The conference was designed to provide the thriving UK5G ecosystem with an opportunity to gain perspective on the wider DCMS supported 5GTT programme, the progress to date of each of the various 5G projects, as well as the various inter-project collaborations underway or planned. It was also a unique opportunity for projects to showcase their work, network virtually, learn from each other and celebrate the forward momentum of the overall programme.
Welcome to the Digital-First world
The two days featured an impressive blend of plenary sessions, virtual networking, exhibition areas, lightning talks and Q&A-led discussions. In our digital-first reality, we used the Remo platform to allow delegates to connect and dive deeper into theme-specific conversations during various breakdown sessions which received enthusiastic feedback, with one delegate observing it created “an informal virtual space for discussion which has definitely developed some potential collaborations”.
Attendees were welcomed with an open address from Matt Warman MP, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), who spoke how the innovative 5G projects benefit sectors and communities, “helping people and businesses UK-wide to develop digital capabilities and address inequalities.”
Ian Smith, Programme Director for the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme (DCMS), shared some of the highlights of the £200 million programme that was launched with a clear vision of “building, fostering and leading 5G for the UK”.
The focus of the session was on data integration and knowledge sharing, building on what has been learned already around how to solve real problems and deliver tangible and positive impact to businesses and communities. Especially pertinent as we gradually move towards the economic recovery phase of the COVID-19 crisis.
There was a sense that there is not going to be just one killer application, but the real opportunity is in what 5G enables by fostering innovation and offering a wide variety of possibilities and solutions.
In many sessions that followed, when asked about the real impact of 5G, discussions were dominated by talk of productivity and “making it easy” to move towards 5G, for SMEs and organisations ready to accelerate their growth. The narrative has also shifted from “global” to “local” with a consistent thread around engaging local communities and authorities to drive a transparent 5G debate and provide effective support for businesses to scale projects and services.
“Every problem you have is valuable - Collaboration is about experience”
The overarching theme of the Be Better Connected Conference was about the importance of collaboration – and both Rosalind Singleton, UK5G Advisory Board Chair, Advisor and Investor and David Pedley, Technical Design Authority, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) talked to this subject.
“Collaboration is about experience,” said Rosalind Singleton. “It’s about trying to provide a functioning legacy for your projects, something that will actually enable other people to practically use your lessons – things that are small, usable, sometimes easy to remember, sometimes more complex. But basically re-usable artifacts, I think it’s the key.”
Building on the imperative of collaboration and knowledge sharing, the Be Better Connected conference managed to capture something unique – an emerging community willing to share experiences on their 5G journey. “The sense of a cohort - rather than a series of disconnected projects,” as Bob Driver, Head of UK5G, noticed and concluded: “The collective impact is potentially enormous when the projects work together – and there is far more of a chance that the learnings bleed across into the wider communities of enterprises and places.”
“The feel of a community being created” was also one of the main takeaways for Peter Whale, UK5G Senior Advisor and Head of the 5GTT Collaboration Team, who addressed the “people from across the nation, from many different sectors, organisations and projects, having a sense of unity of purpose and being part of something bigger and more significant that perhaps we had fully grasped we were part of before.”
“Could this turn out to be a pivotal moment in the emergence of an enduring national ecosystem?” – he asked.
One thing is certain, the Be Better Connected conference has made a compelling case for it!
The full scale and scope of the testbeds programme can be viewed below:
To find out more about 5GTT programme, please visit UK5G Testbeds and Trials.
The UK5G Team would like to thank all attendees, the Board, CW Team and all supporters contributing to the success of this event.
The Team would also like to congratulate Devices CG, Live + Wild and 5G Rural Dorset for bagging the Innovation Briefing prizes!