edge 5G technology within its advanced manufacturing sector. Announced on Thursday, November 16, this funding is set to enhance productivity and create higher-paying employment opportunities in the region.
This financial injection, a successful outcome of a joint bid involving West Midlands 5G (WM5G), Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), and WMCA’s local authority partners, was secured from the Government’s 5G Innovation Regions competition. A portion of these funds will be channelled towards advancing the ‘smart communities’ initiative, encompassing social housing and care, aiming to improve the wellness of the region’s inhabitants.
The West Midlands Plan for Growth, unveiled last year to jumpstart the regional economy post-Covid, identifies advanced manufacturing and smart communities as pivotal sectors. The adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, including 5G and data-driven AI, is viewed as a crucial step in generating skilled employment, enhancing productivity, transforming wellness, and addressing social disparities. Despite these benefits, the uptake of digital technology in the region has been sluggish, hindered by challenges such as skills deficits, cost of living issues, and various barriers related to awareness, funding, and implementation.
With the new funding, the West Midlands aims to establish itself as a leading 5G Innovation Region. This initiative will involve scaling up proven use cases in operational manufacturing and social housing facilities, creating the UK’s first adoption hubs. Subsequently, the project aims to assist a broader range of organisations in leveraging these technological advances.
The £4 million grant forms part of a larger £40 million fund that the Government has allocated to select regions. This initiative underscores the Government’s commitment to leveraging advanced connectivity and digital technologies for transformative socio-economic benefits.
Sir John Whittingdale, Minister of Data and Digital Infrastructure, said: “We’re channeling millions into local areas to unlock the potential of cutting-edge 5G wireless and digital technologies which will reshape our public services, drive economic growth and boost innovation. This new fund will give local areas from across the country the opportunity to be at the forefront of Britain’s world-leading 5G revolution.
“For instance, by using 5G for farming and creating science parks, we’re not just helping local communities, but also encouraging new ideas all over the UK. This is more than just linking smartphones. It’s about using powerful digital connections to transform various sectors in the economy and the public sector throughout the entire country.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “5G has the power to transform public services and grow our economy – making our workplaces more productive and creating high quality new jobs.
“Accelerating digital adoption is at the heart of our regional strategy to drive prosperity as we continue to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic. We’ve already made a strong start – investing in digital skills bootcamps, launching the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator, and achieving the best 5G coverage of any Combined Authority region.
“But there’s still more we can do to quicken the pace of adoption. That’s why winning £4m in funding and becoming a leading 5G Innovation Region is so important for the West Midlands. Close collaboration with industry leaders and our local authorities will enable us to best serve communities, businesses and public services – opening up new opportunities for local people right across our region in the months and years ahead.”
Steve Prendergast, digital operations director at JLR, said: “5G availability in our manufacturing facilities in the Midlands is essential to JLR’s digital transformation as we enhance the performance of our industrial footprint. As we gear up to the production of our next generation electric vehicles and their new platforms, the adoption of advanced wireless technologies will improve the scalability, flexibility and resilience of our manufacturing sites.
Cllr Saima Suleman, cabinet member for Digital, Culture, Heritage and Tourism for Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham City Council is transforming the way it delivers its services using digital and smart technologies to ensure our residents receive the opportunities and services they deserve. This opportunity will build on the exciting digital transformation activities in our Housing and Adult Social Care services. We look forward to working in partnership through 5GIR to accelerate the benefits from scaled adoption of these technologies for our residents, staff and partners.”
Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, said: “5G-powered technologies have the potential to deliver more efficient public services, new opportunities for residents and businesses, and provide a boost for economic growth. Working together as a region means that we are best placed to collectively make the most of the opportunities this represents.”
Cllr Stephen Simkins, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “Wolverhampton is a Gigabit and Smart City with futureproofed digital infrastructure including full fibre broadband and 5G utilised to transform delivery of services and develop new applications to unlock its potential. We know how critical digital adoption is for our residents and organisations and we are delighted to be part of this innovative programme that will help bring further benefits to our city and region.”