Bournemouth will join a pioneering movement across the UK that promises to revolutionise the country’s digital economy.
The Smart Place Pilot project is an opportunity for Dorset to lead a 5G connectivity revolution, pioneering innovation, creating jobs, boosting the local economy and delivering technology which will provide social and health benefits. The combination of this and the Dorset Smart Place Investment plan, will place Dorset at the forefront of an exciting new era of digital connectivity.
Dorset LEP has allocated £1 million of the government’s Local Growth Fund to BCP Council, who increase the total funding to £1.3 million, for the delivery of the Smart Place Pilot project. The project was confirmed for start in December 2019 after a detailed public consultation by BCP Council on 5G, which included assessment of public health concerns.
Based in the Lansdowne area of Bournemouth, a 5G digital test bed will create an internet of things* to improve services, provide free public Wi-Fi and attract new investment, employment and innovation.
This high-tech, digital pilot will not only increase Wi-Fi connectivity speed but will enable the area’s advanced manufacturing, health and social care sectors to test and trial 5G-enabled equipment with the business district.
The project is expected to create around 200 new jobs at the project site and in the surrounding area in the first two years and 400 jobs by 2025. Dorset will benefit from a gross value added (GVA) of £37.6 million by 2025 and it is anticipated that the project will add £137 million to the local economy over the next 10 years.
Mike Morris, Sales Director at x-tention UK, an IT company based in Bournemouth town centre, said: “We are delighted to be part of a local project that will use technology to benefit the population of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, even those who are disenfranchised and would often sit on the wrong side of the digital divide. The BCP area can move forward from COVID-19 as a fairer community with new opportunities and social funding, with 5G providing a more accessible method of connecting to local facilities and organisations.”
Emma Mahy, CEO at IoT Solutions Group, an end-to-end Internet of Things provider based in Swanage, said: “IoT Solutions Group is delighted to be a consortium member of BCP Council’s hugely exciting Smart Place Pilot project. The world is gradually waking up to the societal benefits offered by 5G, the internet of things and smart city infrastructure. Following several successful IoT trials with BCP Council, we are hugely encouraged by their continued appetite to innovate to improve local environments, the lives of residents and visitors, and services such as social care. We look forward to continued partnership and innovation to support their goals and a stronger, more productive and prosperous community.”
Dorset LEP has also allocated a further £380,000 of the Local Growth Fund to BCP Council to create a Dorset Smart Place Investment Plan. The strategy will be used to attract significant inward investment for Dorset of up to £1 billion in new digital connectivity and technologies.
The Dorset Smart Place Investment Plan will include assessments of business and commercial models, costings for implementation and management of digital infrastructure, potential public service cost savings and evaluations of economic, social and health benefits. The plan will also provide evidence to support bids for further major government investment.
Dorset LEP Chair, Jim Stewart, said: “We are incredibly excited about these two projects, which will put Bournemouth ahead of competitor towns and cities in the UK as a leader in digital communications. Creating a digital test bed in Dorset will lead to new investment, new employment, innovation, higher productivity and sustainable economic impact and growth.
“Unlike previous wireless technologies which have been mainly focused on mobile phones, this new technology will enable machine-to-machine connectivity at a massive scale with high performance functionalities like real time and an enhanced broadband communication.
“This opens up huge new opportunities for local manufacturers and integrators and could see Dorset lead on the development of 5G-enabled machines. Existing businesses could diversify by creating new digital portfolios and new businesses could be established.
“Ultimately our aim is to see an improved digital infrastructure throughout the conurbation and the rest of the county.”
Bournemouth has already made its mark in the digital and creative industries.
BCP Council has previously established a Smart Place consortium, which includes Dorset LEP, local universities and private sector technology partners, working to accelerate the region’s position in the digital economy.
In 2015, Bournemouth and Poole was identified as having the fastest growing technology cluster in the UK. In 2017, a report by Tech City UK cited the area as having the highest concentration of high growth digital technology businesses in the country.
Councillor Vikki Slade, Leader of BCP Council, concludes; “We are delighted to be pushing forward with Smart Place Pilot and are excited to see the results of the Dorset Smart Place Investment Plan.
“We already have a large digital and creative sector based at Lansdowne and the pilot will be a massive boost to what has already become a leading business district in the region.
“This new age of connectivity is not just about faster mobile phone speeds through 5G. It will enable machines to connect to the internet and share large amounts of data simultaneously, sparking new business innovations. It will also help us understand how 5G and other new technologies could help improve public services and quality of life for residents.”