This month marks my one-year anniversary at The Scotland 5G Centre and I wanted to reflect on the last 12 months. It’s been very busy, and though, of course, 2020 has been exceptionally challenging as we navigate our way through the coronavirus pandemic, we are making excellent progress in establishing Scotland as a leading digital nation.
I can sympathise with many, having myself been recruited at the start of the lockdown period last year and having to conducting much of the recruitment processes virtually. But once the green light was given, it was key for me to move safely up to Scotland to get under the skin of the opportunities and challenges that Scotland has to offer. I relocated to Scotland at the end of July 2020, when the first lockdown was easing, and had thought we were over the worst – little did we know!
I quickly recognised that the Scotland 5G Centre was in a special position – with government support, to be a national focal point for the 5G ecosystem; mobile industry, public sector, enterprise agencies, academics and SMEs. Luckily, I had some experienced and supportive Board members in the University of Strathclyde, University of Glasgow and Scottish Futures Trust to advise me and help me navigate the existing stakeholder landscape.
During the summer months, the team and I looked at this ecosystem through a strategic lense, reviewing ways the Centre could be recognised on a wider scale and have practical, national impact, and relevance so that we could promote the benefits of 5G to a greater audience, and support the adoption of 5G services.
The Centre already had some strong, early projects in the works, seeking to accelerate the 5G eco-system for Scotland – the Infralink project led by Scottish Futures Trust; and the rural and smart campus testbeds led by the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow respectively – putting the Centre and its missions firmly on the map.
The launch of the S5GConnect programme allowed me to further increase the ambition of the Centre; delivering the next stage of the Scottish Government’s 5G Strategy through a network of regionally relevant hubs stationed across Scotland.
With the new strategy in place, the next hurdle was perhaps the most important – making the first of several appointments and building the team from 3 to 15 with a plan for further recruitment.
Growing the team so fast presented some challenges, especially with the additional hurdle of the pandemic, though fast forward some months, and I now have a fantastic team in place with knowledge and experience of the sector, stakeholders and challenges, and look forward to being able to meet them all in person, hopefully very soon.
Fundamental to my own and to the team’s successes has been Julie Snell, Chair of the Scotland 5G Centre who has offered her guidance and support as we grow our team, and used her enthusiasm for 5G to promote our brand and increase awareness about S5GC on UK and international platforms.
During the past 12 months, we have massively increased the presence and profile of the Scotland 5G Centre, not just in Scotland but across the UK and internationally too. The Scottish Innovation Centres, UK5G, West Midlands 5G and many other organisations have helped get the Scotland 5G Centre to where it is today, thanks to their willingness to share and collaborate during the Centre’s formational months.
The creation of the Strategic Advisory Board has also provided a leadership focus for the team and more widely, has been a source of advice to the Centre as it supports the Scottish Government to make sure 5G is ‘baked in’ to its development of policy and programmes.
One of the overriding reflections of the last year for me has been the reinforcement of the need and dependency people have for reliable bandwidth and digital connectivity – technology has been even more central to our lives over the last year than it ever has before as we hold meetings, events and social gatherings virtually. Delivering faster and more capable connectivity will support businesses and the wider community and will help to shape how the economy bounces back post-pandemic.
Scotland has some unique challenges due to its geography, but I have seen real appetite to overcome this. Through the Centre, we are exploring new models for deployment that will bridge the digital gap and ensure businesses and communities across Scotland have unrestricted access to all digital services.
The announcement of the first two S5GConnect Hub locations – Forth Valley and Dundee – showed the Centre’s statement of intent and with more to follow, I’m excited to see the S5GConnect programme establish its presence, aiding businesses on their journey to true digitalisation.
Businesses will be looking to re-invent themselves following the pandemic, and with the Scotland 5G Centre’s support – the opportunities are ready for the taking!