O2C arc.jpg

I am a big believer in building the world around you. Part of that is to understand the opportunities close to home. The more I looked into it, the more I see such huge potential for my nearest city: Milton Keynes….   

50 years old, Milton Keynes was created to alleviate housing shortages in London, there are a few misrepresentations such as some people thinking MK is a concrete jungle despite 40% being green space and (a good fact) that no one in the town is ever more than half a mile from a park. It does have 130 roundabouts granted, but that has led to one of the shortest commute times in Europe… It has 15 lakes and 11 miles of canals (more bridges than Venice and more shoreline than Jersey)…

Not as many people know though quite how much Milton Keynes has going for it…forget concrete cows and roundabouts- read below:


1) Milton Keynes is in the middle of the O2C Arc (Oxford – Cambridge Arc)

Perfectly poised to benefit from the growth of what has already been identified as the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley, the corridor between Oxford and Cambridge.

The O2C arc is a major university sector with 20,000 workers as part of the knowledge economy: Oxford UniversityOxford Brookes UniversityBuckingham University, The Open University (HQ is in Milton Keynes), Cranfield UniversityUniversity of Bedfordshire, the University of Cambridge, and the Anglia Ruskin University at Cambridge. All within 1hr of MK.

 It’s worth noting that four of the top 10 universities in the world (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and UCL) are within 80 mins drive from Milton Keynes.

The transport links connecting Oxford and Cambridge (via Milton Keynes placed nicely halfway between the two) are about to be enhanced making it so much easier to travel between the two cerebral cities.

The East-West railway is planned to rebuild the line linking Oxford and Cambridge via Bicester and Bedford using the track bed of the old unused Varsity Line. Phase 1 (Oxford to Bicester Chiltern rail line) has already been finished.  Phase 2 of the reconstruction is to start in late 2019 and the line to become operational by 2023. Watch prices for housing and offices go up then…

There are also plans for the Oxford-Cambridge expressway, major roads linking the two cities via Milton Keynes. Early estimates of the cost of completing the expressway are in the region of £3 billion.

MK Arc.jpg

2) The perfect place for the O2C spin outs to grow

What comes from the universities are the Spin outs…The creation of new spinout companies, utilising the most recent technology and research from the best graduate minds in the world, puts millions of pounds back into University research, benefits local economic development and has created many new jobs in the region.

There are nine unicorn companies (a technology company with a valuation of more than $1bn) from Oxford and Cambridge (Nanopore, Dark Trace, Sophos, ARM, Abcam, Biomex, Autonomy, Immunocore, CSR).

Oxford and Cambridge combined have produced more unicorns than either Berlin or Paris.

If you add London to the equation (1 hr drive from MK or 30 mins by train) Milton Keynes is within 1 hr access of 45 tech unicorns (36 in London).

3) Access to entrepreneurial centres of both Oxford and Cambridge

For example Oxford has produced more founders of tech unicorns than any other university in Europe.

Since 1997, Oxford University Innovation has been responsible for creating spinout companies based on academic research generated within and owned by the University of Oxford, and has spun out a new company every two months on average. Over £2.1bn in external investment has been raised by Oxford University Innovation spinouts since 2010, and eleven are currently listed in London and New York.

Oxford University.jpg

The Oxford Foundry is the University of Oxford's new entrepreneurship centre. Helping their 24,000 students: be it lawyers, medics, engineers or philosophers - in become more entrepreneurial in outlook and action. They have an accelerator called OXFO L.E.V8

There is also the Oxford Launchpad at Saїd Business School, which is home to the Entrepreneurship Centre and Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. Lastly, Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), which manages the £600m spinout investment fund down the road from OUI, reckons the post-OSI cohort of spinouts created over the past three years has added a further 400 jobs since 2015, and estimates this will hit 1,000 more by 2020, growing at a rate of 500 or so year on year after that. The companies have an 87% survival rate (compared to 50% nationwide for startups) .

University of Cambridge Enterprise.jpeg

University of Cambridge spin-outs raised £2,216m in capital between 2013-17 alone putting it at the top of the global list of universities. Cambridge’s spin-outs closed 96 deals, making it second only to Stanford University in total number of deals though ahead of it in total capital raised. 

4) MK:U

A new university is being built in MK, focusing on digital skills and new technologies, including smart cities, autonomous vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence, business and entrepreneurship, digital and cyber.

Santander recently announced it is backing MK:U, providing £30 million of funding to help establish the university and further strengthen Milton Keynes’ position as Europe’s leading Smart City (see point 4 below). “MK:U will cement Milton Keynes’ growing reputation as a key national and international hub for technology and innovation”.The MK:U has already had commitments from other global giants like Microsoft, Grant Thornton and Tech Mahindra.

MK:U is expected to serve at least 5,000 students and be open by 2023.

MK U.jpg

5) MK is a ‘Smart City’

The Open University (which has its HQ in Milton Keynes) investing £16m into a project called MK:Smart.

Central to the project was the creation of a state-of-the-art ‘MK Data Hub’ which supported the acquisition and management of vast amounts of data relevant to city systems from a variety of data sources. These included data about energy and water consumption, transport data, data acquired through satellite technology, social and economic datasets, and crowdsourced data from social media or specialised apps.

MK recognises it needs to be smart about its future as its one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. The population will grow from 300,000 citizens by the middle of the next decade then forecast to reach 500,000 by 2050.

6) MK is leading electric vehicle charge

MK has the most charge points of anywhere in the UK with 138 vs the UK average per city of 34. The average distance between charging points is one every 0.39km vs UK average of 1.71km

It is the start of an ambitious five-year plan for the city, which has set out to be the first Go Ultra Low City in the UK. Currently being installed in MK is the largest public electric car rapid charging hub

It is also the start of a £9.0-million pot won by Milton Keynes for the Go Ultra Low City scheme. The five-year plan will also see £2.3 million invested in local infrastructure, including the creation of two rapid-charging hubs - another first of its kind for the UK - as well as provide funding for street-charging schemes, free charging-point installation at workplaces and green parking-permit initiatives.

By 2022, the goal is to have boosted take-up of plug-in vehicles in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas - within roughly a 15-mile radius - to 23% of all new car registrations, a figure that is currently around just 2%.

MK also has the Electric Vehicle Experience Centre: The UK’s first brand neutral centre dedicated to electric vehicles and our aim is to provide completely free education and advice about electric and plug-in vehicles. The centre offers` we also offer visitors the chance to test drive a range of different electric and plug-in cars on the market.

7) A test bed for new technology

Starship Technologies is a company developing small self-driving robotic delivery vehicles. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, California. They chose MK to test their robots starting in Oct 2018. Residents in MK are used to now seeing the robots driving around the city. Starship Technologies formed in July 2014 by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, with Lex Bayer joining in June 2018 from Airbnb. In April 2019, Starship Technologies celebrated their 50,000th commercial delivery in MK

Starship Tech.jpg

8) The UK’s best school of Management on the doorstep:

Cranfield University with Cranfield School of Management is 15 mins from the centre of MK. According to The Economist, their Management MSc is ranked number one in the UK and seventh in the world. Cranfield is ranked third in the UK and tenth in the world (outside the US) in Forbes’ ranking of The Best International MBAs: One-Year Programs.

Over half of all aerospace engineering master's students in the UK study at Cranfield each year including a 30-year partnership with Rolls Royce. Which leads nicely onto…

9) Major companies investing in the area:

Santander UK CEO Nathan Bostock said: Santander is deeply proud of our connection to Milton Keynes, with our commitment shown by our recent investment of £150 million in a world-class new headquarters here. Santander employs 5,000 people in the area. MK houses the UK HQ’s of Scania, Dominos, Mercedes, Bosch, Homebase, Network Rail, Seat, Papa Johns, Marshall, Sainsbury’s Argos, Ingram Micro and VW Group to name a few.

The Business, Professional & Financial Services in Milton Keynes employ just over 35,000 people, making up 24.3% of all employees in Milton Keynes.

Santander MK.jpg

10) Motorsport Valley

70% of teams competing in Formula One are within 80 mins drive: Red Bull, Mercedes, Williams, Racing Point, Haas, Renault and McLaren as well as circuits such as Silverstone (just confirmed it has another 5 years of hosting the British GP) and Bedford Autodrome.

Motorsport Valley is the global hub for the production of performance cars’ chassis, engines, braking, suspension, transmission and telemetry components. Underpinning these world class design and manufacturing businesses is a support services network - offering specialised legal, financial and insurance capabilities.

There are about 4,500 businesses in the UK which owe their existence, at least in part, to motorsport. According to the Motorsport Industry Association, they account for nearly 40,000 jobs.

"The area around Silverstone (20 mins from MK) was a handy place to be," said BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson. "You could go there and do testing and it was well located in terms of major roads and airports, such as the M1 and East Midlands Airport.

"If you were serious about motor racing, you had to be in that area - so teams and suppliers started to move there to form a hub of industry."

Red Bull MK.jpg

11) Skilled Workforce in a fast growth city

MK is identified by Centre For Cities as one of the five fast growth cities. Business base increased by over 34% between 2010 and 2016. Coupled with the fact that over 55% of employees in MK are educated to A-level or higher and half of all people living in MK are aged under 35.

GVA (Gross Value Added) per worker in MK is £63,700 (vs £55,900 for Cambridge and £58,200 for Oxford). Economy taxes raised per worker: £18,900. MK has high average weekly earnings (just below Oxford and Cambridge)

Overall the city has cultivated high-value knowledge-based economy. MK is now second only to London in the UK for the number of startups relative to the city's population…Time for MK to thrive…

Charge master MK.jpg