Dave Dunckley (CEO of Grant Thornton UK LLP), Tracy Darke (MK Council), Professor Lynette Ryal OBE Image: Cranfield University

Business Supporters Group launched at Cranfield University

Some of the UK’s biggest businesses have united to launch a supporters group for the creation of a new STEM-focused university in Milton Keynes.

MK:U, planned to be a new-model university aligned to business needs, is set to help them address the digital revolution taking place in their global industries.

The businesses, which include Network Rail, Santander, Capita, Aston Martin, PWC and Grant Thornton, employ over 200,000 people in the UK. They want to see MK:U develop graduates with much-needed skills in cyber security, AI, and data science.

The coalition of businesses, referred to as the MK:U Business Supporters Group, was officially launched on Thursday (29th August 2019) at Cranfield University’s Aerospace Integration Research Centre.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Lynette Ryals OBE, chief executive of MK:U, said:

“The launch of the Business Supporters Group is a big moment for MK:U. It shows how urgently UK businesses of all sizes want a new university that’s focused on bridging the gap between what students are currently taught and the skills businesses need employees to have in the real world.

“With the backing of some of the UK’s biggest businesses, MK:U can deliver thousands of new graduates in sectors like AI, robotics and digital where Britain must compete in the future.”

The proposal for MK:U is backed by Cranfield University and Milton Keynes Council and will be accessible by over 10 million people within an hour’s travel.

In a statement, the 33 businesses behind the MK:U Business Supporters Group said:

“Together we employ more than 200,000 people, many of whom come from a STEM background. These people are vital to the success of our companies, and our need for STEM trained graduates will continue to grow in the future.

“All our industries are in the process of being revolutionised by digital technology, and we want to be on the forefront of this change. It is of ever-increasing importance to us to have staff with skills in areas like data science, cyber security, and artificial intelligence.

“We are supporting the creation of MK:U. It will be a national asset with a focus on employability and 21st century skills, producing graduates who are ready to make a contribution in the workplace right from the first day.”

Many of the courses at the new university will be accelerated degrees taken over two years rather than three. MK:U will also offer a range of degree apprenticeships in technology-related fields. Several courses are also being co-designed alongside employers, including Santander, who have their UK head office in Milton Keynes.


The full list of members of the MK:U Business Supporters Group is:

  • Alternity
  • Appii
  • Arcadis
  • Arriva
  • Bosch
  • BSI Group
  • Capita
  • CBI
  • Connected Places Catapult
  • Dentons
  • East West Rail
  • Evidence Talks
  • Expandly
  • Grant Thornton
  • IF Milton Keynes
  • MEPC
  • MK Dons Sports and Education Trust
  • MK Gallery
  • MK Stadium
  • NatWest
  • NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Network Rail
  • Pixalytics
  • PJ Care
  • PwC
  • room44 Ltd
  • Routeco
  • Santander
  • Shoosmiths
  • Stuart Turner Associates
  • Xero