The Open Networks Ecosystem Competition is offering up to £80m of funding in the next phase of the UK Open Networks Research and Development (R&D) Fund.
The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) is offering applicants the opportunity to apply for funding to develop a range of software and hardware products that will enable enhanced development and adoption of open and interoperable technology; as well as the opportunity to apply for funding for demonstrations of Open RAN technologies in high demand density environments.
The competition aims to tackle barriers to the adoption of open mobile networks in three key challenge areas:
High Demand Density (HDD) Use Cases/Demonstrations: HDD sites such as urban areas, airports, sports venues and major public events represent the most challenging environments for the technical performance of mobile networks. We’re looking to fund projects which seek to develop, demonstrate and test approaches for optimising mobile network performance in High Demand Density environments.
RIC and other RAN Software Automation: We’re interested in projects which seek to explore how the openness and interoperability of Open RAN software, including Near-Real-Time or Real-Time RIC technologies and apps, could be improved.
Processors, RF, and other RAN Hardware: We’re interested in projects looking to accelerate the development of performant open interface RAN hardware, such as analogue RF and antenna components, RF chips, and baseband processing solutions to address the disparity in features, performance, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) between traditional and open solutions.
This is part of the government’s Open Networks R&D Fund which delivers on the £250 million 5G Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy through a range of telecoms R&D projects. Successful projects will run until the end of March 2025.
A briefing event for this competition will be held on 27 March 2023. See more information and registration.
5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy
The 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy (2020) set out the Government’s long-term vision for the telecoms access supply market: one where competition and innovation bring forward new deployment models based on open interfaces and interoperable standards, with flexible networks and comprising an array of suppliers. This is because such a market increases competition and choice, and ultimately introduces interchangeability of equipment into the supply chain, boosting resilience
Open Networks R&D Fund
The Government’s Diversification Strategy was backed by £250m to invest in the Open Networks R&D Fund, which will run until April 2025. The Open Networks R&D Fund will finance targeted activity, based in the UK, to support three objectives to:
- accelerate the development of open networking technology from its infancy to commercial viability
- incentivise and reduce the risks of deploying open networks technology in the UK at pace, to encourage network operators to accelerate its adoption and deployment, and
- develop an internationally recognised UK telecoms ecosystem, to position the UK as a leading market for research in open network technologies
The investment will be delivered primarily in the form of competed grants to consortia of capable businesses, academic institutions, and public sector organisations who will deliver R&D projects to suit the objectives of the Fund.
The government is currently undertaking a number of interventions to build on the progress of existing projects in flight from the Open Networks Research and Development Fund such as the Future RAN Competition (FRANC), the Future Open Networks Research Challenge, as well as bodies such as SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC Labs), the UK Telecoms Innovation Network and the UK Telecoms Lab – now including Open Networks Ecosystem competition.
Projects applying to this competition are expected to address one or more of the competition objectives set out below.
Develop, demonstrate and test approaches to optimising Open RAN network performance in High Demand Density (HDD) environments.
Develop open and interoperable software, including RIC technologies.
Develop hardware solutions for open interface infrastructure and reduce/remove barriers to scaled market adoption.
Applicants are permitted to propose projects which cover more than one objective within their application (i.e. one application addressing multiple technology themes).
Competition process and dates
The competition will run for ten weeks – the key milestones and deadlines are set out below:
Milestones and deadlines:
Competition opens: 14 March 2023
Competition briefing event: 27 March 2023
DSIT Subsidy Control Teach-in: 17 April 2023
DSIT Commercial and Finance Teach-in: 19 April 2023
Clarification questions receipt deadline: 9 May 2023
Competition closes: 11:59pm 23 May 2023
Successful applicants notified: Late June 2023
Grant funding period: Subject to successful applicants’ satisfactory completion of pre-grant requirements and commercial agreements
Estimated project start: September 2023
Projects end: 31 March 2025
This competition is open to applications from UK-based organisations. Specific eligibility criteria for the competition can be found in the competition guidance.
How to apply
To submit your proposals, please refer to the ‘How to Apply’ section of the competition guidance, and submit all required documents via the Find a Grant site by 11:59pm 23 May 2023.
There is up to £80 million of grant funding available from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in this competition (for eligible costs in FY23/24 and FY24/25).
Grants ranging from £1 million to £10 million will be made available to successful projects.
If you have any questions or would like more clarification, please contact us on ONP.email@example.com. Please note that the deadline for clarification questions is 9 May 2023.
Your question and respective answer will be aggregated, anonymised and added to a public Q&A document unless commercially sensitive.