A new higher education institute in Milton Keynes

A chance to invest in MK:U, a new higher education institute for the digital economy, created with business and for business.

This is a chance to become a key partner in the creation of a university quarter in Milton Keynes, the UK’s fastest-growing city.

The project will provide education facilities, student accommodation, a conference centre, hotel and innovation hub, plus a living laboratory that showcases emerging technologies for smart urban living.



Milton Keynes

Investment type:

Capital investment - real estate


(Greener buildings, Real estate, Residential, Retail, Leisure & creative, Science & innovation)

Project promoter:

Cranfield University and Milton Keynes Council partnership


£375 million

Planning status:

Planning application to be submitted

Time to Final Investment Decision (FID):

6-12 months

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Simon Sweetinburgh

Senior Investment Specialist

Contact the opportunity lead

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Sector and market opportunity

MK:U is focussed on the needs of the future economy and filling skill gaps in new technologies (including artificial intelligence, robotics and cyber security). This is in line with the government’s plan for growth and ambition to be a science superpower.

MK:U seeks a partner with experience in business or university collaborations (such as science parks or innovation hubs), and who is keen to align their investments with government policy and the needs of the future economy.


The site is centrally located on the last remaining undeveloped plot in the central Milton Keynes business and commercial district.

The site is listed for higher education under PlanMK.

MK:U will follow similar nearby developments being delivered by Santander and the council, with the overall goal of establishing a vibrant knowledge, innovation and cultural hub in the centre of Milton Keynes.


The location is a few minutes’ walk from Milton Keynes Central railway station on the West Coast main line between London and Scotland.

Milton Keynes is 30 minutes to London Euston by fast train. The closest airport, London Luton, is 30 minutes away. It’s about 1 hour 15 minutes by car to London Heathrow, London Stansted and East Midlands airports.

The site is approximately 5 miles from the M1, the UK’s main motorway between London, Birmingham (70 miles north of Milton Keynes) and the north of England.

Local talent and skills

This flagship project is strategically positioned in the centre of Milton Keynes, a ‘Smart City’ at the heart of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

The city’s aim to almost double in size to 500,000 people by 2050 has highlighted the need for an undergraduate university, as Milton Keynes is the largest urban area in the UK without its own residential university.

A pilot test is already under way, offering degree apprenticeships in management, digital technology, data science, and cyber security. An innovation programme for fast-track entrepreneurship will also be added next year when MK:U opens its innovation hub.

Research and expertise

The project is being led by Cranfield University under the MK:U undergraduate brand, filling skills gaps in new digital technologies including data science, artificial intelligence, robotics and cyber security.

Cranfield University is the UK’s only specialist postgraduate university in technology and management, and it has business, industry and government partnerships across the world.

MK:U already has a network of 114 active and engaged business supporters. Key partners include Santander UK, Milton Keynes Council, Grant Thornton and Rockwell Automation.

Further details

Built by business for business, MK:U is a new model university in the UK’s fastest-growing city, providing cross-disciplinary working in the faculties of:

  • business and entrepreneurship
  • design thinking
  • data and digital technologies
  • engineering and robotics

The project will be delivered in 3 phases spanning 15 years and ultimately aims to supply courses to over 15,000 students and business delegates each year.

Debt funding or a joint venture investment partner is being sought for phase 1, to deliver a diverse range of accommodation totalling 61,000 square metres (657,000 square feet), including:

  • faculty, teaching, research and lab space
  • 1,000 student apartments
  • a 100-bed conference hotel
  • independent retail and other related services
  • an innovation centre

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) highlights

Architects are designing the buildings for MK:U to high BREEAM standards.

The surrounding campus will incorporate a number of green principles, such as maximising public transport, pedestrian and cycling access. And it’ll be run as a ‘smart site’ and living laboratory.

Promoters and partnerships

MK:U is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cranfield University, working closely with its strategic partners Milton Keynes Council and the Milton Keynes Development Partnership (development company of Milton Keynes Council and land provider for MK:U).

Governance for the project is arranged between Milton Keynes Council and Cranfield University on a partnership basis.

Grant funding from UK government has been applied for, whilst private companies such as Santander Bank have already invested (committed) £30 million into MK:U.

Local and national government support

The local authority, MK Council, is co-leading the MK:U project with cross-party support. MK Council appointed Cranfield University as the lead higher education provider and works closely in collaboration with it.

Funding for the current 2-phase pilot test has been provided by SEMLEP (the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) and match-funded by business.

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