The Art of Innovation: How Industry Collaboration Enables Future Inventions

By Faisal Zia, Technical Director, GSMA Foundry

Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, it’s safe to say our mobiles have overhauled the way we live. From how we interact with friends, conduct business, and even get healthcare, the world today looks very different to how it did even 20 years ago.

In that time, mobile technology has become such an important facilitator of products and services that industries worldwide wouldn’t be able to operate without it today. We live in a time where change is everywhere. Trends change in the blink of an eye, the underlying technology and innovation cycles have gotten shorter, and the need to adapt or die is more true than ever before.

The importance of the mobile industry and technology in general brought us all more closely together during the lock-downs, and changed the way we collaborate. From technologies which enable smarter cities, through to automotive telemetry enabling quicker diagnosis of potential faults to keep vehicles up and running, and onto life-saving technologies like mobile-enabled pacemakers, mobile innovation is rife. But none of these happened overnight.


Fostering innovation

Mobile technology innovation happens when the best minds in the industry come together to find solutions that enhance the way we live – tackling everything from the smallest of inconveniences, through to unearthing well and truly life saving ideas.

Innovation is at its most powerful when it happens under the landscape of collaboration. Technology, ideas, and expertise – when shared – can lead to greater mutual economic benefits. And, not to forget, can help advance society. That’s why collaboration is the principle task of the GSMA Foundry.

We launched in 2021 after realising the importance of bringing together organisations of all sizes. The Foundry was born out of mission that by collaboration and innovation, we could pioneer new approaches and make lasting contributions to society: to connect everyone and everything to a better future. We are creating the go-to place for cross industry collaboration, which welcomes all players to join and develop fresh solutions to industry challenges – as well as unlock new use cases through commercial trials. At the Foundry, we look for projects geared towards the mobile sector and MNOs in all stages of their development and nurture them, whether it’s a brand-new concept, already in commercial trial, or is even a proven solution which requires scaling to a regional or global level.

Mobile operators and innovators that join the Foundry get access to a wide pool of expertise, brand exposure and influential contacts who can help them address priority challenges – and rapidly bring their solutions to the global market of five billion mobile consumer and enterprise customers. It’s also a great place for investors to find investment opportunities – from companies at the forefront of the mobile sector, through to the startups that will be the next big thing.

Importantly, the Foundry is about stimulating innovation in a non-traditional way. While older forms of innovation development can be a dull and monotonous process, we aim to bring a willing coalition together who are keen to share learnings openly and take a more agile approach to quickly formulate and create ideas that can be showcased to the industry.


Collaboration in practice

 Already the Foundry has showcased the power of collaborative innovation with a number of firsts in the mobile industry. One such example is ‘5G – Enabling Enterprise Drones to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)’, a collaborative effort between Ericsson Drone Mobility and TDC NET, as well as other ecosystem partners in Denmark. Together, they worked on a 5G-enabled Communication Infrastructure for UAS to find innovative solutions to make a vast pool of telecom intelligence accessible to the drone ecosystem, as well as finding ways to ensure drones can stay consistently and securely connected to the TDC NET mobile network.

Thanks to the project, drones can now be relied on for environmental and field inspections, precision farming and delivering lifesaving supplies – as well as to act as first responders in accidents. The project acknowledges the power of helping drones to fly BVLOS in order to build a more sustainable future.

Another example is the collaboration between ZTE and China Mobile on the Smart Agri – 5G Automated Farming Solutions project. The two companies used 5G connectivity to fully automate rice production on 12,000 acres of marginal land near Da’an City, Jilin Province. Together they designed a 5G-enabled farm management solution that uses water, fertilizer, fuel and seeds as efficiently as possible, while dramatically lowering labour costs.

The project has already yielded economic benefits of 3.3 million yuan (€450,000), through a 10% increase in output, as well as savings in materials and labour costs. The smart irrigation system, meanwhile, is saving water by using 40% less than a conventional system.


Encouraging future collaboration

There are dozens of new projects we’re currently behind and supporting, including 5G New Calling, which is set to revolutionise traditional voice and video call services by offering new capabilities to calls including Ultra HD, Intelligent and Interactive video calling. New Calling is a prime example of collaboration for mobile innovation and consists of over ten members, including Ericsson, Huawei, and Vivo.

In recent months the GSMA and European Space Agency have also forged a partnership to enhance collaboration between mobile and satellite industries, to accelerate innovation when it comes to integrating satellite communications with 5G and future 6G networks.

We want to encourage more companies from across industry to collaborate with the mobile community and help find the next mobile innovations. For the remainder of 2023, we’ll be focused on projects in the areas of 5G, eSIM, IoT, Smart Mobility, Drones, FinTech, Manufacturing, Security, Identity, Data, Energy Efficiency and Sustainability. Whichever point anyone is at in developing their project, we would love to hear from them.

If you have a project you think fits in GSMA Foundry submit it here: