A new higher education institute in Milton Keynes

An investment opportunity to accelerate the growth of a skills-for-the-future higher education institute for the digital economy, created with business and for business.

This is a chance to create a University Quarter in Milton Keynes, the UK’s fastest-growing city.

This will include education facilities, an innovation hub and entrepreneurship centre, student accommodation, laboratory and business spaces, a conference centre and hotel, and a living laboratory showcasing 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


£180 million

Planning status:

Outline planning obtained

Time to Final Investment Decision (FID):

6-12 months

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Simon Sweetinburgh

Senior Investment Specialist

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Sector and market opportunity

MK:U is well on its way. Revenue funding for the first 3 years pilot test was provided by SEMLEP, and match-funded by business.

Already, MK:U has launched 9 degree apprenticeship pathways with 400 students registered and more courses scheduled for launch in 2024 and 2025 (funding already secured), established the Innovation Hub with over 600 members, and recruited 30 active big company clients.

It has secured funding to enable an application to be made in 2024 for registration with the UK Office for Students and listing on UCAS.

Capital funds are now required to expand provision and facilities to enable the further growth of MK:U. Original designs as submitted in the planning application are to be amended, following a successful 3-year pilot phase.

MK:U seeks a partner experienced in innovation districts and university collaborations, and/or an investor seeking participation in a leading business-skills oriented higher education institute.


MK:U is strategically positioned in the centre of Milton Keynes, a ‘Smart City’ at the heart of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK.

A recent report for MK City Council estimated that its economy was £14.7 billion in 2022, making it the 14th largest in the UK.

Milton Keynes has an estimated tech workforce of 45,000, around 2,400 tech related enterprises and a tech GVA valued at around £3.4 billion n for 2022.


Milton Keynes is well connected by both rail and road. Milton Keynes Central railway station is on the West Coast main line between London and Scotland. Milton Keynes is 30 minutes to London Euston by fast train.

The closest airport is London Luton (30 minutes by car). It is about 1 hour 15 minutes by car from the following airports: London Heathrow, London Stansted, East Midlands.

MK:U 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.

Milton Keynes Coachway is the main hub for a national coach service. The UK government has recently confirmed further funding for East West Rail which will connect Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes.

Local talent and skills

MK:U already has a network of 117 business supporters and over 600 innovators and entrepreneurs.

It has over 400 students already on programme with plans to grow rapidly to 2,000 and a ten-year plan to reach 4,000. Key partners include Santander UK, Milton Keynes City Council, and Rockwell Automation.

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 (AI), robotics and cyber security.

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 partnership between Cranfield University and Milton Keynes City Council.

Cranfield University is a world-leading British postgraduate public research university with an international reputation for science, engineering, aerospace, technology and management.

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.

Other opportunities

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