City innovation is centre stage thanks to City Council and OU partnership

Self driving car

Milton Keynes City Council and The Open University are once again teaming up to promote Milton Keynes as one of the world’s leading smart cities through the hugely successful MK:Smart initiative.

Led by the OU and involving more than 20 organisations, MK:Smart began ten years ago to introduce large scale technology trials to Milton Keynes in order to research and demonstrate how cities around the world could improve standards for their citizens through innovation, with specific work into sustainable transport, energy use and water consumption.

MK:Smart saw Milton Keynes becoming the first UK place to trial a driverless car and laid the foundations for robots on city streets and many more innovations. The project was partly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

While high tech research projects continue today in the city, such as recent trials of self-driving shuttles and of delivery drones that could revolutionise the supply of emergency medicines, and the city even developing its own dedicated 5G network solely for research use, MK:Smart as a project officially ended in 2017.

But now, the partners are returning to MK:Smart to remind the academic and business community that Milton Keynes is a brilliant place to run ‘living laboratory’ tests and trials.

A new MK Smart website can be found at

The website will be a home page for information on all things Smart City in Milton Keynes, building on the legacy the original MK:Smart project.

The OU has also announced a competition that invites businesses and charities to set societal challenges for a co-ordinated group of OU academics around the world to work on. Researchers will consider challenges across three themes: Sustainability, Living Well and Tackling Inequalities. The Challenge Us! competition runs until 15 May.

“Over the last ten years Milton Keynes has welcomed academics, city leaders and businesses from around the world as they seek new solutions for green and modern cities. We rightly have an incredible international reputation as the home of innovation and as a place that enables large scale trials. MK:Smart was the catalyst for some of this groundbreaking work and we’re delighted to revive our partnership with the OU and find new projects that keep us at the forefront of innovation.”
- Cabinet Member for Innovation, Cllr Shanika Mahendran
“The highly successful MK:Smart initiative demonstrated that excellent results can be achieved when academia, business and government come together to foster innovation and promote economic growth. Ten years after the launch of the original MK:Smart project, it is exciting to see the OU and MK City Council renewing their partnership to progress the Smart City agenda in Milton Keynes and contribute to tackling major societal challenges. I am very much looking forward to the next developments in this collaboration.”
- Professor Enrico Motta from The Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute