21 November 2013 

BT is innovating to help Milton Keynes secure sustainable economic growth

Milton Keynes 

Milton Keynes is set to benefit from a £16m project to accelerate its ‘Smart City Programme’. The MK: SMART project will gather real-time information from a range of sources across the city and provide innovative analysis tools to enable much more efficient use of transport, water and energy infrastructures.

BT is the major IT partner in the project consortium led by the Open University. The objective is to use the latest technologies to resolve the constraints to growth for the city and to improve quality of life for its citizens.

A city witnessing rapid expansion

Milton Keynes is predicted to grow significantly over the coming years; its economy has a GVA of £7bn and could reach £11.5bn by 2026 (Oxford Economics, 2012).

Such growth has the potential to increase employment at the rate of over 2,600 jobs per year, or an additional 42,000 jobs by 2026 (MK Council Employment Technical paper, 2012).

However, the city’s rapid expansion could outstrip the capacity of existing transport and water infrastructures, whilst energy companies face the challenge of reducing carbon output.

The collaborative project will see the development of a “MK Data Hub” with state-of-the-art data acquisition and management infrastructure capable of collecting large-scale city data relevant to how the city functions.

Specifically, the hub will have access to data streams from both key infrastructure networks, such as energy, transport and water, and other relevant sensor networks, including weather and pollution data.

Working towards sustainable growth

The MK Data Hub will make it possible to implement radical new solutions for managing demand. With a forecasted growth potential of 64 per cent for Milton Keynes, by 2026, the data hub will go some way to realising this, in a sustainable manner.

The pioneering MK:SMART project, supported by an £8m grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Catalyst Fund, is being match-funded by a number of partners.

As the largest industry partner BT is working with the consortium, led by The Open University, to deliver the infrastructure for the project.

Pro-vice chancellor at The Open University, Professor Tim Blackman, believes the city will provide a strong example of how to achieve sustainable growth. He said:

“This exciting project will not only directly benefit Milton Keynes but will also demonstrate ways forward for other cities right round the world. The success of this bid builds on strong existing partnerships and the forward-looking vision of Milton Keynes Council. The funding will help us apply the expertise we have developed at the OU in data analytics to managing city infrastructures – working towards sustainable growth.”

Providing the foundations for local business expansion

The data hub will also support business growth by creating opportunities for local enterprises to develop new projects and services by using and adding value to the data.

Along with MK Data Hub, a dedicated business incubation hub will be located at the University Milton Keynes (UCMK), part of the University of Bedfordshire, which will help businesses innovate and compete in the rapidly growing digital economy.

The facility will be connected into BT’s existing, comprehensive ‘Innovation Network’ supporting collaboration for Milton Keynes across the UK and worldwide.

Using technology to deliver a positive impact on our environment

The MK: SMART project is expected to deliver up to 20 per cent in water savings, 50 per cent less traffic congestion, a 2.8 per cent reduction in electric consumption and two per cent gas reduction.

BT strives to ensure its environmental footprint is always a positive one. This project is a strong example of how communications technologies can be used to reduced the pressure on resources and cut carbon emissions.

Chris Bilton, director of Research & Technology at BT, said:

“We are delighted to be involved in this ground-breaking project. BT believes there is real potential to demonstrate how new communications technologies can help deliver positive economic and societal outcomes. Working with the OU, Milton Keynes Council and other consortium members, we look forward to bringing these to life and sharing the outcomes with other communities who could benefit from similar approaches.”

But it doesn’t stop in Milton Keynes. BT’s ‘Net Good’ goal is to help customers reduce carbon emission by at least three times the end-to-end carbon impact of our business by 2020.

To find out more about our commitment to sustainable growth and a better future, please visit our Better Future website.