Will MK:U Create
Investment Opportunities
in Milton Keynes?

The concentration of universities in and around Milton Keynes is set to increase.

In 2018, Milton Keynes Council announced that Cranfield University had been selected as the lead partner in the delivery of MK:U – a new, tech-based university to be delivered in conjunction with educational, technology and industrial partners including Microsoft, Grant Thornton, Tech Mahindra and Milton Keynes College.

The new facility is expected to cater for a planned student population of 5,000, with the first intake planned for 2023, with courses including digital, cyber, robotics and artificial intelligence led syllabuses.

So will how might this benefit investors in the region?

Milton Keynes is strategically located at the heart of the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Corridor. The Oxford-Cambridge Arc Universities Group, a collection of universities working together, visualise the Corridor as “a knowledge-intensive arc that will link the regions around the Universities more effectively, focused on current and future strengths. Unleashing our collective capacity and dynamism”. 

This ‘knowledge arc’ is home to ten universities, which together attract research income of nearly £2bn. ‘Knowledge’ based industries have driven take up in the Cambridge and Oxford markets over the past three years, accounting for almost three quarters of activity.

Whilst Milton Keynes does not have such a rich educational history as Oxford and Cambridge, it is currently home to the Open University - the largest university in Europe, and Cranfield University which is in the top ten for commercial research.
The combination of Milton Keynes’ current and future university base, together with its strategic position at the heart of the ‘knowledge arc’ will undoubtedly support the growth of the city’s R&D base. Bidwells’ recent research, in association with YouGov,  discusses key considerations of large company R&D activity, identifying the top five location preferences for these major businesses, including:

  1. A city district location
  2. A dedicated premises close to a university or research institution
  3. Dedicated premises in a university or research institution
  4. Hot desk space in a major university or research institution shared with researchers or other R&D businesses
  5. Out-of-town science park based around relevant specialist research organisations.

The halo effect of the planned university in Milton Keynes will undoubtedly deliver high demand for commercial business space. Indeed, Milton Keynes saw above-average take-up in 2018 and the demand for high quality space continues to set prime rents at new highs – increasing by 38% since 2013 (see Bidwells latest Offices & Labs paper).

With the new university supporting employment growth and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) identifying the opportunity to deliver one million new homes across the region by 2050, Milton Keynes is set to be a hotspot for investment.

For more information, or to discuss investment opportunities in Milton Keynes, please contact Holly Dawson, Partner.

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