Milton Keynes awarded £2.4m to build a robotics and virtual reality lab

The cash has been awarded to the Milton Keynes university project MK:U, which is being run under a partnership between MK Council and Cranfield University.

The new uni, which is due to open to its first undergraduates in 2023, will focus on digital economy skills, new technologies including AI, robotics and cyber security and practical, business-and-entrepreneurship-oriented courses as well as courses in design thinking and professional and commercial skills.

Today the government announced MK:U will receive £2,435,000 to set up an innovation hub known as the Smart City Living Lab (SCLL) to provide education and support to scale start-up businesses.

Artist’s impression of the new MK:U

It will focus on smart city technologies including robotics, virtual reality, digital twinning and sensor technology.

MK:U, a partnership between Milton Keynes Council and Cranfield University, aspires to operate as a ‘living lab’ to test out new concepts and ideas, and inspire Milton Keynes’ students and citizens. To be built on the last major undeveloped site in the city centre, and mixing university facilities with public spaces, MK:U will also be open all day every day and welcoming to the wider community

The cash is part of a £27.3m handout throughout the UK as part of the government’s Getting Building Fund, which is designed to support Covid-19 recovery in Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, and Northamptonshire. The money will come through The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and the project will to start by December and be completed by early 2022,

MK’s two local Conservative MPs Iain Stewart and Ben Everitt had been campaigning and lobbying the Government to provide the town with extra investment for innovation, technology and infrastructure. They have both welcomed the SCLL grant.

Iain, who is MP for Milton Keynes South, said: “This is yet another investment by the Government in the long-term economic future of Milton Keynes, building on our already strong reputation as a high-tech hub.”

Ben, MP for Milton Keynes North, said: “I want MK to be the best place in the world to start and scale-up a tech business.

“This government funding for Milton Keynes focuses on technologies that will define leading global cities of the future, including: robotics, virtual reality, intelligent infrastructure, autonomous vehicles; drones and advanced communications.

“MK can be a major global player in the future tech economy, which is great news for local businesses and for local jobs.”

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

Other projects awarded funding include the redevelopment of Barnfield College in Luton, technical equipment for a living lab in Milton Keynes, carpet recycling plant in Northamptonshire, a transport hub in Flitwick, gallery expansion in Northampton and green energy projects in Corby and Bedford.


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