West Midlands wins 5G Innovation Regions competition to Level Up region and accelerate growth


Today the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has won £4m to accelerate the adoption of 5G technology across the two of the region’s most important clusters – manufacturing and smart communities (which includes social care & social housing) – to boost productivity, wellness and jobs.

The funding has been won with through a joint bid from WM5G (West Midlands 5G), JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) and the WMCA’s Local Authority partners into the Government’s 5G Innovation Regions competition which is making £40m available for selected regions to accelerate the transformative benefits that advanced connectivity and digital technologies can provide.

Advanced manufacturing and smart communities are two key clusters identified in the West Midlands Plan for Growth which was launched last year to help re-ignite the regional economy and recapture its pre-Covid success. Accelerating the adoption of so-called Industry 4.0 technologies, including 5G and data/AI, in these clusters has the potential create skilled jobs, boost productivity, transform wellness, and help reduce social inequalities. However, digital adoption still remains low, reflecting underlying skills and cost of living issues combined with awareness, proposition, funding, and delivery barriers. 

By becoming a 5G Innovation Region, the West Midlands will overcome these barriers by scaling proven use cases through the UK’s first adoption hubs in operational manufacturing and social housing facilities and then support many other organisations to benefit through adoption programmes. 

Minister of Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale 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 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.”

City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Simkins, 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.”

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