Partnership with University of Nottingham helps provide insights for the world’s only neighbour-to-neighbour food sharing app, OLIO.
Listed as one of Wired magazine’s best London start-ups 2019 and attracting further media attention from the BBC and The Guardian, OLIO is the world’s only neighbour-to-neighbour food sharing app, connecting users who have food they don’t want or need with neighbours living nearby who would like it. Now, to help drive its next stage of development, OLIO founders have teamed up with experts from the University of Nottingham via a KTP project designed to provide analysis and research knowledge – key insights to help continue the company’s growth.
Since launching in the UK three and a half years ago from a local initiative in north London, 1.5 million people in 49 countries have joined OLIO and shared 2.5 million portions of food.
In order to further develop the app, co-founders Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One wanted more granular detail about their customers. And, although the KTP has only just started, it has already started yielding benefits. According to Tessa Clarke, “The Nottingham team has provided us with extremely useful insight into the nature of the OLIO user base, and their sharing patterns on the app. They’ve also built a highly predictive model which we hope will be able to deliver commercial value to the organisation further down the road.”
KTPs are a highly effective mechanism for filling an expertise or knowledge gap. A dynamic, three-way partnership between a company, one of the UK’s world class knowledge bases, and a talented graduate or post-grad (KTP Associate), KTPs have been helping companies innovate for growth for over 40 years, providing essential know-how, helping accelerate growth and embedding knowledge that stays with the company long after the KTP project is complete.
“The KTP has provided us with access to a skillset that we could never have developed on our own. We’ve also received enormous support from the faculty at Nottingham and have built a relationship that is going to last for many years to come” adds Tessa Clarke.
This long-term benefit is something that many companies experience from KTP, as well as the immediate impacts that result from having an expanded “team”: an additional resource providing fresh thinking and deep expertise, here supplied by John Harvey and James Goulding from the University of Nottingham: “The KTP process has been valuable for transferring cutting-edge research to real world applications, helping to transform OLIO, and to tackle pressing societal issues, specifically through the combination of behavioural science, network analysis, and AI techniques. Working together with OLIO has given us a fuller understanding of the developments needed to help tackle these pressing societal issues – not just through government edicts and policy, but through collaboration and coordination in the market”.
The project manager on all KTP projects is a talented graduate or post-graduate known as the KTP Associate whose unique role bridges the academic and company teams (see the latest vacancies here). The KTP Associate on this project is Georgiana Nica-Avram who summarises the opportunity presented by this special role: “Working with OLIO and the University of Nottingham has helped me develop personally and professionally. It has helped me contribute the skills and knowledge I have gained so far, as well as develop new skills in the fast-paced domain of data science. OLIO is dedicated to addressing one of today’s greatest challenges- food waste – and I am grateful to be part of this solution”.
Another key member of the KTP team is the Knowledge Transfer Adviser (KTA) from the KTN, the company which delivers the KTP programme for Innovate UK. The KTA, here Stephen Woodhouse, provides further expert guidance, working with the company from the outset to help prepare its application for KTP funding (approximately 90% of applications succeed thanks to this input), setting up the partnership with the appropriate academic team, and remaining alongside throughout the project, contributing further experience and knowledge to help ensure its success.
Over to Tessa Clarke again: “As OLIO isn’t a typical KTP company in many ways, our KT Adviser played an absolutely invaluable role in helping us navigate the application process, and ensuring that we had a successful outcome!”
Stephen Woodhouse echoes the value of KTN involvement in ensuring that “there is a clear focus on the commercial imperative. This is an exciting KTP with contemporary interest and immediate societal value, but whatever the project it’s vital to have a rigorous development of the business case – during the application process, when setting out the objectives of the KTP, and throughout the project. This is what sets the pathway to successful commercialisation. The breadth of KTN’s innovation network and the hands-on support we can provide are vital to any project’s success.”
Although in its early stages, this KTP has the potential to underpin a new phase of OLIO’s development and, as a consequence, its impact on food waste. According to OLIO’s co-founder, Saasha Celestial-One, “The average family throws away £800 of food each year that could’ve been eaten. Collectively that adds up to £15bn per year. Adding insult to injury, we have 8.4 million people living in food poverty in the UK.”
In facilitating a partnership which will provide new insights to help OLIO address this problem, this KTP reflects the flexibility and diversity of a programme which has been used by companies in almost every sector of the UK economy and right across its geography.