press release
Published: 17 September 2021

University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre wins inaugural Bhattacharyya Award

The Royal Academy of Engineering have announced the University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) as the first-ever winner of the Bhattacharyya Award.   

After fierce competition from across the UK’s elite institutions and organisations, the Award has been presented to the 5GIC in recognition of its exemplary academia-industry partnership that has helped to build the UK's work in 5G technology from the ground up and produced world-leading innovation in the field.

The Bhattacharyya Award is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and was created to encourage more private and academic entities to collaborate, as a tribute to the late Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya KT CBE FREng FRS, Regius Professor of Manufacturing at the University of Warwick and founder of WMG.

Surrey's 5GIC has built collaborations with more than 27 global industrial partners and over 300 UK SMEs since its launch in 2013, bringing together leading academics and companies to help develop the 5G technologies that will underpin the way we communicate work and live our everyday lives.

5G technology is estimated to be worth up to £173 billion to the UK economy by 2030, increasing productivity, driving modernisation and enabling transformative applications in automation, healthcare, manufacturing, self-driving vehicles, and remote robotics. Its evolution to 6G is set to address grand societal, environmental and industrial challenges, such as the digital divide and privacy, as well as support efforts towards achieving the net-zero national agenda.

Regius Professor Rahim Tafazolli FREng, Head of the Institute for Communication Systems (ICS) at the University of Surrey and Founder and Director of the 5GIC, said: "Collaboration with industry partners is at the heart of our achievements. The challenge of 5G could not be met without the close cooperation of major businesses with academia and realising the benefits of the new technology by reaching out to regional communities and SMEs. It is good to see recognition of the work of academics, researchers and industry members, operation and support team in Surrey and 5GIC achievements over the past nine years by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

"The competition was tough, and that is evidence of the UK's research and innovation excellence. We will use the Bhattacharyya Award funding to expand our overseas relationships – particularly with South Korea, India, the US, Europe and Japan – and maintain our international profile. We will also use the prize to provide collaborative industry opportunities for training, knowledge exchange, and skills development for early careers researchers. All of these activities will be co-developed with industry to ensure that they meet the future needs of the UK and global workforce. We feel that this boost to skills development is particularly important to help offset the disruption caused by the pandemic."

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: "I am delighted to see the first Bhattacharya Award go to the University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC), whose work to bolster the UK's competitiveness in 5G technology has already helped to attract nearly £100m of industry funding.

"5GIC puts collaboration between industry and academia at the core of its work, and I hope this award inspires other researchers, academics and industry experts to join forces as part of our efforts to build back better from the pandemic."

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, immediate past-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, is chair of the judging panel for the Bhattacharyya Award. She said: "Had companies been working individually and with more limited collaboration with academia, these outputs and outcomes would have taken far longer to achieve. The collaborative work at 5GIC is enabling the UK to be a leader in the international competition. The Bhattacharyya Award aims to transform how universities research and educate to meet the needs of industry and society, which is exactly what the University of Surrey's 5GIC has done, and we congratulate the team for setting such a high bar in this first cycle of the Award."

Margot James, Executive Chair at WMG, University of Warwick, said: "This partnership exemplifies innovative academia-industry collaboration, for which Professor Lord Bhattacharyya was a keen advocate. He believed in effective industrial strategy, with a focus on the impact of research and training and technology partnerships between industry and universities. This inaugural Lord Bhattacharyya Award will inspire the next generation of academics and industry experts to come together to create more ground-breaking research."

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