The Digital Innovation Hubs and 5G Step-Out Centre are designed to enable innovative product prototyping in realistic and comprehensive environments
Whilst Buckinghamshire works to ensure that each of the business clusters in the region have access to a Digital Innovation Hub, it is clearest in the work being completed in the Westcott 5G Step-Out Centre.
The Step-Out Centre enables the rapid deployment of proof-of-concept prototypes, as well as projects for resilience, security and reliability evaluations into the different network areas involved in the 5G domain
It is located centrally amongst the Space and Aerospace cluster in Westcott, which is a region which has provided rocket engine test facilities for over 50 years. This location allows increases the prestige of the site, and ensures that there are businesses in the area which are continually looking for innovation opportunities. This ensures the ideal location for combining autonomous systems, such as drones, with 5G as the drones can be flown and tested all onsite. Additionally the co-located Business Incubation Centre is designed to keep businesses on-site as they grow.
The aspiration is to also link this Step-Out Centre with a co-located innovation and incubation hub to allow for the transition of 5G prototypes to growing businesses.
This would need to be created as a separate organisation in individual regions. In Buckinghamshire, this was created due to significant support for the local Enterprise Zone from the local growth hub and the Local Enterprise Partnership.
Evidence of success
The site acts as the base of the Space Applications Catapult, and is engaged with other national catapult services throughout the United Kingdom. As part of this, the Satellite Applications Catapult at Westcott used the site to develop the UK’s first private standalone 5G network as part of the MK:5G Connected Communities Project.
Potential for learning or transfer
This practice is not easily transferred into the current systems in place in different regions, however, it does show how clusters can be further enhanced through specialised innovation hubs specific to the needs of those businesses. In this instance, the Space Applications Catapult has been further enhanced through the facilities available through the 5G Step-Out Centre, which is now considering further investment into the innovation and incubation labs. As such, it is essential that the location of these hubs be considered so that they have can the maximum impact on the businesses they intend to support.