Blog post
March 22, 2024
Kai Pitt-Richardson

Digital Catapult Announces Launch of 5G Immersive Lab in Newcastle City Centre

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Digital Catapult to launch state-of-the-art 5G Immersive Lab in partnership with North of Tyne Combined Authority to break down the barriers to digital adoption in the North East.

Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, announces a state-of-the-art innovation lab in Newcastle City Centre thanks to £700k funding from North of Tyne Combined Authority. The funding is part of a wider £3.5m Innovation Accelerator programme seeking industry engagement to overcome barriers to 5G and Future Connectivity innovation by improving access to high quality connectivity and innovation facilities.

Based in Eldon Square, the new 5G Immersive Lab aims to boost digital skills, productivity and innovation across the North of Tyne region through providing businesses with direct access to a Vodafone 5G Standalone test bed and immersive technologies like Virtual Reality. The lab will be a versatile workspace of co-working areas, meeting rooms and event spaces. This space will also be connected to the Advanced Media Production studio at PROTO in Gateshead, creating a robust testing ground for solutions in a real-world environment, accelerating the development and deployment of their products and services.

Through hands-on technology workshops, business challenges and expert-led demonstrations, the lab will help businesses develop an understanding and expertise, to allow them to begin innovating with 5G and Immersive technology. It is all about helping businesses build, test and learn in a collaborative low risk environment. For interested local residents, they will be invited to learn about 5G, immersive technology and innovation on special open days.

The innovation facility will open in two stages, with the co-working space coming first in spring 2024 and the full 5G Immersive Lab later in the summer. With commercial prowess, technical expertise, and regional understanding the lab will make technology less confusing and more accessible for everyone in the North of Tyne. ​​This includes supporting communities and sectors across the rural parts of the region as well as the needs of businesses in the city of Newcastle as well as urban towns.

Pradera Lateral, have taken a keen interest in the development of the North East, particularly with innovation in the Newcastle city centre. They have provided invaluable support in hosting the facility in Eldon Square, as one of the key partners working to get the project up and running. 

Newcastle is one of the region’s technology hotspots, with the title as the seventh best startup ecosystem in the UK, and estimates suggest that there are opportunities worth approximately £30 billion available for investors across the region. In the second quarter of 2023, Venture capital investment into businesses across the North East more than doubled to £23.9M, and the new 5G Immersive Lab will play a key role in further supporting the success of the North of Tyne’s technology sector. 

Digital Catapult is committed to supporting the North East’s technology sector, and alongside Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley, it will play a key role connecting some of the North of Tyne’s most established businesses with the region’s most promising startups. In launching the commercially neutral environment, the facility is set to promote knowledge sharing and experimentation, and will encourage broader adoption of new solutions amongst businesses in the region, to sharpen their competitive edge. 

Vodafone will be one of the delivery partners on the project, providing and maintaining the new 5G technology for the lab, while Dynamo North East, a membership organisation for the technology industry, will help to identify small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the North of Tyne region that might benefit from the project. To support the community engagement and management of the coworking space, we’ve partnered with Floe. A local coworking company focusing on transforming under utilised space into engaging innovative communities around the North East.

Mayor Jamie Driscoll said:

5G is more than just being able to stream videos faster on your phone. It helps businesses to innovate and solve problems. So it could mean better gaming experiences through virtual reality,  more automation in our offshore renewable energy sector, driverless cars and even improved customer experience in shops. Imagine a digital mirror where you can see what a new outfit might look like - without getting physically changed. We don't yet know the full capabilities of 5G and it will mean different things for different industries. That's why this lab is really exciting, as it will provide the right environment and tools for businesses to test it out in a low cost, low risk way."

Cllr Richard Wearmouth, Cabinet lead for Clean Energy and Connectivity, said:

"5G development is a key milestone in our journey towards a better-connected region and I'm excited about the opportunities this new lab will offer businesses - especially those in our rural areas, where we know there are still improvements to be made. It's great to see this project get off the ground and I look forward to seeing the innovative ideas that come out of it."

Ashmita Randhawa, Director of Research and Development at Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley said:

“The new 5G Immersive Lab in Newcastle represents a tremendous opportunity for local companies to access the latest immersive and 5G technologies that will shape the future of business. As part of Digital Catapult’s nationwide network of cutting-edge facilities, the lab will break down barriers to digital adoption and empower local businesses to embrace new solutions to drive productivity, efficiency and growth. The North East is home to some of the country’s most exciting startups and businesses, and I’m excited that Digital Catapult will continue to play an important role in supporting the growth of the local economy and technology ecosystem.”

Nick Gliddon, Director, Vodafone Business UK said:

“Businesses are important pillars in any community, not only for playing pivotal roles in driving job creation and contributing to both the local economy and the UK’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), but also for sparking innovation, fostering entrepreneurship and diversity.  However, in recent research, we found that UK SMEs are missing out on £8.6bn a year  in productivity savings due to the slow roll-out of 5G Standalone (5GSA).  Now, more than ever, 5G Digital Innovation Labs are vitally important in providing these businesses with access to the latest technology needed to scale-up their operations and stay competitive. We look forward to working with Digital Catapult, North of Tyne Combined Authority and Eldon Square over the coming months and finding out how businesses are testing, exploring and identifying innovative user cases for 5GSA and ultimately shaping the future of their region.”

If you are interested and want to find out more please contact us.

This project is funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority. The North of Tyne Combined Authority is a partnership of three local authorities: Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, and Northumberland County Council and the North of Tyne Elected Mayor.