Transformation begins as digital region launched in South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire’s journey to be the first truly digital region has begun with the official launch of the Digital Region project by Rosie Winterton, Minister for Yorkshire and The Humber, at an event in Sheffield on 17 July. The region will benefit from a new Superfast Broadband network, the first of its kind in the UK.

The network is being built for the region by Digital Region Ltd in partnership with technology company Thales UK. With speeds of more than 25mB of bandwidth, the network will enable the delivery of new and innovative services to the general public by Internet Service Providers using the network. For the public sector these speeds will be able to support a potential revolution in the delivery of public services, from social care to health and education services. Delegates from across the public sector were introduced to the host of opportunities made possible by super-fast broadband. Potentially these can offer improved access to services for South Yorkshire people as well as opportunities for efficiencies and cost savings for the public sector. Examples of how the network can be used include technology for health authorities that can monitor high-risk patients who need daily check-ups, and new multimedia facilities for schools.

Delegates heard speeches from representatives of Digital Region and Thales UK. They were also given the opportunity to see examples of the new technology through an innovative and engaging series of current and future uses for the network presented by a range of businesses, public sector organisations and individuals.

Phil Coppard OBE, Interim Chairman of Digital Region comments: “Today’s launch event has given us a chance to let people know what Digital Region will mean for them as well as what it will do, in a practical sense, for the whole of South Yorkshire. Over the coming months we plan to hold a series of events to showcase the network to a wide range of other audiences – this event was just the beginning of our engagement with future customers and beneficiaries of the technology”.

Digital Region Ltd has appointed an experienced team, led by Thales UK and including Alcatel-Lucent and KCOM, to build, manage and operate the state-of-the-art fibre-optic cable infrastructure on behalf of Digital Region. Collectively these companies have extensive experience delivering large-scale networks and communications projects.

Alex Dorrian CBE, CEO Thales UK, says: “In the UK Thales has a long and successful record of building, maintaining and managing major telecommunication networks for the UK mainline rail network and the underground in London. Thales UK is pleased to be contributing to this transformational project for the region of South Yorkshire.”

Trevor Shaw, Executive Director of Finance for Yorkshire Forward comments: “Ensuring Yorkshire and Humber is at the forefront of digital technologies is a vital part of developing our economy, which is especially important in light of the current economic climate. This event demonstrated that Digital Region will help ensure that public services achieve cost savings and improve even further with the ability to access new multimedia tools. Businesses in South Yorkshire can also look forward to being able to increase their competitiveness, develop new products and business models and use IT in a variety of different ways as a result of this groundbreaking project.”

Rosie Winterton, Minister for Yorkshire and The Humber said: “Digital Region is significant not only because of the size of the investment - £90 million - but also because it sends a clear message that we are investing in the future and preparing for economic recovery.

Digital Region impacts on every aspect of economic and social life in South Yorkshire. It ensures we are ideally placed to harness the huge opportunities digital technology offers”

The project, which is wholly owned by Yorkshire Forward and the four local authorities of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield of South Yorkshire, will bring 25mb+ broadband to over 97% of the region, including 550,000 homes and 1.3 million people. The four South Yorkshire local authorities and Yorkshire Forward attracted European, regional, local and private investment of over £90 million, including £30 million from the European Regional Development Fund. The launch coincides with the start of building work that began recently and, with a phased implementation programme, will be fully completed in around three years to cover the entire South Yorkshire region.


Notes to editor:

Digital Region

Partnership project Digital Region is wholly owned by Yorkshire Forward and the four local authorities of South Yorkshire (Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and Sheffield). Digital Region has selected preferred supplier Thales UK to build, manage and operate the fibre-optic cable infrastructure on behalf of Digital Region.

The Digital Region broadband platform will work by developing a fibre-optic network based on next-generation Very High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL technology) via fibre to the street cabinet (FTTC). The technology will be capable of delivering 25mb plus of bandwidth and guaranteed quality of service to households and businesses. Digital Region is a supplier of next-generation broadband, and connection to the network will be sold in an open, wholesale and independent basis to the many internet service providers.

Digital Region aims to be one of the UK’s key transformational projects that will both advance the progress of the Digital Britain agenda and position South Yorkshire at the forefront of digital communications technology by providing an unrivalled level of high bandwidth broadband access for all households and businesses in the region.

It has the potential to become the largest open-access broadband infrastructure platform in the world, and will enable a multitude of advanced applications at home, in business and across the public sector, transforming communications, entertainment and business activities across the region.

The initiative aims to achieve a cultural and economic step change by enabling residents, businesses and public sector organizations in South Yorkshire to benefit from services delivered over a world-class broadband infrastructure.

Yorkshire and The Humber ERDF Programme 2007-2013

The European investment in Digital region is delivered through the regional ERDF Programme, which was approved in December 2007 and launched in February 2008.

The programme is managed by Yorkshire Forward on behalf of a regional partnership including the National Government, European Commission and Regional bodies.

The programme provides €583 million from the European Regional Development Fund to invest in the region by 2013 with €271m for South Yorkshire and €312m for the rest of the region. South Yorkshire has extra resources to help with its transition from its earlier Objective 1 status.

Further information about the ERDF Programme in Yorkshire and The Humber is available at

European Regional Development Fund

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was set up in 1975 to stimulate economic development in less prosperous regions of the European Union (EU) and to act as a significant instrument with which the EU can support its Cohesion Policy.

As EU membership has grown, ERDF has developed into a major instrument for helping to redress regional imbalances. The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) manages ERDF in England.

Between 2007 and 2013, England benefits from an investment of €3.2 billion (approx £2.5 bn) of ERDF. It is delivered by regional programmes in each English region, managed by the Regional Development Agency. England also receives €177 million ERDF for two national cross-border co-operation programmes with France, Flanders and the Netherlands and another €193.8 million is available to the United Kingdom for participating in three trans-national co-operation programmes across the North West Europe, North Sea and Atlantic areas.

ERDF is directed at projects offering substantial benefits which meet the needs of an area and would not take place without a grant. It is used to provide help towards the project costs with grants set at a minimum level required to allow the project to go ahead. As a general rule, however, the EU contributes no more than 50% of the eligible cost with the rest of the funding, known as ‘match funding’ coming from other public sources.

Information about the ERDF in England is available at

Information about the European Union’s support for regions policy is available at

About Thales and Thales UK

Thales is a global technology leader for the Aerospace, Space, Defence, Security and Transportation markets. In 2008 the company generated revenues of £10.2 billion, with 68,000 employees in 50 countries. With its 25,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equipment, systems and services that meet the most complex security requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers as local partners.

Thales UK employs 8,500 staff based at more than 40 locations. In 2008 Thales UK's revenues were over £1.4 bn.

Information about Thales is available at