MEETING RECAP: Innovation IntrodUKtions

Author: Derek Kerton, Chairman, Telecom Council

One of the great ways we’ve found to keep fresh ideas and innovation in the pipeline during these times of travel restrictions and Shelter-In-Place orders is to collaborate with government groups to find great startups in their home countries, and have them present in our virtual Meetings. Not only does this allow us to tap into the innovation from far-away places, but it takes advantage of the fact that we’re using “place-free” virtual meeting rooms.

This week, we were very pleased to work with UK Department for International Trade, who worked with various agencies in the UK to select the 20 most promising innovators to pitch to Telecom Council Members. Given the mobility and transport focus, some Autotech Council Members also attended to see how the tech could apply to the transport & mobility sector.

Our Members were treated two-days of 2-hour Zoom Meetings, followed by extensive 1-on-1 speed-dating meetings, arranged through our meeting portal. Day 1 offered some high-level presentations and discussions around the UK’s aggressive innovation approach to 5G networks, applications, and services. With a number of test beds, initial 5G rollouts, and Launchpad accelerators, the UK is making it easier for entrepreneurs to take their 5G ideas to market.

Our session began with a Virtual Fireside Chat between Telecom Council Chairman, Derek Kerton and Dr. Mike Short, CBE, DIT’s Chief Scientific Adviser and former Chairperson at the GSMA. Mr. Short has a long career in telecom leadership and ecosystem-building, and he explained the work the UK is doing in fostering all levels of the 5G ecosystem. Mr. Short discussed the “softwarization” of networks, and some efforts in software, services, e-commerce, data analytics, 5G services, and digital health…very much foreshadowing the 20 startups we would later see.

After the high-level keynote, we dropped down one level into the pragmatic, and three organizations that are fostering the technological and business activity for 5G. The panel, featuring

  • Ros Singleton, Chair of the UK5G Advisory Board
  • Mohammad Lari, Head of Cross-Government & International Coordination 5G Testbeds & Trials Programme , DCMS
  • Dritan Kaleshi, Head of Technology-5G at Digital Catapult

Offered a very lively look into the many ways the UK is working to make it easy for ideas to become startups, and for startups to get to market, and then for solutions to reach wide adoption. It reveals an “a to zed” approach that keeps ideas from languishing at one phase of their development. Mo discussed high levels of funding, and access to test beds and trials. Ros discussed keeping all the gears aligned with information and knowledge flow, so the ecosystem can run efficiently. While Dritan discussed the Digital Catapult, which connects academia with innovation, and offers 5G testbeds where the best ideas can be filtered and refined.

After that, the audience took out their notepads, and evaluated a group of 8 5G startups in Consumer Technologies. Most of these solutions were customer-facing apps or services that leverage the unique benefits of 5G, including low-latency, and high capacity.

On Day 2, we kicked off with another 5G panel with a focus on use cases. We were joined by

  • Julie Snell, Chair of The Scotland 5G Centre, previously Director of Bristol is Open
  • Michel Sabatier, Business Development Director at West Midlands 5G
  • Darren Lewis, Head of Applied Innovation at BT

This panel gave us a perspective across the adoption landscape from innovation to carrier network implementation. Among the great take-aways from this quick session, were a number of practical 5G use cases. We learned about 5G in fishing, municipalities, and more. It seems the “killer app”, as always, is more of an aggregation of narrower useful apps. On that point, Michael mentioned how his org is working with about 2,000 companies to use 5G. Darren, among other points, also mentioned how BT runs competitions and test beds to identify the best prospective innovations. Julie linked her prior work with Bristol is Open to discuss how 5G is going to boost IoT in the smart city as well as industry.

After our morning panel, we rolled into another two groups of startup pitches. Group 2 was Infrastructure for telecoms, and Group 3 was about Transport/Mobility and IIoT. Over the course of these 20 presentations we learned that the UK has a lot of forward-looking innovations in telecom, has a great environment to support them and take them to commercial deployments, AND that the UK DIT is ahead of the curve in adapting to COVID restrictions by shifting to a Virtual Trade Mission format.

A great thanks to all the companies that worked so hard to make the Mission a success. For our Members, presentations are available in the Library.

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