University campus will be central hub for innovation and intelligence

Wed 23 Oct 2013

University Campus Milton Keynes (UCMK) will be at the centre of an information technology revolution as the city gets set to benefit from over £16m of new funding to develop innovative ways to manage its key infrastructure and help drive economic growth.

At the centre of the project, known as MK:SMART, will be the leading-edge MK Data Hub, which will collect information from a host of sources such as energy, transport and water with satellite, social and economic data.  This will create a clear picture of how the city’s systems work and how they could be improved.  The project will also support business growth by creating opportunities for local businesses to develop new products and services.

Bill Rammell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, UCMK’s parent body, said:
“Milton Keynes is set to grow significantly over the coming years, and the city’s transport and water capacity, and its energy supply, needs to keep pace.  MK’s urban growth needs to be integrated, and it needs to be led by intelligence, by good data.

“The implications of this major project for city planning and development are huge.  For example, MK would be able to reduce road congestion by using feeds from satellite technology, and could manage scarce water and electricity through a network of sensors.  And it will help to identify skills gaps, helping colleges and universities to plan what they need to be teaching. I am delighted that the University of Bedfordshire is leading with others on this ground-breaking project.”

A successful joint bid for funding, led by the Open University and involving a number of industry and education partners including BT, Milton Keynes Council and Dell as well as UCMK, resulted in a grant of £8m from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).  With additional funding from businesses and academic institutions, including nearly £1.2m from UCMK, the overall budget for the project exceeds £16.5m.

As well as managing the MK Data Hub, UCMK will also be central to a programme of business engagement that will ensure take-up of the capability developed by the MK:SMART project.  A key part of this will see UCMK establishing an incubation centre and innovation hub for businesses wishing to work with researchers to make use of the big data collected, and to create opportunities to develop and grow new businesses.

Bill Rammell added:
“I very much welcome the decision by HEFCE to support the MK:SMART programme and congratulate everyone in the Open University, the Council and BT who worked so hard with us in UCMK to bring about this success for Milton Keynes.”

The MK:SMART consortium brings together the resources and expertise of: the Open University, the University of Bedfordshire, Cambridge University, Milton Keynes Council, BT, Dell, E.ON, Anglian Water, HR Wallingford Ltd, the Satellite Applications Catapult centre, Community Action MK and a number of small and medium-sized businesses.

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