22 Oct 2013


Milton Keynes is set to benefit from £16m to develop new ways of managing the city’s key infrastructure, such as transport, water and energy supplies – helping drive economic growth and a demonstration project for cities across the world.

The investment comes in the form of an £8m grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Catalyst Fund, match-funded by partners in a consortium led by The Open University. It will show how universities can support the drive for economic growth by applying their expertise to ‘smart’ solutions based on the analysis of the huge data flows that city networks are increasingly generating, as well as creating ‘open data’ innovation areas in the localities where they are based.

Central to the project will be the creation of a state-of-the-art ‘MK Data Hub’ which will draw together information from a range of sources across the city, including energy, transport and water use data, satellite data, social and economic datasets, and data crowdsourced from social media or through specialised apps. As well as being used to develop solutions for better managing supply and demand across the city’s transport, water and energy supplies, the data hub will also support business growth – creating opportunities for local enterprises to develop new products and services by using and adding value to the data. Along with MK Data Hub, a dedicated business incubation space will be located at the University Campus Milton Keynes (UCMK), part of the University of Bedfordshire, which will help new businesses to innovate and compete in the rapidly growing digital economy.

Milton Keynes is predicted to grow significantly over the coming years, with the potential to create over 40,000 new jobs over the next 15 years*. However this growth could outstrip the capacity of transport infrastructure and put pressure on water resources,while energy companies are facing challenging carbon reduction targets. Being able to develop ‘smart’ solutions to these problems requires significant capability in terms of modelling and analysis – something the new data hub will pioneer.

The consortium brings together The Open University, the University of Bedfordshire, Cambridge University, British Telecom, Dell, E.ON, Anglian Water, HR Wallingford, the Satellite Applications Catapult Centre, Milton Keynes Council, Community Action MK, Graymatter, Fronesys and Playground Energy.

Pro-Vice Chancellor at The Open University, Professor Tim Blackman, said:

“This exciting project will not only directly benefit Milton Keynes, but will also demonstrate ways forward for other cities right around the world. The success of this bid builds on strong existing partnerships and the forward-looking vision of Milton Keynes Council. The funding will help us apply the expertise we have developed at the OU in data analytics to new approaches to managing city infrastructures and achieving sustainable growth.”

Cllr David Hopkins, the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Enterprise at Milton Keynes Council, said:

“Milton Keynes has always had the reputation as a place that thinks differently and ambitiously, constantly embracing new ideas.

“From the use of electric cars to smart technology in people’s homes, we are constantly evolving to use energy, information and other resources in innovative ways.

“The MK Data Hub will be an invaluable resource helping to drive things forward, bringing together the various strands of vital key data to take us to the next level.”

David Sweeney, HEFCE Director for Research, Innovation and Skills, said:

“Big data is one of the Government’s eight great technologies, an example of cutting edge innovation on the world stage. HEFCE is proud to be associated with this big data project.

“What is particularly special to me is the depth and diversity of the partnerships in the project – between very different types of university playing to different strengths, between public and private sectors, between national and local and between big and small companies. It has also provided an opportunity for deepening the partnership between HEFCE and the Technology Strategy Board to drive forward growth and forge stronger links between universities and the catapults.”

The successful bid was led by Professor Enrico Motta of the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute, who will also take up the post of Project Director.


Notes to Editors
*MK Council Employment Technical Paper, 2012 Employment Technical Paper

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