The recent KTP Best of the Best Awards was not just a time of celebration for the exceptional achievements of the Winners and Finalists. It also presented an opportunity to reflect on the continuing value of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships – an Innovate UK programme which, for over 40 years, has been helping forward thinking organisations innovate for growth by collaborating with the UK’s world class knowledge base.
In that time, Innovate UK has funded almost 12,000 projects, linking thousands of businesses with academics from Knowledge Bases (universities or research organisations)across the UK.
Right now, 810 UK organisations are part of KTPs connecting over 100 Knowledge bases with 851 Associates (talented graduates or post-graduates who work as project managers for the KTP). Delivering £8 for every £1 invested, KTP continues to provide outstanding value and benefit to all three parties in these unique collaborative partnerships.
Collaboration is at the heart of innovation and is core to the effectiveness of KTPs. Dr Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair at Innovate UK, talked about the importance of collaboration throughout his keynote speech, reminding us that, “effective collaboration does not always require complete harmony.In fact, collaborative arrangements often lead to innovation precisely because of the constructive friction that emerges when different sectors work together. Different ideas and perspectives collide and provide the catalyst for ground-breaking technologies and innovations” he said.
Bringing together those different sectors and partners is the role of the specialist Knowledge Transfer Advisers (KTAs) at the Knowledge Transfer Network (Innovate UK’s delivery partner for KTP). Based throughout the UK and with cross-sector expertise, the KTAs match commercial innovation projects with academic experts to create KTPs for development and growth. As Dr Ian Campbell stressed “Radical innovation happens when you connect previously unconnected organisations and people. Continuing to collaborate with the same people, from the same context, in the same way is not going to cut it anymore”.
The fruits of these collaborations were celebrated at the KTP Best of the Best Awards, with outstanding achievement rewarded in five categories. Richard Lamb, KTP Manager at Innovate UK, commented on how “the awards showcased the breadth of projects within KTP and the transformational impact they have on the academic, associate and business involved.
The quality of all the projects nominated caused the judges many hours of debate, and all the finalists were exceptional projects”.
Overall winner of Best KTP was the partnership between Geckotech Solutions, Glasgow Caledonian University and Associate, Dr Mark Jenkins – now Research and Development Manager at Geckotech Solutions. Here’s how he summarised the value of the award and the partnership:
“This KTP…..was my first step out of academia and into the world of industry. The project proved significantly more fruitful than we imagined and it created a partnership that has now spanned almost five years and has supported numerous other projects….it was an honour to receive this award”.
Another winner, Queen’s University Belfast, brought another perspective on the unique role of KTP. Commenting on their win for best Knowledge Base KTP team, Lorraine Marks – whose KTP team now has 52 active KTP projects – said “I am delighted that the KTP Team at Queen’s has won this award. All KTP activity is highly regarded the university and the programme has been a foundation for many research and teaching success stories……To have our activities recognised by innovate UK and the eider KTP community is hugely gratifying”.
Dr Steve Welch, Director of Innovation at the KTN, added “The standard of projects qualifying for KTP is always extremely high and these awards help bring focus to the exceptional quality, breadth and depth of innovation expertise and drive that exists here in the UK. Facilitating that and letting it flourish through partnership is what KTP is all about”.
That commitment to partnership and collaboration underpins wider thinking about UK growth through innovation. Back to Ian Campbell: “The UK Government’s modern Industrial Strategy is also taking a collaborative approach by encouraging us to work across government, industry, academia and local communities, because we know that R&D alone doesn’t grow an economy and we need to see greater commercialisation of innovation”.
Enabling often disparate teams of experts – those from the commercial sector and those from academia – to work together to deliver strategic innovation projects is what KTP is uniquely well placed to do. Ian Campbell closed the evening by asking us all to champion the value of working in partnership for a highly worthwhile aim: “Through these partnerships the UK can continue to take advantage of major global changes and improve people’s lives”.
Geckoteck Solutions; Glasgow Caledonian University; Dr Mark Jenkins (Associate)
Toffeln; University of Salford; Jenny Anderson (Associate)
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust; University of West of England; Dr Gemma Jerome (Associate)
There were five winners in this category celebrating the vital contribution of Associates in a KTP:
BemroseBooth Paragon; University of Hull; Mr Haydn J. Ward (Associate)
Recycling Lives; University of Central Lancashire; Dr Ala Khodier (Associate)
Principle Healthcare; University of Bradford; Dr Suyog Aher (Associate)
Sponsored by Ashorne Hill
Queen’s University Belfast
University of Essex
University of Nottingham
LMK Thermosafe; Queen Mary, University of London; Harshit Porwal (Associate)