October 19, 2023
The European Union has allocated €130 million worth of funding to 27 research projects linked to the development of 6G technology.
This being Brussels, it’s a little bit more complicated than that though. The body making the award is the European Smart Networks and Services JU (SNS JU), which was formed just under two years ago with the aim of coordinating member states’ 6G research endeavours and a budget of €1.8 billion.
This time last year the SNS JU announced €250 million worth of funding for its first portfolio of research projects, 35 of them in all, spanning the evolution from what it dubbed mid-term 5G to experimental infrastructures that could conceivably be used for 6G. This week’s announcement is round two, and there are at least a couple more to come. The funding for them all comes from the Horizon Europe programme.
The 27 round two projects include a handful under each of half a dozen key focus areas: System Architecture; Wireless Communication Technologies and Signal Processing; Communication Infrastructure Technologies and Devices; Reliable Services and Smart Security; Complementary SNS experimental Pan-EU federated Infrastructure; and SNS Large Scale Trials and Pilots with Verticals. There’s a little more information on the projects here, but not a lot.
There’s also a section on microelectronics. The projects in general feed into the EU’s desire to get ahead – or at least keep up, let’s be realistic here – in 6G development as well as its quest for greater digital sovereignty. We’ve heard a lot on that last point from the point of view of increasing chip production in the bloc and so forth, and it is also playing into this latest round of funding awards.
“In this second call, there is also a strong push towards the advancement of European microelectronics in providing solutions for next-generation communication networks and devices at various levels of the device data processing chain, from baseband and mixed-signal processing to RF and Antenna system, covering frequency ranges from sub-6GHz up to THz,” the SNS JU noted in its announcement, listing three projects in this category: FirstTo6G (Fourier-Domain TRx Solutions Enabling Widespread Realisation of 6G), 6G-REFERENCE (6G Hardware Enablers For Cell Free Coherent Communications & Sensing), and TeraGreen (Towards Energy-Efficient Tbps Wireless Links).
Those names don’t mean a lot a present, but we may well hear more about them going forward. Or not, depending how the projects pan out.
The SNS JU also allocated funding to one project – known as 6G-XCEL (6G Trans-Continental Edge Learning) – that fits with its aim of fostering a strong research cooperation with the US, particularly looking at 6G technologies that include artificial intelligence (AI). And it awarded funding to 6G for Society, which, as the name suggests, is about addressing the broader societal implications of 6G.
Now it has round two under its belt, the SNS JU is ready to crack on with the next phase. It plans to open the third call for project proposals in January, although it has not said how much funding is available, or when we can expect to see details of the winners. These things rarely happen quickly though; we could be looking at another year.
The projects awarded under this second call will kick off from January, while those that apply under the third call and a planned fourth will launch in 2024 and 2025 respectively.
Europe wants to be a 6G leader, but it doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry.
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