Future telecommunications in the Midlands: New Cluster Snapshot published

Date posted: January 11, 2024
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Future telecoms graphic

A new Midlands Engine Cluster Snapshot finds our region’s future telecommunications offer growing opportunities for the Midlands economy.

Reflected in the UK’s Wireless Infrastructure Strategy (2023) and Digital Strategy (2022), digital infrastructure is crucial to the region’s future growth and prosperity.

Current and future telecoms are an integral element of this, demonstrated through UK government targets such as ambitions for nationwide 5G coverage, funding for 5G innovation regions, a 6G strategy, and a 10-point plan for rural communities – including improved broadband coverage.

Parts of the Midlands are at the forefront of the development, testing and delivering of future telecoms. For example, the West Midlands Combined Authority area and Shropshire were recently selected as 5G Innovation Regions. The former being the UK’s first region-wide 5G test-bed (West Midlands 5G is part of the UK Telecoms Innovation Network).

The snapshot maps the cluster through four lenses:

Business ecosystem

The report finds that the Midlands is home to 17.5% of the UK telecoms business population with 1,200 companies.

This has grown year on year, with the number of companies in our region growing by 64% between 2013 and 2022.

Innovation ecosystem

Universities in the Midlands are central to fostering innovation in telecommunications. They have received £4.5m worth of funding since 2017 which went on to fund projects such as the University of Warwick’s silicon carbide power conversion for telecommunications satellite applications.

The snapshot also spotlights Aston University’s project which aims to enhance UK capabilities in key strategic areas including optical communications and laser technology, with highly important practical applications for healthcare and Agri-Tech.

Talent ecosystem

There are almost 45,000 people employed in telecommunications in the Midlands with high density populations include Birmingham and Coventry and Nottingham.

Investment ecosystem

Midlands telecoms received just 2.31% of the total equity received in the UK from 2017 to 2021, despite making up 15.3% of the sector’s business population.

These companies also received just 4.51% of all grant money, indicating that there is significant underinvestment. This demonstrates the challenges for growth in the Midlands economy but does showcase where the opportunities are.

Read the full snapshot here from our resource library.

“Future telecommunications” is one of the five critical technologies identified in the UK Science and Technology Framework (2023) and the International Technology Strategy.

This forms part of an ongoing series of publications by the Midlands Engine including:

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