West Sussex announced as 5G Innovation Region

An exciting project to innovate and increase food and drink production using digital applications and skills has won government backing in Sussex.


Growing Sussex 5G Innovation Region is one of ten successful regions being announced today by the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology having been awarded£3.8million funding.

The project, led by West Sussex County Council as part of our focus on growing and supporting a sustainable and prosperous economy within the county, is wide ranging in its ambitions. It will co-develop foundational technology use cases (such as 5G and Artificial Intelligence) with telecoms and technology partners, education centres and commercial producers to develop future farming and growing practices that increase sustainable food and drink productivity.

A focus will be to develop a highly qualified, digitally skilled workforce capable of using digital applications in their workplace to drive demand for commercially provided connectivity solutions, including advanced wireless and 5G.

West Sussex County Council has been actively working with Horticulture and Education stakeholders, conducting research to understand sector ambitions and current digital connectivity constraints.

Cllr Steve Waight, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Digital Infrastructure said: “Our wider county of Sussex presents fertile ground for growers and education centres to adopt foundational technologies in the sustainable intensification of food and drink products, helping to deliver the government’s Food Strategy objectives.

By putting education at the centre of our approach we are ensuring that our growers’ workforce is digitally skilled and equipped to use modern technology in their workplace - be it field, farm or vineyard – and generating a cyclical demand within the sectors to invest in it. By training digitally skilled analysts and data managers, we expect to support local job creation in our food and drink sectors and open up employment opportunities to students and workers who might otherwise not consider horticulture, agriculture or viticulture as a career choice for them.”

Working with key educational establishments in Sussex, the project will also support the delivery of new qualifications in in Agriculture Management, Land Management and Production and develop data sets for specialist growing areas and livestock management that will inform practices around sustainable development, climate change, waste management, biosecurity and the supply chain.

DSIT’s 5G Innovation Regions programme aims to drive demonstration of innovative applications powered by 5G and other wireless use cases from proof of concept to widespread adoption across key sectors of the economy. They will also demonstrate the scalability, replicability, and sustainability of use cases, and disseminate project learnings and benefits.

Minister of Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said: "We’re channelling 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.”

Growing Sussex 5G Innovation Region will promote innovation, host demonstrator projects, showcase new applications and bring together technology manufacturers and wireless operators at educational events with growers and farmers, as well as provide ‘real life’ test environments to researchers and innovators. A planned programme of learning and collaboration events will be key to ensuring the growers understand the benefits and adopt digital technologies, ultimately becoming customers of the connectivity/products and services and driving commercial investment in advanced wireless technologies to meet growing demand.

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