The government has invited businesses to apply for a share of a new £1 million investment fund that aims to help uncover new and innovative uses for 5G connectivity.

Available via Innovate UK and the CELTIC-NEXT programme, the fund is designed to assist UK businesses looking to partner with international companies on 5G research and development (R&D) projects.

It will seek to boost the international development of 5G services, and in particularly how the connectivity can be used to support other key technology developments, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Enterprises looking to apply for a share of the cash will have to show they are developing projects based around one of two key themes.

The first of these is 5G infrastructure technologies that make use of AI in network operation or “multi-access edge computing”, which consists of cloud-based services on the perimeter of networks.

Secondly, innovations that use 5G networks for new or improved user experiences, including features in satellite networks or services integrating satellites, will also be eligible for assistance.

Within these goals, proposed projects must have a focus on one or more of the following areas: AI in network operation; multi-access edge computing; IoT; tactile internet; mission-critical applications; ‘infotainment’ mobile services, such as advanced media streaming; or immersive content in industrial environments.

Innovate UK noted developing these applications for 5G will be hugely important as, while 90 per cent of UK homes have access to fast internet services, there remain 2.7 million unconnected premises.

The best solution for closing this gap is likely to be more use of smartphones, which are already the most widely-used way of connecting to the internet, and next-generation 5G services could greatly expand what is possible via mobile networks.

Interested businesses have from 1st April to 29th May to apply. Firms of any size are invited to participate, while projects can have total eligible costs between £400,000 and £2 million, with organisations advised to aim for grants around £500,000. Projects must start between October and December 2019 and last between 12 to 24 months.

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