The city is set to grow considerably over the coming years, and its energy supply, transport and water capacity need to keep pace with that growth.
Welcoming guests to the opening on Monday, university vice chancellor Bill Rammell (pictured) said: “This new data hub will enable better business and consumer decision-making, create greater efficiency in the use of energy and water resources, fuel innovation, and empower and engage citizens through educational initiatives and access to information.”
Also speaking at the event, which included an exhibition of smart city applications, were Open University vice chancellor Peter Horrocks and OU project director Enrico Motto, along with Milton Keynes Council leader Cllr Pete Marland.
The Data Hub is at the centre of the collaborative MK:Smart project. Partially funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, it is led by the Open University and involves industry and education partners including BT, Cambridge University and Milton Keynes Council.
The project aims to support the growth and development of businesses in Milton Keynes as well as improve the lives of its residents.
The data that will be collected will be invaluable: for example, simply detecting free parking spaces and making that data available will reduce the number of drivers trying to park – estimated to be up to half the cars in a large city.
Mr Rammell said: “Across the world communities are facing challenges of energy sustainability, transport, education, delivery of public services and citizen engagement. But what we are creating here at Milton Keynes is unique to us – unique solutions driven by the unique insights and innovation capabilities produced by unique datasets.”
Guests also toured the Apex Suite at UCMK, part of the University of Bedfordshire. The suite is a purpose-built facility which supports collaboration with local businesses and allows them to access data from the Hub and build applications which can directly feed into the MK:Smart project.
They heard about the work UCMK is doing with local businesses and got a flavour of the newly expanded facilities for students at the University; including high specification teaching rooms, an expanded library, and a new café.
The university has put employability at the heart of its offer to students with many of its undergraduate courses including a 12-week placement with a local business in Milton Keynes.
It also has announced a £1,000 Student Bursary for new first year UK or EU students who are entering full time undergraduate degree programmes.