The involvement of the government, the common interest of the public and private sectors, the contribution of the scientific community and the added value to society — the importance of such a common approach of interested parties was emphasised by scientists, entrepreneurs and start-ups from the United Kingdom (UK), who participated in an international event organised by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, where the ‘Sandbox’ initiative created by the Ministry was presented. The UK entrepreneurs and scientists were interested in the development of the 5G technology ecosystem in Lithuania and discussed cooperation with potential participants in the ‘Sandbox’ programme.
“When the idea of a 5G ‘Sandbox’ began to be developed in the Ministry, we focused on two fundamental benefits. We want to encourage the establishment of new businesses in various fields such as transport, agriculture, energy, the environment, etc. Business ideas that are based on 5G technologies will eventually lead to new business models, promote cooperation between science and industry and facilitate the integration of the Lithuanian technological ecosystem into the European and international arena. The second most important aspect is that the ecosystem we are creating promotes the implementation of the 5G network itself, increasing the density of the network and its coverage,” said Agnė Vaiciukevičiūtė, the Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications, during the opening of the international launch event of the ‘Sandbox’ initiative.
The launch of the ‘Sandbox’ initiative was organised on Wednesday by the Ministry of Transport and Communications in cooperation with the UK Embassy in Vilnius. The scientists and entrepreneurs of this country who took part in the event shared their experiences and provided Lithuania with a lot of constructive advice. The United Kingdom, which saw the spectacular potential of 5G-based technologies, launched the ‘5G Testbeds and Trials’ programme back in 2017. The five-year initiative has attracted more than 50 projects. The projects that have already been implemented or are underway include smart cities and homes, the food industry, medicine and sustainable mobility, for example, AI-controlled, inter-connected cars, autonomous lorries and public transport, regulated by traffic lights which control the traffic flow.
The UK Ambassador Brian Olley stressed that despite the further advancement of 5G technology, there is a lack of public awareness of the technology in the country he represents. Among the challenges of this ecosystem development is the need to acquire relatively strong ideas for the start-ups, which would create added value not only for business, but also for society and the ecosystem itself.
Mohammad Lari, the Head of Programme Development at the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), underlined that the process of developing 5G technology requires cooperation between stakeholders.
“The greatest strength of the programme is the local government, the academic world, the smaller and larger businesses that have supported and encouraged us. We see the government as a key player,” said Mr Lari during the ‘Sandbox’ launch.
In Lithuania, the funds of EUR 24 million, provided for in the Recovery and Resilience Plan, are allocated to ensure the continuity of the ‘Sandbox’ initiative, which seeks to attract the ideas of business, science and their consortia. While the largest share of funding (around EUR 14.5 million) will support initiatives in the transport sector, the potential of drones, the Internet of Things, augmented and virtual reality, and various projects promoting robotisation and automation processes will be discussed in the near future.
It is planned that the competition for the projects of the ‘Sandbox’ initiative will be announced in the autumn of 2022, and the project activities will start in the spring of 2023.