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Maintaining your company’s competitiveness through accessing skills and knowledge from academia

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The process of moving skills and new knowledge into companies, to drive economic impact, is inherently difficult. 69% of companies say that access to skills is a major problem. The most effective route for knowledge transfer to industry from academia is through highly skilled researchers and technical experts moving into companies.

Showing the future potential

We can retain talented researchers in the UK by exposing them to business roles in high growth companies and showing them the future potential of their skills.

As an example Signal Media was founded in 2013 to develop media monitoring software powered by artificial intelligence for financial markets and they have recently secured £5.8m equity investment. Their co-founder and Head of Research, Dr. Miguel Martinez, joined the company as a “KTP associate” to develop his research from the University of Essex. This fast growing company, now with over 50 staff and 500% year on year revenue growth, give “businesses the information they need to know and the information they didn’t know they needed, to make smarter, faster business decisions” in real time using AI.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) model overcomes the usual barriers to knowledge exchange through recruiting a graduate, known as an associate, into the company and accessing a significant portion of an academic mentor’s time.

Did you know?

  • 52% of companies who take part in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership recruit the KTP associate on a permanent basis after the partnerships finish.
  • Doing a KTP accelerate a graduates career and on average they earn £50,000 more over the 10 years following their KTP.
  • The UK economy benefits from £7.50 in increased GDP for every £1 spent on KTPs.
  • 82% of Universities who take part in KTPs say they understanding industry better as a result and KTPs are a particularly effective method of engaging with SMEs.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships used to be a stand alone mechanism and now have close dates at the same time as the 10 major Innovate UK sector and open competitions each year, but do you know what they are?

A three way partnership - company, graduate and university

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are company led, challenge focussed projects, where a three way partnership is formed between a company (of any size), a university and a graduate working together on a project of commercial benefit to the business. They enable direct company access to the research of outstanding UK academics in a way that is supportable by the academic by paying for the academic’s time on a weekly basis.

A KTP can last between 12 and 36 months depending on the project and the needs of the business. It is part-funded by a grant. The amount businesses need to contribute is different for SMEs and larger companies.

KTP associates are a valuable asset to their companies. The average starting age for KTP associates is 29 and for KTP associates who started since Jan 2015, the majority have higher degrees in addition to the first degree. In STEM subjects the proportion with PhD is higher still.

The largest graduate recruitment programme in the country

The current KTP programme is the largest graduate recruitment programme in the country, employing 350 graduates into industrial R&D and entrepreneurial roles each year and there are 725 live KTPs at present. The KTP programme is 40 years old and was previously called the “Teaching Company Scheme”.

KTPs have been run with Unilever, Dyson, Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce, Sainsbury’s and many other large companies, but less visible is that 80% of KTPs are SME led.

Ellas kitchen image from case study

Attracting highly qualified committed employees

KTPs are real world problems that attract committed employees who believe in the company mission. KTP Associate positions are paid jobs advertised by UK universities but the associate works within the company on a day to day basis.

Ella’s Kitchen undertook three KTPs with three different departments in the University of Reading. They attracted highly qualified KTP associates helping them to identify a winning business model through innovative packaging, the psychology of weaning and sourcing organic raw materials. Their KTP associates have stayed with the company, got promoted and made pre tax savings of £0.5m per year.  They used novel skills to disrupt the baby foods market and are now the No. 1 baby food in the UK and sold in over 40 countries worldwide. Ellas Kitchen is an example of the cross-disciplinary nature of the problems that KTPs can address.

KTPs are business led projects and the essence is to significantly increase business performance. Independent analysis shows KTP to be highly successful in this regard across all regions of the UK.

Current Knowledge Transfer Partnerships across the UK

Map of current KTPs

Companies who have used KTPs know their value in bringing in excellent staff with cutting edge academic knowledge.  However, there are many innovative companies, particularly SMEs who could benefit from the academic mentoring that a KTP provides who don’t know the scheme exists.

Have a look at our guidance today and consider exploring a KTP for yourself.


Twitter: @FionnualaCostel


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