MK:U’s Start Up to Scale Up Programme has been awarded £2,435,000 from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP). Creating an innovation hub known as the Smart City Living Lab (SCLL) in the heart of Milton Keynes, the programme will provide education and support to entrepreneurs and local start-up businesses. This will focus on smart city technologies including robotics, virtual reality, digital twinning, sensor technology, intelligent infrastructure, autonomous vehicles, drones, and advanced communications.

An incubator for innovation

Stephanie Hussels, part of the MK:U project team and Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship at Cranfield University, said: “At the heart of this smart city we are excited to bring the Start Up to Scale Up programme to new and small businesses, offering them education, support, equipment and a real opportunity to take their business to the next level through our living urban laboratory. An incubator for innovation, this programme will help entrepreneurs and SMEs access the latest technologies, linking to Milton Keynes’ 5G project, and connect them with experts, investors and industry.

“We are also set to develop a new apprenticeship standard in Robotics, which will be a national first and something that MK:U and other providers can offer as a degree apprenticeship in the future.”

Leader of MK Council, Cllr Pete Marland said: “We welcome this funding for the new innovation hub which supports our vision for MK:U to become a leader in future technologies. It builds on our long-standing smart city programme. My thanks go out to colleagues and partners for their work in securing this investment which will benefit generations to come.”

Supporting key priorities for the region

SEMLEP was allocated £27.3 million from the government’s new £900 million Getting Building Fund. It is for local, ready to start, infrastructure projects and is designed to stimulate jobs and support economic recovery across the country.

Hilary Chipping, SEMLEP Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to have secured more than £27m from government to support the economic recovery from COVID-19 in this area. These projects will support key priorities including skills for young people, the green recovery and innovation, which all generate jobs.

“Last July we published our Local Industrial Strategy, laying out the priorities and interventions we needed to invest in to realise innovation, further improve connectivity and achieve sustainable growth. These Getting Building Fund projects meet these priorities and the needs of the local economy as we strive to recover economically from this pandemic.”

The project is due to start last this year and be completed by early 2022.

About MK:U

MK:U is a proposed new university which will focus on digital, technology and STEM skills, including AI, robotics and cyber security; and practical business-oriented courses.   It is a partnership between Milton Keynes Council and Cranfield University, supported by business sponsors including Santander.  Based at the heart of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, MK:U will inspire the new businesses of tomorrow and produce work-ready graduates through flexible learning.