CEO, ComteK Network Systems UK Ltd and chair, DBF

For the past couple of years, Bangor University’s Data Signal Processing (DSP) research centre has been working closely with mostly local technology companies to develop a unique 5G technology.

This is a world-class innovation in gigabit-speed broadband technology, making 5G wireless broadband commercially viable in rural locations.

This is an impressive development, unique in the world, which has already attracted one of the world’s biggest telecom providers to be part of this innovation and be the first in the market to deploy it. This is a landmark homegrown Welsh innovation project that could potentially change the economic fortunes of neglected rural regions and forgotten communities in the rest of the world.

Since telecommunication infrastructure is within the sole remit of the UK government, Bangor University and the consortium applied to the UK government (DCMS) for support in June 2021. The consortium sought some financial support and recognition of this potentially rare revolutionary innovation in North Wales.

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With great sadness, the UK government - as we should have expected - refused to support it. Some major overseas telecom manufacturers were very keen to sponsor the university, realising its potential commercial and intellectual property opportunity.

The consortium was not keen to involve large overseas companies to invest and gain access to this technology which was invented in North Wales. They wanted this technology to be remain in North Wales, therefore showcasing the region’s amazing capabilities and potential to compete in technological achievements on a global level.

Failing to receive any support from the UK government and reluctant to involve overseas organisations, especially from untrusted nations, the consortium approached the Welsh government.

The local stakeholders, Members of Parliament, two of our hard-working Welsh Parliament representatives, Jack Sargeant MS and Carolyn Thomas MS, Anglesey Council and Ambition North Wales created a united and determined group.

Fortunately, the hard work of this formidable group paid off. The Welsh government came up with a brilliant formula to support this great Welsh innovation. They have just announced they are awarding the consortium led by Bangor University £4.2million to rollout 5G-ready broadband in some of the most difficult to reach areas of Anglesey and develop this exciting innovation project. The proof of concept of this innovation will be demonstrated within 18 months in this pilot scheme.

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The lesson we learned from this project was not to rely on and expect support from the UK government. The successive UK governments have shown very little interest in North Wales. Another key lesson learned was that in North Wales we have a remarkable and passionate team of experts and innovators. We really don’t need any handouts from the UK government. We must believe in ourselves and rely on our local businesses, councils, and the Welsh government.

There are many other exciting transformative projects which with a bit of UK government support, could have completely transformed North Wales’ economy. There are two outstanding tidal energy projects in our region - North Wales Tidal Lagoon and Morlais Tidal in Anglesey. 

Neither of these two projects has received a single penny from the UK government. Fortunately, Morlais Tidal is going ahead, thanks to the support of about £30million from the European Union.

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Lack of interest from the UK government for North Wales has already increased nationalism and pro-independence sentiments, even within all the major political parties.

The Welsh and Scottish are disillusioned with the lack of support from successive UK governments and see the Republic of Ireland as a success story. Many businesses get frustrated to see that the UK government very quickly finds billions of pounds ready to pour into destructive wars in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc but never finds any money to invest in North Wales’ infrastructure and economic development.

The UK government has got to start delivering to North Wales. Empty promises and soundbites will no longer work. If the UK government wishes to keep Scotland and Wales within the United Kingdom, it must change its course.

Both Conservative and Labour parties must develop comprehensive development and support plans with a greatly enhanced transfer of power to the devolved nations. Time is running out. North Wales must get the recognition and support it truly deserves.