How to exploit knowledge transfer partnerships

Harnessing the talent of clever graduates can provide a business with a much-needed boost, so how can you exploit Knowledge Transfer Partnerships?

Knowledge transfer partnerships, or KTPs, are collaborative projects between a business of any size and from any sector, and an academic institution, with the aim of developing a new capability within the company.

The Technology Strategy Board, which manages the delivery of the partnerships and provides funding, reported a 26 per cent increase in the number of KTPs to 1,301 individual projects in 2009/10.

Newcastle-based design consultancy, tdg The Design Group, began its 30-month KTP with Durham Business School in February. The ambitious project will investigate the link between design and consumer behaviour, analysing consumers’ response to colour, typeface and imagery across ‘all cultures and all markets’.

Chief executive Jerry Hall says that the first six months of the partnership will be spent identifying the existing research in this area.

‘On the back of that we will form a hypothesis that we go on to test through a series of at least four experiments,’ he says.

‘At the end of it we believe that we’ll have the best understanding of design and emotions within the consumer space of any design consultancy.’

Project delivery

The terms of a KTP require that the company and academic institution recruit an associate, who must be a graduate, to work from the business’s premises to deliver the project.

Related: Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: what are they and what can they do for you?

VES, which manufactures ventilation products, completed a KTP with Bournemouth University’s School of Design, Engineering and Computing in 2004.

The two-year partnership set out to develop a new remote control unit for ventilation.

‘Getting in somebody from a university via a part-funded project meant that we could stretch ourselves to do that development without such a large initial investment,’ explains marketing manager Gary Dale.

On completion of the project VES offered its associate, Rose Xu, a full-time position at the company. ‘Her experience with the development of that product was invaluable and she stayed on, working in a similar role,’ Dale says.

The continuation of the relationship between the associate and organisation after the KTP is not uncommon, with 63 per cent of associates offered employment by their host business in 2009/10.

Building bridges

‘Classic’ KTP projects last from one to three years, and companies should be prepared to contribute about £25,000 for each year of the project – or one third of the total project cost – while the funding organisation will pay for the other two thirds.

Dr Deborah Buckley-Golder, head of knowledge transfer partnerships at the Technology Strategy Board, believes there are many benefits for businesses.

‘The main thing is that they get a new capability within their organisation that they can go on to use to develop new business, enter new markets, increase turnover or profitability, or enhance employee skills,’ she suggests.

‘We don’t see the KTP as the end of the story; we see it as part of an ongoing relationship between businesses and academia.’

Nick Britton

Nick Britton

Nick was the Managing Editor for when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...