Acting on a recommendation from the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce, DCMS has announced plans to establish a UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN). The centre will act as an information point for telecoms companies looking to access funding or testing facilities for R&D and opportunities to collaborate on developing new and improved technologies for UK mobile and broadband networks.
Sophie James, Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy at techUK commented:
Today's UKTIN announcement is a welcome sign of progress from government in supporting the innovation and expertise in the UK telecoms sector. With the right guidance, collaboration and international engagement, our telecoms ecosystem will thrive, helping to deliver the UK's vision as an innovation leader.
It's vital that the UK Telecoms Innovation Network works effectively across government departments and agencies, and not remain siloed, as our communications infrastructure and services underpins the success of a digital economy and society--from meeting Net Zero targets, to transforming the delivery of public services such as healthcare.
The UKTIN will be run by a consortium of organisations with telecoms expertise and will support knowledge sharing and collaboration on open and interoperable network technologies such as Open RAN, which allows telecoms companies to mix and match telecoms equipment rather than having to rely on a single supplier when building or maintaining networks.
Funding of up to 10m is available for bids from consortia with two or more members with funding available for UK based organisations. Further information on UKTIN can be found here.
The high-level objectives for the UKTIN in respect of diversification of the telecoms supply chain and boosting the wider telecoms ecosystem are:
- Until March 2024: UKTIN will make the UK telecoms R&D and innovation landscape easier to navigate in order to broaden and accelerate market deployment. This should include easing the path to successful entry for new suppliers into the UK's telecoms innovation landscape.
- Until March 2025: UKTIN will enable the best use of public and private investment in R&D in line with the government's objectives: this should enable knowledge to be shared more readily across industry, to create the right partnerships and minimise unnecessary duplication.
- Until March 2025: UKTIN will engage and support all organisations participating in the open networks R&D programme to ensure their activities align and inform the government telecoms and R&D policy goals, including maximising the collective benefit of government investment in telecoms R&D.
- Until March 2025: UKTIN will drive the telecoms ecosystem so that it has strengthened UK capability through aligning R&D to support advanced networking technology, creating a pro-investment environment.
Avoiding fragmentation in research and testing
The Telecoms Diversification Taskforce Findings and Report highlighted that cross-government telecoms R&D activity and funding is currently fragmented, particularly in research and testing.
This fragmentation can result in negative impacts on diversification including potential overlap and duplication of work, lack of access to relevant funds and technical support and delays in driving innovations and outcomes. In addition, this fragmentation in the public sector has presented a challenge to the government planning a holistic roadmap of actionable interventions and investments which truly align with the telecoms industry.
DCMS is now acting on the Taskforce's call to enable and support new market entrants, vendors and innovators in navigating this fragmented telecoms R&D ecosystem with a front door' to steer suppliers and operators to the right place to assist them in ways that would be relevant to the diversification agenda.