Knowledge is power

UB editor Rebecca Paddick takes a closer look at Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and their benefits to HE

Launched in 2003, replacing the Teaching Company Scheme (TCS), formed in 1975, the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) programme is a part government-funded initiative designed to encourage collaboration between businesses and universities in the UK.

Suitable for most industries and sectors, including not-for-profit organisations, KTPs often deliver significantly increased profitability for business partners as a direct result of the partnership through improved quality and operations, increased sales and access to new markets. Each partnership involves three partners: A company, a knowledge base, and an associate, such as a recently qualified graduate. 

Making an impact

The impact of a KTP on a company net profit is around £240,000, and 70% of graduates employed for the projects are offered ongoing employment by the company. But as well as boosting a company’s profits and providing graduates with a pathway to employment, a KTP can offer long-lasting benefits to a university.

“KTP is an excellent model for companies and universities to work together,” said Clare Rowson, KTP Manager at UWE Bristol.

She added: “They are always challenging and interesting, and as well as delivering a strategic project for the company, provide an excellent route for UWE Bristol to not only generate academic publications, teaching case studies and student projects which enhance our research and teaching,
but also opportunities for employment for graduates from UWE Bristol and other universities.”

UWE has collaborated with companies on KTPs since the 1980s, and has run around 100 projects. It has worked with companies of all types and sizes, in a variety of sectors, and has transferred knowledge across the University, from engineering to creative arts. The University currently has a portfolio of 12 projects.

The inaugural National KTP Week took place in November last year, and saw more than 200 events across the UK showcase the increasing influence of the programme on British business. UWE Bristol marked the initiative by running a series of drop-in sessions across the South West, so that regional businesses could discuss the benefits of the programme.

Rowson continued: “At UWE Bristol, we have a healthy pipeline of companies interested in KTP and other collaborative schemes, so we expect to grow our portfolio in the months ahead.” 

Engaging with industry

As the KTP programme has grown over the years, so have the departments within universities that help facilitate them. Cardiff University has an excellent track record of KTPs throughout its three Colleges and manages the largest number of KTP projects in Wales. “We have a dedicated business development team that supports academics and businesses throughout the life cycle of a project, from inception to completion and beyond,” explained Paul Thomas, KTP Manager at Cardiff University.

He added: “Engaging with industry and getting the chance to work on interesting, real-life problems is of significant benefit to Cardiff University. The opportunity for our academics to translate research into practice really shows the capacity for KTPs to make a difference.”

A partnership project between Cardiff University’s Schools of Medicine and Psychology and leading UK homelessness charity, Llamau received the highest possible rating ‘outstanding’ by Innovate UK. Llamau has been providing housing, education, training and support services to homeless young people and vulnerable women in Wales for more than 20 years and initiated the project after discovering research that had been undertaken by Cardiff University into the underlying risk factors for homelessness experiences among young people.

The project has achieved significant success, with outputs including the development of a mental health bespoke screening tool which helps staff in the early identification of mental health issues amongst service users. The tool also enables the charity to fast track access to support and make meaningful and informed referrals. Other significant outcomes include changes to the company’s assessment and monitoring procedures, staff training and development on mental health issues and successful bids for funding from other charity organisations. The project also developed new assessment techniques employed during the psychiatric interviewing of service users which has saved lives and has the potential to continue to do so.

Some key academic benefits of the partnership include the development of a professional placement for undergraduates as part of their degree scheme that continued after the KTP ended. Since completing the KTP the academic team and Llamau have had a joint grant application for PhD Studentships awarded – these studentships commence in September 2015. Academic staff connected to the KTP have also benefitted in terms of forming professional relationships with service providers in the third sector.

Paul Thomas added: “KTPs encourage our academics to change their way of thinking and to think about the commercial outputs of their research. It is a cultural exchange of critical thinking with commercial potential between academia and business.”

For universities, the real benefit of the KTP is the opportunity for academic teams to work alongside industry partners – this leads to a greater understanding of issues from a commercial perspective, creates an environment in which academics can demonstrate the applicability of
their research, and often leads to new research themes. 

Benefits of a KTP programme

✥A good mechanism for collaborating with businesses on a long-term basis, often leading to further research and an ongoing relationship. 
✥Generate interesting case studies and teaching material; often leading to student placement opportunities.
✥An increase in Higher Degree registrations with the Associate able to complete a postgraduate/doctoral qualification as part of the project.
✥Publications of scientific paper in peer-reviewed journals. 
✥Markets reputation across the UK and on a global level.

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