Home5G & BeyondUK gov launches £25m 'create a diverse 5G supply chain' contest for...

    UK gov launches £25m ‘create a diverse 5G supply chain’ contest for students


    The FONRC challenge aims to speed O-RAN research projects

    The UK government has issued three updates on its scheme to create more diversity in its telecoms supply chain. Britain’s universities and telcos can now apply for up to £25 million research and develop new ideas for 5G and 6G network equipment. The UK is also investing £1.6 million in a joint-funded £3.6 million competition with the Republic of Korea to collaborate on an R&D project to speed up O-RAN power supply technology development. Meanwhile the government has announced the bodies that will preside over another innovation scheme, the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN).

    The Future Open Networks Research Challenge (FONRC) aims to fund early-stage research into open and interoperable telecoms solutions, such as O-RAN, for use in 5G and 6G. FONRC aims to get universities to work with large radio access network (RAN) vendors and telco players, researching how to make future network designs more open and compatible.

    The government cites three objectives for FONRC. The first is to expedite the creation of open networking technology from its infancy to commercial viability. That’s quite a challenge in the time allocated. The second aim is to make open networks technology a less risky proposition in the UK by encouraging network operators to speed up their adoption. The third dream is to develop an internationally recognised UK telecoms ecosystem and to position the UK as a leading market for research in open network technologies.

    Any new technology must be commercially attractive to big vendors, mobile network operators (MNOs) and venture capitalists, while diverse enough to keep the options open for future developments. This latest competition is paid for by the UK government’s Open Networks R&D Fund which aims to deliver on the £250 million 5G Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy through a range of telecoms R&D projects.

    The UK will also invest £1.6 million in a joint-funded £3.6 million competition with the Republic of Korea to collaborate on an R&D project specifically to improve power efficiency in Open RAN networks. Power consumption is a major operating cost, so the work will support wider adoption of Open RAN technologies, cut operating costs and support net zero ambitions. The UK-Republic of Korea Competition is open to applications from consortia with two or more members from relevant industry, academic or public sector organisations, with funding available for activity taking place in the UK. Bids must be submitted by ‪noon on 20 September 2022. Application guidance is available on

    Meanwhile, the government has appointed proprietors for the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), a body dedicated to boosting creativity in the country’s telecoms supply chain. The Digital Catapult, Cambridge Wireless, University of Bristol and West Midlands 5G won the competition to set up and oversee the network.  

    The UKTIN, first announced in March, aims to make the UK the easiest place in the world to access and take part in telecoms R&D. It will guide businesses and researchers looking to access funding or testing facilities in the UK and enable the best use of public and private investment in R&D, as well as ensuring that knowledge is effectively and efficiently shared across the telecoms industry. UKTIN is expected to be up and running in September, at which point it will begin to take over from UK5G to help organisations get the most out of what the UK has to offer.