North's largest 5G testbed in Derry set to supercharge smart manufacturing

Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, has chosen Derry to build the largest 5G testbed in Northern Ireland
Gary McDonald Business Editor

TECHNOLOGY consortium Smart Nano NI has launched the largest 5G testbed in Northern Ireland in Derry, marking a significant step in a five-year plan to accelerate smart manufacturing in the country.

Led by consortium partner Digital Catapult, which is the UK authority on advanced digital technology, the 5G testbed - the ninth in the UK - is its latest innovation activity to bolster economic growth and investment opportunity in the north.

The investment by the Smart Nano NI consortium will create a valuable, open access facility and provide expert technical support to local start-ups and businesses through the Digital Catapult Smart Nano Accelerator Programme.

The ground-breaking testbed facilities will be delivered by the global IT and business consulting services firm CGI (it has 91,500 consultants around the world), in partnership with Digital Catapult NI.

The cutting-edge 5G and 4G private network is a first-of-its-kind smart manufacturing and education setting in Northern Ireland, providing access to the latest network technologies including 5G and narrowband-internet of things (NB-IoT), and will be instrumental in upskilling the next generation of innovators and experts across the country.

The testbed includes a smart education site at the Industry 4.0 Centre in Northwest Regional College’s Springtown Campus and a manufacturing site at Seagate's facility, providing opportunities for students, industry, and businesses to explore and test the technology.

Digital Catapult has opened an open call for the Smart Nano Accelerator Programme, allowing businesses access to the 5G testbed for the first time, with a focus on solving manufacturing challenges.

And participating Northern Ireland companies in the accelerator programme will also have the chance to compete for a £75,000 grant from Techstart Ventures to further develop their innovative ideas.

William Revels, managing director at Digital Catapult NI, said: “This is an exciting milestone for the project as we bring access to the latest 5G technology to both industry and academia and enable businesses to take advantage of the substantial market opportunities offered by 5G.

“Derry will be the ninth 5G testbed in Digital Catapult’s nationwide network and we’ve seen the opportunities that can be opened up from providing the equipment and in turn de-risking innovation.”