Blog post

The ‘abc’ of KTP

By Sima Ali - 18 May 2021

For many businesses, collaborating with universities to drive innovation and support growth has become standard practice, but just how does it work and what are they getting out of it? Here, Sima Ali, Knowledge Exchange Assistant Manager at the University of Derby’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Office, explains how organisations are benefitting from working with universities, and explores how this partnership could support businesses as they recover from Covid-19.

There is no doubt that Covid-19 has caused major disruption to businesses in terms of the ability and willingness to commit to medium-long term innovation collaborations. Since March 2020, the primary focus for many businesses has understandably been on short-term survival, risk management and adaptation.

As the economy emerges from the pandemic, businesses will inevitably look to identify new models and ways of working, such as leaner production methods, new markets, and diversification, to come back stronger from the last year and adapt to change in positive ways. To achieve this, they will need to be agile and find innovative solutions, which is where an opportunity to collaborate with a university arises.

What is Knowledge Exchange?

Knowledge Exchange (KE) enables academic staff and the end users of research, to come together and share ideas, data, experience and expertise, that can benefit all parties involved and increase the impact of research. 

This type of engagement between universities and external businesses or organisations can often lead to novel ideas and new approaches to research, which also makes teaching more relevant to students’ job prospects, improves teaching practice, and opens up opportunities to additional funding.

The relationships built through these partnerships within higher education and stakeholder organisations, internally and externally, are becoming increasingly important due to economic growth and a need for investment funding in an ever-changing world.

There is external funding available to businesses to support this kind of work, such as Innovate UK, whereby the government supports and encourages businesses to grow and address challenges of real-world issues. One of the funding options to undertake is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

What is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)?

By definition, a KTP is a government funded framework for driving innovation and growth by connecting university knowledge and resources with UK industry partners. It is a collaboration between an organisation (the company), the university (the knowledge base) and a recent graduate (KTP associate). What that means is, businesses can access support to bring in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project.

The scheme can last between 12 and 36 months, depending on what the project is and the needs of the business, but what we tend to see here at Derby, is that a KTP develops into a lasting relationship for ongoing strategic innovation and sustainable growth.

Working with the organisation, and closely supervised and supported by an academic expert, the Associate leverages the knowledge, skills and technology available within the university, to work on the project. The project possibilities are endless, from new product development and entering new markets, to improving systems and becoming more efficient.

What are the benefits?

During the pandemic, many businesses have been forced to diversify, while others have had time to take the opportunity to rethink their strategy for the future. With new priorities or step changes afoot, there are lots of mutually beneficial reasons why KTP’s are good for businesses, universities, and graduates alike.

Taking part in a KTP can help to develop a business. They provide access to academic expertise that aren’t otherwise available in-house, which can improve a businesses’ processes and performance, helping it to become more competitive and productive.

A KTP is also part-funded by a grant, so the business only needs to contribute to the overall cost of the project, which depends on the size of the business, and the scale and length of the project.

Universities also benefit from KTPs, through producing new research projects and publications, which contribute to the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), and by developing industry-relevant teaching material. Academic input can help overcome important commercial challenges and provides evidence of the impact of research investment, while informing the pathway of ongoing and future research themes.

A little-known fact is that KTP is one of the UK’s largest graduate recruitment programmes. Graduates manage and deliver challenging strategic projects for a business, and the successful completion of a KTP project often leads to a permanent job.

There is no doubt that the last 12 months have been incredibly challenging for businesses, universities, and graduates, but as restrictions ease and the economy begins to rebuild there is a significant opportunity for collaboration that can help drive the research and innovation needed to recover.

About the author

Sima standing against a yellow wall, smiling.

Sima Ali
Knowledge Exchange Assistant Manager

I support Knowledge Exchange grant applications and build internal/ external relationships ensuring that sector expertise and engagement is maintained and enhanced. My role supports and understands the industry landscape and challenges, identifying and securing external funding to support Knowledge Exchange to grow the number of collaborative partnerships with the University of Derby.