Major future telecoms research boost announced

A major investment of £62 million will help to position the UK to shape the next generation of telecoms networks.

The funding through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) £70million Technology Missions Fund (TMF) Future Telecoms Mission will support the development of technologies that will be crucial to future telecoms networks such as 6G.

The funding was announced by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology today.

Next wave of future telecoms technology

Julia Lopez, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, said:

This £70 million funding boost will help drive the UK’s efforts to bring forward the next wave of future telecoms technology – one of our five critical technologies. By supporting collaboration between researchers and businesses of all sizes we are helping to nurture new, game-changing advances which will deliver for people across the country.

Through Project Gigabit, one million premises now have access to state of the art connectivity, and we’re also rolling out more Alpha Trials sites to bring satellite-connectivity to some of our hardest to reach areas. This shows that we will leave no stone unturned in cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in research, connectivity and telecoms.

Funded projects

Sixteen new projects will take a share of £22 million to support the development and commercialisation of cutting-edge tech solutions and lay the groundwork for the networks of the future.

Projects include developing the world’s first all-optical network switch for ultra-low power, ultra-low latency for future telecoms networks, to developing wireless solutions for transport applications and high-speed network connectivity challenges.

Future Telecoms Research Hubs

Meanwhile, £40 million will provide further support for three existing Future Telecoms Research Hubs led by Imperial College London, and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, alongside partner universities across the UK.

This investment will also provide support for the creation of a national infrastructure for future telecoms testing and development linked to the UK National Dark Fibre Facility.

The hubs support research in 6G, developing new architectures and networks for end-to-end connectivity, embedding artificial intelligence and computing and developing wireless access systems such as cell-free networks and optical wireless integration.

Galvanising UK research and innovation

This funding is designed to galvanise innovation across the UK telecoms ecosystem, building routes for exploitation between the research base and innovative companies both established and emerging in the UK, boosting UK leadership in the future telecoms sector.

Dr Kedar Pandya, UKRI TMF senior responsible owner and Executive Director of Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) said:

The investment announced today will play an important role in advancing the telecoms technologies of tomorrow, supporting both early-stage research and market-ready solutions.

It underlines the role the Technology Missions Fund and UKRI support plays in unlocking the potential of new technologies that will have a profound impact on society and the economy.

Boosting UK leadership in the future telecoms sector

Samantha Francis, UKRI TMF Director for Future Telecommunications and Deputy Director, Research Base at EPSRC said:

UKRI is investing £70 million to support the development and commercialisation of cutting-edge future telecommunications technological solutions with a foundational role in communication networks.

Through the projects announced today, as well as the further support for research hubs, we will drive advancements in telecommunication technologies, lay the groundwork for the networks of the future, and boost the UK’s share of the global future telecommunications sector.

This investment comes on the same day that government has announced more than one million premises have been upgraded to high-speed gigabit broadband. This means one million homes, businesses and public buildings can now access the best internet speeds on the market as a result of the UK government’s rollout of faster, more reliable broadband.

Further support was also announced to deliver high-speed, reliable connectivity to some of our very hardest to reach locations using satellite connectivity through the ‘Very Hard to Reach Alpha Trials’.

Further information

Future Telecommunications Challenge competition projects

The world’s first all-optical network switch for ultra-low power, ultra-low latency for future telecommunications networks

Project lead: Finchetto Limited

Energy efficient LiFi module for 6G applications

Project lead: Purelifi Limited

Design and implementation of swept beam antennas for coverage and cell-edge capacity enhancement for next generation cellular networks

Project lead: University of Surrey

Development of the next generation of rapidly deployable fixed wire access solution to address high speed network connectivity challenges

Project lead: Novocomms Limited

MIST: mid-infrared free-space telecommunications

Project lead: Fraunhofer UK Research Limited

Development of microwave backhaul link alignment solutions

Project lead: SATcase Limited

NL-COMM: practical, non-linear processing for high performing communications

Project lead: University of Surrey

nCOMM+: a multi-access wireless network for volumetric video

Project lead: Nephelie Technologies Limited

FRONTIERS: free space optical communications enhanced through PCSELs

Project lead: Vector Photonics Limited

High gain mmWave for wireless back haul for transport applications

Project lead: Blu Wireless Technology Limited

Project Arana

Project lead: Weaver Labs Limited

VOLTAIRE: avalanche photodiodes optical time domain reflectometry

Project lead: Pangolin industries Limited

CAHN: continuously assured heterogeneous networking

Project lead: NquiringMinds Limited

CAPTIVATE: co-packaged optical transceiver for space telecommunications

Project lead: Alter Technology TUV NORD UK Limited

Project Illuminate: connecting space and ground optical communication networks for massive data throughput

Project lead: Archangel Lightworks Limited

Secure distributed edge storage to minimise network traffic

Project lead: Umbra Systems Limited

Future Telecoms Research Hubs

TITAN: Platform driving the ultimate connectivity

Hub lead: University of Cambridge

Future communications hub in all-spectrum connectivity

Hub lead: University of Oxford

CHEDDAR: communications hub for empowering distributed cloud computing applications and research

Hub lead: Imperial College London

JOINER: joint open infrastructure for networks research

Hub lead: University of Bristol

Top image:  Credit: shulz, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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