If I had a hammer…. So the song goes…
I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening all over this land…

Sounds like this bloke really liked his job! Well, so do I – most of the time anyway!

I’m part of a close knit team of professionals who facilitate collaboration between our University here in Leeds and businesses in general. Our primary focus and main motivation is facilitating improved competitiveness for business through development of collaborative partnerships which stimulate innovation – via a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), hence we are better know as the KTP Office at the University of Leeds.

“We should remember that KTPs, in one guise or another, have been around since 1975 and the testimony of the product is in its longevity, nearly 40 years, surviving numerous changes of government.”

“One of the best kept secrets” Peter Murphy from Pickersgill-Kaye (PK) here in Leeds once quoted about KTPs, but one that can deliver real benefits. PK have had several KTPs and it is always nice to see a business transform in a way which makes a big difference. Company benefits include streamlined operations, new products, new markets, new ways of working but to name a few, all aimed to address the business case that underpins the case for KTP grant funding. Greater profits feed back more taxes back into the UK economy, the cycle is then complete – or is it?

No – not only does the business benefit but so does the University, through applying industrial relevance to its teaching and research, student projects, student placements, which has gained more significance through the student employability agenda, conference papers and, if sufficiently challenging, peer reviewed journal papers. More importantly though is the opportunity for further collaboration, an increase in profitability for business, an increase in skills of existing staff and potential new employment enhancing business capabilities. Significant benefits through further grant funded projects, higher degree student sponsorship and may even go as far as establishing and funding research equipment and labs.

Last but not least is the KTP Associate who is employed on the project to facilitate the “knowledge transfer”. A successful Associate, and we have seen many in our time, can land a prestigious job in the company after the KTP finishes. Who but the Associate, having built up significant expertise on the project, would be the best skilled person to lead future developments! Not only a good job to move into but they also receive training in management skills during the project as part of the basic training. For the smaller companies this provides the Associate with the opportunity for graduate like training package normally associated with larger organisations.

If I had a bell, I’d ring it in the morning……

We should remember that KTPs, in one guise or another, have been around since 1975 and the testimony of the product is in its longevity, nearly 40 years, surviving numerous changes of government. Recent studies by the NCUB (formerly CIHE) identified, amongst other things, “The integrity of the KTP model (the people, mechanisms, systems and processes) should be retained as each element has been found to have a specific, recognised purpose in building the partnership, facilitating KT and the development and the embedding of innovative capacity.” Hence we see KTP as an exemplar TSB product from which other funding schemes could learn a lot! This was reinforced by the summary report from NCUB research.

“KTPs allows business to access the knowledge technology and skills within universities – to address their specific business challenges.”

If I had a song, I’d sing it in the morning……

Less of the twiddle twaddle and let’s talk business. Since 2004 our KTP Office has successfully supported over 80 KTP grant applications. The best KTPs are those where the team embrace the KTP ethos and take the opportunities it has to offer. KTPs allows business to access the knowledge technology and skills within universities – to address their specific business challenges. For SMEs this usually works out cheaper than recruiting an employee. With KTP there is the backup and support of the Academic expertise and facilities that the University has to offer plus the support of the KTP Adviser appointed by the TSB to make sure the project stays on track. More importantly, at least from our point of view, is our KTP Office, there to support the team through the lifecycle of the project from early scoping, grant application and project execution and final reporting, streamlining the administration and interfaces which are normally seen as barriers by companies looking for collaboration opportunities with the University.

Well, I’ve got a hammer and I’ve got a bell and I’ve got a song to sing…

2013 was a good year for KTPs at Leeds, six new projects were granted funding and nine finished. Of the nine which finished six received a grading of “Outstanding” the highest accolade that can be awarded to a project and the remaining 3 “Very good”, just 1 rung down the ladder. This is testimony to the quality of research being carried out at Leeds and the impact that can be delivered through KTPs. Of the 6 KTPs rated outstanding; 3 were with SMEs and 3 Large companies. Although the primary focus of KTPs is to support SMEs; significant benefits can be achieved with Large companies as these have the opportunity to impact their supply chain thus spreading “good practice” through many organisations.

Our KTP with DePuy , for example, resulted in; enhanced knowledge of corrosion and its effect on metal implants, improving products and ensuring DePuy stays at the leading edge in terms of its contribution to the science related to orthopaedics; 8 peer reviewed papers published in the relevant academic journals thus feeding back into the industry; 5 student research projects; paved the way to additional research funding; developed the Associate’s international reputation in this field who also completed a PhD during the 3 year timeframe of the KTP (normally 5 year study required).

Too good to be true you might think? If so then give KTP a try!

Paul Bell is part of the KTP Office at University of Leeds

Song lyrics – If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays.

This post is part of KTP Month

Are you involved in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership? How has your experience been? Join in with our KTP month and share your stories with us online, tweet us @NCUBtweets using the hashtag #KTPMonth.

KTP Summary Reports: