Why edge is the essential accelerator for the UK’s regional regeneration

Investment, innovation and growth outside the capital will be stimulated by edge computing 

As the UK economy continues to grapple with challenges, from sky-high inflation and interest rates to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, attention has turned to the tech sector as a driver of growth. During the British Chambers of Commerce Global Annual Conference, key figures including the Chancellor, Leader of the Opposition, and Governor of the Bank of England emphasised the need for British businesses to embrace technologies like AI to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

The UK government is committed to levelling up and fostering growth across all regions, collaborating with devolved administrations and local partners to realise this vision. For a glimpse of how this could turn out, look no further than Manchester – renowned as the UK’s top digital Tech City with a thriving £5 billion digital ecosystem. Greater Manchester Council has set a clear vision in its digital strategy, prioritising solutions delivered in partnership with the regional ecosystem for the benefit of its citizens.

A digital future shouldn’t just be limited to the leading tech hubs such as Manchester, however – it should be accessible across all regions. And even the cities leading the charge can still grow, by utilising emerging technologies. But how can we replicate this success on a national scale? One answer lies in edge computing.

The importance of edge infrastructure

With data growing at an exponential rate, edge infrastructure becomes essential. It meets the vastly increased demand for processing, by bringing it closer to the source. This proximity facilitates the use of 5G technologies, advanced IoT and video analytics, whilst also meeting the data and speed demands of emerging technologies such as VR and AR. Anything from an AI-powered smart assistant to a virtual gaming headset is, at its core, enhanced by the capabilities of edge. Edge infrastructure, encompassing both the network and distributed compute, enables large volumes of data to travel shorter distances, allowing local capture and processing.

Unlocking potential across various sectors

Edge infrastructure unlocks potential across a multitude of sectors, enabling technology to deliver a diverse range of innovative real-world applications in areas such as complex, discrete manufacturing. The possibilities aren’t just limited to transforming consumer-based services such as entertainment and gaming. After all, in a world where digital technology is referred to as the fourth utility – as essential to society as water or electricity – edge computing will serve as a crucial cog within this machine.

It can help public services, from healthcare to car parking and waste collection, transform efficiency. It can facilitate levels of automation in construction that are currently unattainable, boost yields in smart agricultural technologies, and strengthen new models in healthcare. For the many sectors ready to get on board with a digital future – edge will ultimately strengthen their position.

Edge computing and regional regeneration

Edge computing plays a pivotal role as the great enabler of smart city ambitions, fostering better services and new opportunities throughout the UK. By changing what is possible, edge computing becomes crucial to fully realising the benefits of a data-driven economy for cities, communities, and businesses nationwide. Operating from regional data centres, edge computing offers low-latency processing required for advanced applications and AI implementation, while maintaining access to offerings from major cloud providers. In contrast, conventional on-premises or centralised approaches are less well-suited to the demands placed on data and infrastructure by all these advances.

Building a comprehensive edge infrastructure

Achieving the true potential of edge computing also requires a network of partnerships that ensure the opportunity is open to all. These ecosystems will drive provision of connectivity and achieve the necessary collaboration that enables local businesses to innovate and compete on a national or international scale. The partner ecosystem is what will open up the power of the regional edge in the longer term.

Local knowledge and expertise are essential. While larger enterprises often outsource their IT to system integrators, regional SMEs should collaborate with regional edge providers to build their own solutions. Local authorities must ensure that citizens and business communities have full access to this technology framework through partnerships with specialist infrastructure, transport, health, and content delivery providers.

Equal investment from public and private sectors

At a time of constrained public funding, edge infrastructure becomes imperative for the public sector to meet the increasing digital expectations of consumers. While completing network roll-outs remains a priority, parallel attention and investment must be directed towards applications and infrastructure that drive utilisation. The public and private sectors must invest equal energies into edge infrastructure, delivering swift benefits to citizens and ensuring UK tech businesses develop solutions that keep the country relevant in a rapidly changing global market. Now is the time to embrace data, digital tools, and collaboration. We have the opportunity to revive regional British businesses, foster fast-growth startups, and attract established companies through job-generating relocations. Edge computing infrastructure stands as the necessary catalyst for regional regeneration.

About the Author

Wendy Shearer is Director of Smart Cities and Ecosystems at Pulsant. Pulsant is the UK’s premier digital edge infrastructure company providing next-generation cloud, colocation and connectivity services. With a network of 12 strategically located edge data centres, Pulsant brings the advances of edge computing within reach of 95 per cent of the UK population. Founded 27 years ago, with a mission to help businesses prosper, Pulsant delivers the transformational high-speed, high-bandwidth, low latency advances of edge computing, processing data close to the people and machines that generate and use it. Regional enterprises and service providers across the UK use Pulsant’s edge infrastructure platform to build, connect and deploy the applications they need to innovate and grow.

Featured image: ©Gorodenkoff