Vodafone UK teamed with Digital Catapult to open a 5G immersive laboratory in the country, designed to help local start-ups overcome digital barriers.

The facility will be located in Newcastle and will launch from September this year, housing a range of initiatives around digital training for enterprises.

Vodafone said it will power the lab with 5G and future networks technologies, including standalone (SA) 5G and “state-of-the-art” digital equipment to support businesses trials and development of new services, with the facility set to host workshops and demos spearheaded by specialists in the sector.

The laboratory is financed by the North of Tyne Combined Authority, and Ashmita Randhawa, director of R&D at Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley said the site represents “a tremendous opportunity” for home-grown companies and communities to tap into the latest technologies.

Vodafone also claimed Newcastle houses “the seventh best start-up ecosystem” in the UK, with estimates suggesting current opportunities are worth approximately £30 billion for local investors.

In Q2 2023, venture capital investments into businesses across the North East of England “more than doubled” to £23.9 million, added the operator.

However, business director at Vodafone UK Nick Gliddon said the country’s small- and medium-sized businesses are missing out on £8.6 billion annually in productivity savings due to the slow rollout of SA 5G.

“Now, more than ever, 5G digital innovation labs are vitally important in providing these businesses with access to the latest technology, which is needed to scale up their operations and stay competitive,” said Gliddon.