Partnerships between universities and industry take many forms… 

…; springing from our technical specialisms, our local institutional connections or the myriad associations our academic colleagues make across a wide range of contacts. There’s no doubt, however, that a judicious sprinkling of funding support helps partnerships to crystallise around specific projects.

For us at Oxford Brookes, a framework invented nearly forty years ago and gradually refined for the modern world still provides a valued focus for our industry collaborations. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are valued in the hundreds of thousands rather than the millions of pounds, but a good portfolio of KTPs creates that day-to-day engagement with our industry and business partners that helps to keep our research and teaching fresh and relevant, and makes a real difference to the businesses with which we work.

To take a couple of recent examples: YASA Motors is an Oxfordshire company that designs and manufactures a range of electric motors for vehicles and power generation that are small, light and cheaper than any competing product. YASA motors have powered Lord Drayson’s Lola B12 69/EV racing car to several World Land Speed Records for electric vehicles. Yet the initial designs were complex and time-consuming to manufacture, and world-wide demand couldn’t wait.

By applying our expertise in materials and joining technology, and with the support of Technology Strategy Board funding for a KTP, the problems were overcome and the manufacturing process was successfully reduced from days to hours. The results are impressive, but behind them lay two years of painstaking research, experimentation and testing by the combined Brookes-YASA team, at the university’s labs and at the company’s manufacturing facility, to deliver the breakthrough.

On a much larger canvas, our Faculty of Business worked with one of the world’s biggest hotel companies, InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns global brands such as Holiday Inn, to set up a KTP in enterprise risk management. With our help, IHG is now implementing a global framework for risk management which sets new standards in the industry and could save the company as much as £18 million in insurance premiums and other costs.

So what makes a successful KTP? Clearly, we need the academic expertise and colleagues who are comfortable working close-to-market, an industry partner which values new thinking, and a KTP Associate who can work effectively between both organisations. However, in the background we also need the culture of engagement which helps us to identify how we can support our business partners in addressing their challenges and in making the most of their opportunities.

Find out more about KTPs at Oxford Brookes

This blog was written by David Hartley & John Corlett on behalf of Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University.