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Unlocking Digital Potential: North Ayrshire Council Secures UK Government Funding

Posted on 13 Nov 2023

NORTH Ayrshire Council has successfully secured nearly £250,000 of funding to help digitally enhance one of its most scenic and popular areas.

The funding from the UK Government’s Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme will be used to establish cutting-edge 5G and wireless infrastructure at the Irvine Harbourside area.

The £1.3 million Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme, aimed at advancing digital connectivity, has recognised North Ayrshire's potential, making it the sole local authority in Scotland and one of just six across the United Kingdom to receive this funding.

With the rising demand for wireless services, opportunities are developing to install infrastructure in innovative places such as on lamp posts, traffic lights, CCTV columns, benches, bins and bus stops.

North Ayrshire will receive funding to trial new multi-purpose street columns which will house equipment to support the rollout of advanced wireless networks like 5G sensors boosting connectivity and enhancing the visitor experience. The project will be delivered with the support of the Scotland 5G Centre and its HALO Kilmarnock Innovation Hub.

Key areas of focus for this initiative include intelligent transportation and visitor management systems, waste solutions, advanced lighting, CCTV enhancements, and improved connectivity infrastructure. Additionally, a major emphasis will be placed on harnessing the power of 5G technology to unlock faster and more reliable connectivity. This technological leap will facilitate enhanced communication, support Internet of Things (IoT) applications, and enable data-driven decision-making.

The Council is currently developing big plans for the ‘Great Harbour’ project at the Irvine Harbourside.

The Smart Infrastructure funding will help ensure 5G and wireless coverage is available to enhance the visitor experience and to make sure interactive aspects of the Great Harbour run smoothly and efficiently.

Councillor Tony Gurney, Cabinet Member for Green Environment and Economy, said: “This is fantastic news for Irvine and North Ayrshire.

“What is great about this technology is that it’s discreet yet incredibly effective. We have big plans for the Irvine Harbourside through the Great Harbour project. They are a key part of the Ayrshire Growth Deal and have the potential to put the area on the map nationally, making it a place that families from right across Scotland want to visit.

“We want to maximise the visitor experience and having 5G and wireless coverage is vital.”

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said: “The way we stay in touch, access information and do business is underpinned by digital connectivity - and a world-class wireless infrastructure will be the foundation for the jobs, skills, and services of the future.

“We want to ensure that towns and cities across the UK are right at the forefront of this connectivity revolution, ready to seize the opportunities it will bring for local communities, which is exactly what these pilots are about.

“They will help demonstrate how advanced wireless technology can enable areas to innovate and deliver better public services, from rolling out electric vehicle chargers to boosting business growth and helping keep our streets safe.”

Luca Campanalonga, Technical Business Development Manager at The Scotland 5G Centre said:“The Scotland 5G Centre were pleased to offer support to the North Ayrshire Council in their Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme bid and are delighted about the competition outcome.

“We're excited to welcome the winning consortium to our HALO Kilmarnock innovation hub, offering our knowledge, demonstration spaces, and a cutting-edge private 5G network for prototyping public sector solutions.

We look forward to collaborating with North Ayrshire Council in continuing to champion 5G developments within the region.”