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

Paul Yeomans of the University of Nottingham explains what Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are and how they work.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) can help you develop new products, embed new skills and improve the efficiency of your business to increase profits.

KTP is an Innovate UK-funded programme that for the past 40 years has helped small businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within UK universities.

The types of projects undertaken via KTP are strategic and significant for the participating business: they are often central to their future growth and success and are undertaken in a fully professional way. These are not part-time projects or student/graduate placements.

How does a Knowledge Transfer Partnership work?

A full-time member of staff is jointly recruited by a company and a university to work on-site in the business but with access to university facilities. The projects also benefit from a team of academic experts, who regularly visit the company to work directly on the project, while project management support from Innovate UK and the university ensures that there are no grant claims for the company to manage as with other funding.

Many Government small business support initiatives have come and gone since the scheme began in the mid-1970s, but KTP has lasted for all this time simply because it works. It delivers increased profits for the businesses in the short-term – businesses taking part in KTP projects typically make in excess of £200,000 pre-tax profits per annum, often through the sales of new products or greater operational efficiencies.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships could lead to further funding

However, it’s the longer-term benefits which are at times the most significant.

A key reason for this is that all KTP projects are tasked with not just solving an immediate problem with new knowledge, but with embedding expertise within a business and leaving that business with a capability they can apply in other areas in the future. KTP manages to successfully do this because the approach insists on weekly or fortnightly face-to-face contact between the academic and the business, with the academic on-site in the company.

The other feature which ensures long-term improvements in company performance is that having such a close relationship with a large research organisation and its experts inevitably means that the company is exposed to new opportunities for engagement and funding above and beyond the KTP.

The mantra of ‘innovate or die’ may be well known with ranks of huge corporate failures seemingly swelling by the week but in small businesses it is hard to prioritise innovation when customers are calling.

I’m a microbusiness – am I eligible to submit an application?

While SMEs probably make up 65pc of live KTP projects, it is also worth noting that there has always been a significant number of microbusinesses involved at one end of the scale and large multinationals at the other end. If your business needs some expertise to help you grow and develop, KTP does not really care how big you are.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme is also open to all sectors: we have seen some great projects using experts from archaeology to nanotechnology, worked in sectors ranging from advertising to IT and developed products as diverse as crisps and roofing felt.

The greater focus from Government on productivity has also made this approach to knowledge transfer even more important as there has been a growing realisation that all businesses need to innovate, grow and evolve.

Learn more about the scheme, how to apply and upcoming KTP deadlines on the Government website or at KTP Scotland.

Paul Yeomans is Knowledge Transfer Partnerships manager at the University of Nottingham.

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Paul Yeomans

Paul Yeomans is Knowledge Transfer Partnerships manager at the University of Nottingham.

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