Mar 2, 2024

Cluster Competitiveness in 6G Ecosystems

Finland’s academic, commercial and government connections can inspire other 6G clusters

3GPP’s December 2023 announcement, committing to develop the specifications for 6G, resolved one market uncertainty about 6G. 3GPP offers a proven governance framework for open, consensual and international technical standardization. It is also a globally recognized institution due to its track record and regional standardization partners.

There are, however, other technical and socio-technical aspects of 6G that are likely to alter 3GPP standardization. For example, there will be new frontiers to address as the scope of mobile networks extends to distributed communications and computing systems. In the socio-economic arena too, new expectations are taking shape. These touch on resource sustainability, capabilities to ensure resilience and trust, and socio-technical issues arising from digital world applications that go beyond purely human and machine communications.

 Beyond the 3GPP community, other 6G drivers to consider include industry strategy and technology sovereignty, both of which have acquired greater geo-politically significance. Governments are ambitious to foster home industries, research power houses, business networks and start-up formation. In parallel, industry players are looking ahead to 6G commercialization with an eye to how government intervention can help. These dynamics set up a fertile context for communities to form around public-private partnerships and market development efforts, as is evident from pioneering initiatives. 

Flagging a Start for 6G 

In 2018, Finland got the 6G ball rolling through the 6G Flagship program. Building on the trajectory established by 5G, it sought to anticipate research issues arising from the next generation of communications systems. Over time, the pioneering work seeded initiatives across Finland across a matrix of academic, business, government and research participants working in local, national, and international arenas. 

In 2019, under the guidance of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), China established its IMT-2030 (6G) Promotion Group. It set out to promote 6G research and create a platform that would support international exchanges. Participants include local and international organizations.

A little later, Europe and North America launched their own initiatives, taking different approaches. North America’s NextG Alliance (NGA) assembled a group of primarily commercial firms and academic institutions to represent the region’s interests. In Europe, a portion of the bloc’s research funding addressed 6G via the Hexa-X program. Hexa-X then seeded a follow-on program, Hexa-X2. These initiatives sit within the wider context of the European Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU) which aims to ensure industrial leadership for Europe in 5G and 6G. 

Individual countries proceeded to launch regional, national, and sub-national programs across Europe. The French government issued a €750 million funding call for 6G projects. In Germany, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports a program of 6G industrial research projects, an example of which is the 6G-TakeOff project led by Deutsche Telekom and involving twenty-two research and industry partners with the aim of developing a uniform 6G architecture for communications networks comprising ground stations, flying infrastructure platforms and satellites. Mimicking Finland’s local market development initiatives, the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs launched Thinknet 6G with the goal of creating an agile ecosystem of industry players, research institutions, associations, innovators, start-ups, and incubators for 6G development in Bavaria. 

Among UK initiatives, 6G Futures aims to be the UK’s Center of Excellence for 6G research. Elsewhere, twelve founding partners launched the Realising Enabling Architectures and Solutions for Open Networks (REASON) project with UK government funding to develop and industrialize 6G mobile network technologies and solutions.

Other parts of the world also began to mobilize. In Japan, Toyota Motor, NEC Panasonic, NTT Docomo, KDDI, SoftBank Group and Rakuten Mobile joined other Japanese companies and academic institutions to propose technological requirements for future 6G wireless communications via the Beyond 5G Promotion Consortium.

South Korea, which has a national goal to launch 6G systems earlier than the internationally accepted 2030 target contains examples of private and public-private initiatives. LG Electronics, for example, demonstrated a 6G radio frequency front-end module in collaboration with Keysight Technologies at the 2021 Korea Science and Technology Exhibition. South Korea’s academic and research institutions ramped up their 6G activities and established international connections such as those connecting to the Finnish cluster as described earlier. At the national level, South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT established a 6G R&D implementation plan in 2021, calling for an investment approaching $194 million by 2025. 

India, a sizeable market with ambitions to lead in the 6G arena launched its national initiative, the Bharat 6G Alliance (B6GA). Backed by government grants, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) assembled seventy-five companies under the B6GA to drive the country’s next-generation ambitions across the private sector, academia, research institutions and standards organizations. B6GA’s primary aims are to understand the business and societal needs of 6G beyond technology requirements, to promote open R&D initiatives and to accelerate standards-related patent creation. 

In addition to national ambitions and initiatives, there is a growing movement in favor of international collaboration on common interest policies. As an example, the Global Coalition on Telecommunications (GCOT) focuses on security, resilience, and innovation of telecommunications networks. Its founding members comprise the UK’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology; Australia’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts; Canada’s Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Canada; Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications; and the USA’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. GCOT members want to foster diverse supply chains, secure and interoperable standards, and innovation of future telecommunications technologies such as 6G. At present, this is an information sharing initiative that seeks to build international consensus as a means of ensuring complementary national approaches.

Another example of cross-bloc collaboration involves the EU and North America. They published the EU-US Beyond 5G/6G Roadmap report which aligns common societal, technical and commercial market development interests. There are many other international examples

Eventually, these national and international initiatives will need to evolve beyond information exchanges. There will be a need for dedicated resources and on-the-ground initiatives that bring together public and private sectors across research, standardization, and commercialization communities. How they succeed will depend on the extent to which they are interconnected and self-reinforcing. 

Ecosystem Formation Example 

Being the first to launch a formal and substantial 6G initiative, Finland provides a reference for how the nation and 6G forerunners are setting about developing competitive advantage via a world-recognized cluster. In the strategy area, the concept of ‘clusters’ deals with geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in a nation or region. According to Havard Business School’s Professor Michael Porter, clusters affect competition in three broad ways. Firstly, they increase the productivity of companies based in a given area. Secondly, they drive the direction and pace of innovation. And thirdly, they stimulate the formation of new businesses within the cluster.

In the case of Finland, Oulu University made the early running with the 6G Flagship initiative. Other universities and research institutes across Finland then followed. Participation extended to the private sector, with example initiatives involving Nokia and the SME sector. Industry strategy took the form of coordination, funding, and inward investment efforts at the local (Business Oulu) and national (Business Finland) levels. 

International outreach adds another layer to these Finland-centric activities. These involve Finnish organizations participating in international bodies, such as ETSI and the NGMN Alliance. There are also links to other emerging clusters, South Korea featuring recently through MoUs that the University of Oulu signed with Yonsei University, KASIT and ETRI. In the spirit of collaborating internationally with like-minded nations on technology sovereignty, Finland issued a joint statement about shared aspirations for 6G with the US government.

Finland’s matrix of connections is a source of inspiration for other 6G clusters. For example, recent initiatives illustrate efforts to branch out beyond communications topics. A case in point is the University of Oulu’s 6G Visible project which it launched with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and funding from Business Finland's 6G Bridge program. This is an example of exploring a vertical sector requirement by researching how to combine 6G technology and autonomous cars. A second initiative, 6G-SatMTC, focuses on solutions for critical communications and the role that satellite communications might play. 

Cluster Expansion Challenges 

Finland’s sector-specific initiatives illustrate an important challenge for the core 6G Community to reach out to the sectors that will drive demand for 6G systems and innovation. A related challenge stems from the way that the envelope around 6G is expanding to include cloud and computing capabilities. How will representatives from these sectors join the research, standardization and supply chains that have solidified around the 3GPP community and operating model? 

A second set of challenges applies to the layering of societal values on 6G systems. Equity, sustainability, and trustworthiness, for example, call for capabilities and solution concepts that will stretch the technology stack. That brings into discussion what kinds of commercial, technical, and societal communities need to latch on to the national and international 6G clusters that are beginning to take shape.

NOTE: Article originally published in 6GWorld


  1. 2 March 2024 update

    BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) -- GSMA opposes the fragmentation of 6G standards and will leverage international platforms including the Mobile World Congress (MWC) to advocate for unified standards, the association's Greater China chief Sihan Bo Chen told Xinhua in an interview.

    "We firmly support standardization organizations in their efforts to unify global standards, as fragmentation is highly detrimental to users, the global economy, and industries," she said at this year's MWC in Barcelona, Spain, which runs from Feb. 26 to 29.

    She recalled the convergence of all standards through the long journey from 2G to 4G eras, and stressed that "5G has now emerged with a unified standard."

  2. 5 March 2024 update

    Home / Opinion / Opinion Line - Biden administration repeating 5G mistakes in 6G quest


    The United States is developing 6G wireless communication systems with nine countries that are its military allies, exposing its intention of launching a tech race with China by applying its own standards and narrowing the opportunities for China. As Axios described it, "a battle is underway to influence the standards of 6G".

    The US might want to maintain its technological hegemony, but such hegemonic thinking will only hurt its 6G industry as well as the world's. After all, like a majority of telecommunications technologies, 6G is based on tens of thousands of patents developed by scientists and engineers globally. According to IP solution provider LexisNexis, by July 2023, the number of declared 5G patent families stood at over 60,000, more than twice that of 4G. The number of 6G patents will only be higher; China has already outpaced the US in the number of filed 6G-related patents.

    If the US continues with its uncooperative stance toward China in 6G, it will end up ignoring a number of patents from China and invest heavily in developing patents to realize similar functions. That is like reinventing the wheel, which is a waste of time, energy and precious human intelligence.

    Actually, the US has already paid a huge price by adopting an antagonistic attitude in the 5G sector and banning the sale of communications equipment made by Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE in 2022. This has also dragged the pace of its 5G network building. It will be repeating the mistake if it still wants to close the door tighter instead of opening it wider.

    In the field of 6G, China's huge capabilities, borne out by its large number of related patents, huge market size and developed digital economy, make it a potential competitor to the US. But China has no intention of countering any nation or organization. Instead, China has been actively participating in international 6G cooperation.

  3. 7 March 2024 update

    From AI to Drones: Governing Technology in an Age of Geopolitical Competition

    The United States and China are engaged in a fierce contest to establish technological supremacy and set international norms in key domains, from AI to drones. The European Union has joined this race, too. But as Brussels commits to advancing trustworthy, values-based governance frameworks, it increasingly faces the challenges of growing state and corporate competition, rival regulatory frameworks, and inherent risks of dual-use technologies.

    To discuss how the EU can overcome these obstacles, Carnegie Europe invites you to a public event with Raluca Csernatoni, author of the forthcoming report Charting the Geopolitics and European Governance of Artificial Intelligence.

  4. 7 March 2024 update

    Netherlands in 6G Mode with New Initiative Taking Off

    It’s been a recent journey so far – the project officially started in October 2023. However, researchers have been shaping the consortium for at least two years now.

    Although young, FNS was born with the promise of long-term investments. The Dutch government has committed € 203 million in conditional budget to the initiative – € 61 million of which is already available for researchers.

    The program will focus on four pillars:

    Intelligent components
    Intelligent networks
    Leading applications
    Strengthen ecosystem

    According to Wijngaard, one of the FNS’s ambitions is building a strategic knowledge position for the Netherlands, as well as for Europe, in development and 6G applications.

    “On the one hand, of course, we want to create new KPIs,” Wijngaard explained when asked why Dutch companies would invest in 6G research. “But there’s also the technology innovation, new applications, new components, and new products. This has value,” he concluded.

  5. 8 March 2024

    Building a Wall Around Science: The Effect of US-China Tensions on International Scientific Research

    via Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, UK

  6. 14 March 2024

    Linux Foundation and US Government to Host "6G Innovation Day" at ONE Summit in Silicon Valley on Open Source, Open RAN and AI Efforts

    Five US agencies come together to discuss future of competitive innovation built on open source and open standards: NSF, DHS, NIST, NTIA, OUSD R&E

    OpenGovCon 6G Innovation Day confirmed for May 1, 2024, co-located with Open Networking & Edge (ONE) Summit in Silicon Valley

    6G Innovation Day is a focused experience built to accelerate and harmonize various networking and edge initiatives across public-private domains through roundtable discussions, lightning talks, and hands-on experiences.

    "We are pleased to gather thought leaders from across US government agencies & commercial partners working to advance Open RAN and AI," said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge and IoT, the Linux Foundation. "Looking towards NextG through the lens of Open RAN and AI, it's imperative we work together to ensure secure infrastructure and agile development."

  7. 20 March 2024 update

    Business Finland to host event in Delhi seeking global partnerships and innovation

  8. 26 March 2024 update

    The Global 6G Conference 2024, themed "Better Together, Better Future", sponsored by FuTURE Mobile Communication Forum and Purple Mountain Laboratories, will be held in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, from April 16 to 18.

    The Advisory Committee and chairs of the conference boast a lineup of renowned scholars, including academicians from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering, members of the National Academy of Engineering, fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering, members of the German National Academy of Science and Engineering, and fellows of the Academy of Engineering, Singapore.

    The conference will be co-organized by prominent international institutions, including 6G Flagship of Finland, the Fifth Generation Mobile Communications Promotion Forum (Japan), Future Communications Programme (Singapore), China Communications Standards Association, and China Institute of Communications.

    Scientists and engineers from China, the U.S., UK, Germany, Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the UAE, India and other countries and regions will speak in-person/online, sharing their insights into the trajectory of 6G development.

    Last year, the conference issued a document, "Global Promotion Initiative for 6G International Cooperation and Development", making two key recommendations for further global cooperation.

    One suggestion is to establish a communication platform for unifying research endeavors, which will promote collaborative innovation, facilitate resource sharing, and achieve mutually beneficial global solutions.

    The other is to explore new paradigms for global open cooperation. For example, this can involve securing financial support through multiple channels and mechanisms, as well as initiating international 6G cooperation projects.

  9. 8 April 2024 update

    The Rise of International R&D Collaboration for OpenRAN Development on the Path to 6G

  10. 12 April 2024 update

    Eclipsed by Elections The Future of the TTC is TBD

    The overriding message of the sixth ministerial of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) was “we have done a lot, but there is much more work to do.” The U.S. and EU had hoped to end the TTC with a loud bang, going out of their ways to make a strong case for the format and the benefits of transatlantic cooperation during their sixth ministerial meeting in Belgium.

    The goal of this meeting was to wrap up progress made during this political cycle and to tee up issues that a new European Commission and the next U.S. presidential administration can continue to work on together. TTC officials spent little time speculating on the TTC’s future in the event of a Trump presidency, instead choosing to recount the TTC’s successes and utility while expressing general interest in the forum continuing in an undefined format in the future. While few new major announcements were made, despite some progress on AI, 6G, and semiconductors, U.S. and EU officials were in a self-congratulatory mode and keen to put their differences aside for the sake of unity.

    Despite the positive rhetoric, the future of the TTC is an open question. Both sides remain supportive of the format and want to keep it in some permutation, but elections, especially in the United States, will determine whether the TTC survives or goes by the wayside.

  11. 17 April 2024 update

    The economic research policymakers actually need

    A final example was several analyses that ranked places as potential tech hubs, in anticipation of Commerce designating 31 places to invest in regional innovation and job creation, as part of the CHIPS and Science Act. All three of these analyses laid out abstract criteria for which places would make the best tech hubs, such as local innovation capacity and economic development need; selected data that quantified the criteria, such as local workforce skills, research universities, and local cost of living; and then ranked places on how they scored on the combination of these measures. Who won in these rankings? One analysis had Rochester NY at the top, another crowned Greenville-Anderson SC and Provo-Orem UT, and the third honored Madison WI. The rankings were entertaining — no one can resist a good top-ten list — but the real contribution of these analyses was the weighing of different abstract criteria for what makes a good tech hub, the translation of abstract criteria into quantifiable measures, and the detective work of finding good data sources.

  12. 18 April 2024 update

    Conference on 6G in Nanjing calls for global cooperation, highlights China's critical role

    According to many participants at the conference, China leads in almost every aspect of 5G global standards. However, obstacles and challenges remain in developing 6G technology, facing external challenges such as fierce international competition and mounting pressure from US technological crackdown on China.

    Innovation is the only solution, experts said, noting that despite attempts by some Western countries to hinder China's technological development through obstacles in forming unified international standards, China's steady adherence to opening-up and global collaborations remains unchanged.

    Wu Hequan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the Global Times on Wednesday that with the relentless efforts of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) under the United Nations, 6G has entered the international agenda for setting standardization. He stated that what 6G will achieve and its effects are still not agreed upon, and more research and discussions are needed. "We are basically on the same starting line as our Western counterparts, and it will take a lot of efforts to lead the world again in 6G development," he added.

    Facing fierce international competition, China has its pathway and visions in developing 6G, said Chinese experts, mentioning advantages in talent cultivation, research teams, and robust growth in manufacturing industries. Also, in the context of technological protectionism, it is crucial to build a cooperation mechanism with global partners that is sustainable and mutually beneficial, they said.

    The Chinese government is ramping up efforts to cultivate new high-quality productive forces by promoting the development of high-tech, including 6G, and showing the international community the willingness to expand cooperation.

    In April 2023, China's industry regulators said they would focus on key areas to achieve breakthroughs in multiple key sectors, including 6G network devices and quantum computers, to advance technological development.

    By 2027, the country aims to enhance the comprehensive strength of industries of the future with some sectors leading the world. It also aims at breakthroughs in key technologies, with the wide application of new technologies, products, and models. This process will also involve pushing technological innovations and industrial scaling to reach international levels in select sectors.

  13. 26 April 2024 update

    Toward an integrated framework for developing European 6G innovation

    This article contributes to the discussion on 6G and European policy development, outlining an integrated framework for Europe to benefit from 6G innovation in the future, both as a developer and user of 6G technologies. As 6G is envisioned as a general-purpose technology that can transform the whole of society, there is a need to adopt a broader perspective to innovation compared to earlier technology generations. This proposed framework comprises five elements: national and European sovereignty, triple bottom line sustainability, a competitive transformational innovation policy, European values-based anticipatory regulation, and trustworthy networks that addresses the privacy, security, and safety of users and resilience of 6G at the systems level. It is argued that Europe needs both ex ante and ex post actions to competitively develop and deploy future 6G technologies.

  14. 1 May 2-24 update

    South Korea Launches WRC-27 Prep Group Eyeing 6G Leadership

    The Ministry of Science and ICT of South Korea announced it will launch a preparation group for the next ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-27). According to the body, 6G will account for a big share of the group’s agenda.

    In a press statement, the Radio Policy Bureau – which will lead the preparation team – pointed out that South Korea will also have other priorities in mind.

    “We will do our best in the preparation group activities as we plan to not only secure frequencies for 6G mobile communications and next-generation satellite communications but also conduct extensive discussions on frequencies in areas directly related to public safety, such as space radio disasters and sea surface temperature measurement,” the department stated.

  15. 14 May 2024 update

    China’s AI development model in an era of technological de-globalization

    As strategic rivalry between Beijing and Washington centers on new technologies, a trend towards decoupling and de-globalization is challenging the global links upon which China’s artificial intelligence (AI) sector has relied for a long time. This means that Beijing’s AI development strategy must contend with an erosion of global inter-dependencies. This policy brief examines three key elements of China’s response: an infrastructure mega-project for computing power, a “whole-of-nation” approach to developing AI foundation models, and efforts to forge connections with foreign innovation systems beyond the United States. None of these come without challenges.

  16. 17 May 2024 update

    Are Economic Clusters Ready for the Green Transition?

    Key Takeaways

    Governments have two key strategies—evolving existing economic clusters to remain competitive and capitalizing on emerging opportunities—to help economic clusters rapidly adapt to the green transition.

    - Through the safeguard strategy, governments protect existing clusters, by helping them to evolve, optimize for resilience, and support them to continue to thrive through the change.

    - Through the spark strategy, governments spur new opportunities for economic clusters by realizing their emerging green competitive advantage.

  17. 4 July 2024 update

    Joint Statement for an Ambitious FP10: Investing in Europe’s Future Competitiveness through Collaborative Research, Development, and Innovation

    4th July, 2024

    In the shaping of the next European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP10), we, the undersigned 110 European associations representing key European RD&I stakeholders, hereby urge the EU Institutions to significantly increase the current budget in view of FP10 and to make pan-European collaborative research the cornerstone of FP10, answering industrial needs by excellence.

  18. 19 July 2024 update

    Innovation Spillovers across U.S. Tech Clusters

    The vast majority of U.S. inventors work for firms that also have inventors and plants in other tech clusters. Using merged USPTO–U.S. Census Bureau plant-level data, we show that larger tech clusters not only make local inventors more productive but also raise the productivity of inventors and plants in other clusters, which are connected to the focal cluster through their parent firms' networks of innovating plants. Cross-cluster innovation spillovers do not depend on the physical distance between clusters, and plants cite disproportionately more patents from other firms in connected clusters, across large physical distances. To rationalize these findings, and to inform policy, we develop a tractable model of spatial innovation that features both within- and cross-cluster innovation spillovers. Based on our model, we derive a sufficient statistic for the wedge between the social and private returns to innovation in a given location. Taking the model to the data, we rank all U.S. tech clusters according to this wedge. While larger tech clusters exhibit a greater social-private innovation wedge, this is not because of local knowledge spillovers, but because they are well-connected to other clusters through firms' networks of innovating plants. In counterfactual exercises, we show that an increase in the interconnectedness of U.S. tech clusters raises the social-private innovation wedge in (almost) all locations, but especially in tech clusters that are large and well-connected to other clusters.