Innovation for Growth Series: Agri-Innovation for Food Resilience

In collaboration with RAU & Farm491, this event brings together agri-food academics and practitioners to share ideas and learn how to access funding opportunities. 

There is an urgent need to transform agri-food systems towards higher levels of efficiency, resilience, inclusiveness, and sustainability. Agri-tech innovation plays an important role in this transformation with 78% of farmers across the UK using some form of agri-tech.

This event brings together RAU academics, Farm491 members and other businesses from the Greater Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire, or Gloucestershire area to learn more about funding, potential partnerships and other agrifood opportunities in the area.

Register here.

Who should attend?

If you are a business working with farmers, in food production and/or supply across the agri-food value chain located in the Greater Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire, or Gloucestershire area this event is for you.

Why attend?

  • Get insight into potential routes to funding your innovative business ideas
  • Identify possible opportunities for partnership and collaboration
  • Network with RAU academics and other businesses working in this area

Agenda

09:45  – Registration and brunch

10:00  – Welcome and Introduction by RAU Host – Professor Mark Horton – Director of Research and Enterprise

10:10  – Keynote Address: Dr Colin Cooper – Innovate UK Head of Commercialisation and Collaboration

10:15 – Innovation Funding opportunities for businesses.  One minute pitches: Innovate UK Edge, Innovate UK, KTN, British Business Bank and Defence and Security Accelerator

10:25  – Exploring the Agri-Innovation Support landscape

  • Professor David Main: Transdisciplinary support for global transition in food systems
  • Professor Tom MacMillan: Working with farmers to boost adoption
  • Sarah Carr – Head of Farm491: Converting your idea or technology into a viable and successful business

10:50 – Panel discussion: Opportunities and challenges for industry and business collaboration

11:10 – Networking

11:40 – Closing remarks – Professor Mark Horton

11:45 – Stakeholder Conversation Session (opportunity for businesses to talk one to one to the stakeholders)

12:00 – End

Register here.

Our Hosts and Stakeholders

Farm491  is a leading UK based AgriTech incubator and innovation space based at the Royal Agricultural University, supporting entrepreneurs as they advance their business with potential for impact in the agricultural sector.

There are a vast array of strategic business support and funding initiatives available. Understanding and deciphering which is the most suitable to address your specific need can often be a challenge. At Innovate UK KTN our mission is to connect ideas, people, and communities to respond to business challenges and drive positive change through innovation.

Other stakeholders at this event include Innovate UKInnovate UK EDGEThe Defence and Security Accelerator and The British Business Bank. The round table discussions will enable us to delve into the most pressing regional business challenges by bringing together business leaders, with academic experts and potential solution providers, and highlighting the different funding opportunities available to support your strategic business needs, such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

About Innovate UK KTN

Our mission is to connect ideas, people, and communities to respond to business challenges and drive positive change through innovation.

Register here.

KTP between Grŵp Llandrillo Menai and Fifth Wheel Co. unlocks innovation

KTP & Made Smarter Series

Throughout May, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is collaborating with Made Smarter to bring you a wide array of projects from our network that are pushing the boundaries of innovation within manufacturing. 

This week, we head to North Wales to discover a KTP between Grwp Llandrillo Menai FE College and The Fifth Wheel Company which have allowed the luxury caravan manufacturer to unlock capacity, increase productivity and profits, and created a culture of collaboration and innovation.

 

The Partnership

The Fifth Wheel Company (Fifth Wheel Co.), based in Rhuallt, North Wales, collaborated with Grwp Llandrillo Menai and KTP Associate Charlie Small through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme to implement new smart digital manufacturing processes which introduced advanced composite materials to the company’s bespoke product range.

Mick Card, Knowledge Transfer Adviser, who supported the KTP, said: 

“This is the second time Fifth Wheel has reaped the benefits of a KTP to further develop and embed world-leading manufacturing capability. This time the company has embraced the advanced manufacturing expertise available from Grwp Llandrillo Menai to fuel the next phase of growth and innovation.”

 

The Inspiration

Fifth Wheel Co. is best known for its unique fifth wheel tourers and innovative touring caravan.

Antiquated attitudes towards digital manufacturing and a risk-aversion towards research and development meant Fifth Wheel Co. were missing out on opportunities to introduce new lightweight materials, and the advanced processes needed to manufacture them, now emerging as the automotive industry switches to electric vehicles.

Gethin Whiteley, Technical Director, said: 

“While we had invested in digital manufacturing to improve efficiency, we weren’t getting the best out of it. We were still organised as a traditional manufacturer where a product moves from A to B to C. We lacked innovation. As a result, we couldn’t meet the demand for our products and were increasingly reliant on third parties.”

Having seen the benefits of a previous KTP, Fifth Wheel Co. wasn’t shy about looking for external expertise and support, and secured a two-year project co-funded by the Welsh Government and Innovate UK to work with Grwp Llandrillo Menai, a Further Education college, with expertise in advanced manufacturing, which it also had a longstanding relationship with.

 

The Innovation

KTP Associate Charlie Small began working with Grwp Llandrillo Menai and tapped into academic support by looking at CAD, CAM, and state of the art manufacturing practices. The partnership designed a project which encompassed all areas of Fifth Wheel Co.’s business from point of contact with the customer, through design, production, and delivery.

It introduced new digital manufacturing processes, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, to replace the use of paper on the shopfloor and allowed real-time access to key information and drawings at each workstation.

Radical changes were made to workflow and cell organisation, improving the flow of information from the design team to the CNC operators, and the flow of parts to finishing and assembly. 

The project also made the best use of existing CNC processes, introducing advanced 3D machining using Autodesk Fusion 360 to enable the in-house capabilities and capacity to create a new range of foam vehicle trim, improving panel building potential by replacing plywood with lighter materials.

The project also introduced the use of desktop 3D printing and CNC machining to improve research and development capability.

 

The Impact 

New manufacturing capability brought subcontracted components back in-house, giving Fifth Wheel Co. complete control over its production schedule and design variations, increasing flexibility and reducing lead times.

The introduction of standard operating procedures and better staff training has reduced rework and miscuts which in turn is helping to drive scrap parts down. 

As a result, Fifth Wheel Co. has increased its capacity by 50%, allowing it to increase production from 35 vans to 50 over a year. This is estimated to increase turnover by £1.3M.

The introduction of cloud-based data has eliminated paper from the production process, speeding up information transfer from the design office to the factory and increasing accuracy.

The project has put in place the foundations for further in-house manufacturing capabilities to use more lightweight composite materials to reduce the weight of the vehicles and align with the drive towards electric vehicles.

Charlie Small, KTP Associate, said:  

“Having a third party involved brought a new perspective to Fifth Wheel Co.’s production processes and mindset. It is no longer reliant on third party suppliers and has massively increased its in-house capability. There is a new level of trust, confidence and autonomy flowing through the business. R&D is now part of everyday life and everyone is striving to do things better. “The project helped show the art of the possible and changed hearts and minds.”

 The project has also seen a dramatic shift in the culture within the business. Shop floor staff have been upskilled and empowered to problem-solve and collaborate with other departments. The flexibility has given the production team a more positive attitude towards prototype work and experimentation.

Gareth Hughes, Centre Manager CIST & Innovation, Grp Llandrillo Menai, said: 

“The KTP project with Fifth Wheel has been a very technically challenging project which has produced excellent outcomes to both the college and company.”

Vaughan Gething, Minister for the Economy, Welsh Government, said: 

“Knowledge Transfer Partnerships offer real solutions to difficult problems for industry, and this example recognises their ability to help solve problems by having a real business impact. In Wales, industry and academia continue to collaborate so positively for the benefit of future generations and the Welsh Government will continue to support that.”

 

About Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are a dynamic three-way collaboration between a business or not for profit organisation, one of the UK’s world-class knowledge bases, and a suitably qualified graduate. 

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are funded by a grant to the university from Innovate UK and other government co-funders, and a cash contribution from the business involved. The programme is delivered by Knowledge Transfer Network, a network partner of Innovate UK.

Interested in learning more? Find out here.

About Made Smarter

Made Smarter will improve the competitiveness, increase exports, and productivity of UK manufacturers and supply chains through fully-funded access to support, guidance and grant funding for the adoption of industrial digital technologies.

Find out more here.

Adopting AI in Manufacturing: How to Access KTP Funding to Close Your Knowledge Gap

Despite the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit, the UK manufacturing sector showed strong growth in 2021 (MarkItEconomics, 2022); however, in the light of the current geopolitical situation, supply chains have been further disrupted triggering input-cost inflation. Furthermore, maintaining a skilled workforce still represents a challenge.

Continued growth and productivity can be enabled – in part – by focusing on technology adoption and automation, which in turn will drive the required upskilling and workforce productivity the sector needs while cutting costs. In order to achieve this, we are keen to support strategic initiatives around the adoption of AI, especially for SMEs and businesses that have been affected by the current global challenges.

The AI team at Innovate UK KTN, in collaboration with the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme and the Manufacturing Made Smarter Innovation Network will deliver two virtual interactive sessions where manufacturing businesses from all sectors will have the opportunity to explore the uses of Artificial Intelligence within their operations.

During these sessions, we will also help identify projects that can be funded through the KTP programme – an open competition which offers support rates between 50-75% of the eligible project costs, that link forward-thinking businesses with the UK’s world-class knowledge bases to deliver innovation projects. During the webinars, attendees will get the chance to learn further details about the programme, with dedicated KTP Advisers available to facilitate the discussions and help shape potential projects and consortiums.

Target audience and deadline

Manufacturing businesses are active in any sector, regardless of their size.

The aim of the webinars is to identify businesses or clusters of businesses that could have either similar manufacturing challenges or different challenges sharing the same solution and to identify businesses interested to lead on a KTP project in order to deliver positive change in a cohesive manner.

The initiative will be delivered as a two-hour interactive virtual roundtable on the 19th of May. The format of the session will be based on the answers that you provide during the application.

Please submit your expression of interest by 9th May 2022 and you will receive a confirmation of the outcome of your application shortly after.

Agenda

Session 1 | 10:00-12:00

  • 10:00 – Session and KTP introduction
  • 10:10 – Breakout Rooms – The most pressing manufacturing challenge for the participants
  • 10:30 – Facilitator feedback
  • 10:40 – What is common among these challenges?
  • 11:00 – Break
  • 11:10 – KTP presentation
  • 11:30 – Facilitated project discussions and partnerships
  • 11:50 – Lead and go-ahead to apply for KTP funding and the next steps
  • 12:00 – Q&A, KTP advisers and Meeting Mojo open for private discussions.

Session 2 | 14:00-16:00

  • 14:00 – Session and KTP introduction
  • 14:10 – Breakout Rooms – The most pressing manufacturing challenge for the participants
  • 14:30 – Facilitator feedback
  • 14:40 – What is common among these challenges?
  • 15:00 – Break
  • 15:10 – KTP presentation
  • 15:30 – Facilitated project discussions and partnerships
  • 15:50 – Lead and go-ahead to apply for KTP funding and the next steps
  • 16:00 –  Q&A, KTP advisers and Meeting Mojo open for private discussions

Register here. 

Which awards are up for grabs? Innovate UK KTP Awards 2022

We are pleased to announce that nominations are now OPEN for this year’s Innovate UK KTP Awards. Every year the KTP Awards celebrate all that makes KTP special and In 2022, we aim to take a step forward. 

This year we’ll shine a light on the tremendous impact of the programme, not only on the people and organisations involved but at the wider societal level. In an effort to promote more of KTP, we have also decided to expand the award categories to seven, meaning there will be more opportunities to shine at the 2022 awards ceremony. 

The ceremony will happen on Wednesday the 12th of October, so make sure you have the date firmly in your diary (registration forms will be announced in due course). 

To start the nomination process, we need to have completed online forms by Friday 27th May at 12 pm by heading to the Awards platform here. To learn more about eligibility & criteria, please head here

Read on to learn a little more about the Award categories: 

Best Knowledge Transfer Partnership

This award honours the partnership which has brought the greatest benefits to all three participants, exceeding the expectations set out in their KTP proposal, and which best exemplifies innovation through collaboration.

Technical Excellence Award

This award recognises Partnerships that have demonstrated excellence in the application of engineering skills, interpreted in the broadest sense to recognise the continuing evolution of this field.

The Changing the World Award

This award recognises the wider impacts of KTP – those projects which have delivered significant societal/social or environmental benefits.

Business Impact and Transformation

This award recognises the partnership that has continued to demonstrate outstanding impact. By transforming the commercial outlook and accessing academic knowledge to deepen expertise, companies are able to expand their commercial capabilities and exploit market opportunities.  

KTP Academic of the Year Award

The KTP Academic of the Year Award recognises the outstanding contribution made to KTP by a member of academic staff and the role that they have had in influencing the uptake of KTP throughout their institution.

Best Knowledge Base KTP Support Team Award

This award recognises a team that has influenced and supported the sustained high-quality performance in KTP.

Future Leader

This award is for Associates who have shown exceptional skills, above and beyond the normal expectations of a KTP Associate, in driving and delivering innovation strategy; demonstrating great teamwork and outstanding leadership potential.

About the Innovate UK KTP Awards

The Awards recognise the people and partnerships behind the most inspiring and successful KTP projects in the UK. Highlighting these outstanding partnerships is just the tip of the iceberg, with more than 800 inspiring collaborations currently happening across the country. Each one is forging a new pathway for British Innovation, an aspiring graduate, an organisation looking to grow and a knowledge base looking to apply their expertise. 

Missed last year’s event? Access the Innovate UK KTP Awards 2021 here. To submit your nominations & learn more about eligibility and criteria, head here

UK National KTP Associates’ Conference – June 2022

Hosted by the University of the West of Scotland, this 2-day conference will be the first in-person National Associates’ conference since 2019 and will provide an opportunity for Associates to network, learn, be inspired and, most importantly come together.

Hosted by the UWS KTP Centre and based at our Paisley campus in the West of Scotland, the conference agenda has been developed based on community survey feedback from current KTP Associates across the UK. Although an in-person event, we plan on making use of emerging and enabling technology to maximise networking opportunities before, during and after the event and are finalising our own conference venue in the metaverse in support of this. This also provides a venue for virtual poster competitions and project showcasing and ties into one of the conference themes – Monetising the Metaverse. That said, the number one request from the community was for an in-person event with lots of networking opportunities, closely followed by inspiring stories and masterclasses spanning KTP project delivery, career planning and personal development, all delivered by KE professionals, sector leaders and current/former KTP associates.

Agenda

Both days will be at the UWS Paisley Campus.

Day 1 – 8 June 2022:
0800-0900: Registration & Welcome
0900-1000: Mindfulness – Prof Ross Deucher
1010-1110: Monetising The Metaverse
1110-1130: Networking
1130-1230: Breakout Sessions
1230-1400: Lunch & Networking
1400-1500: Keynote – Kieron Achara, Mbe
1510-1610: Breakout Sessions
1610-1630: Networking
1630-1700: Panel Discussion
1900-0030: Dinner & Ceilidh – Gynhill Hotel

Day 2 –   9 June 2022:
0900-0930: Networking
0930-1030: Breakout Sessions
1030-1100: Networking
1100-1200: Breakout Sessions
1210-1230: Prizegiving – Best Poster
1230-1400: Lunch & Networking

Breakouts List
1 – KTP Masterclass
2 – Life After KTP
3 – Metaverse Experience
4 – Developing Yourself

Tickets can be found here

Bristol to Swindon – Business Insights and Challenges

This event is relevant for all investable businesses located in the Greater Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire, or Gloucestershire area who are looking to share their business challenges and learn how they can be supported to achieve their innovation goals.

Recording now available

As we mark two years since the UK’s first lockdown, we want to know how your business has been affected, and how you are positioned for the future.

  • What new challenges has your business had to overcome?
  • Has your company’s resilience been tested?
  • What are your barriers to innovation?
  • What are your obstacles to growth?

Who should attend?

Whatever your business sector, if you are a Business Leader of a company located in the Greater Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire, or Gloucestershire area then we would like you to join our discussion forum.

You may be interested in managing complex supply chain and logistics; achieving scalable growth; developing new technologies;  responding to Net Zero targets; diversifying into new markets, embracing the digital revolution, increasing productivity, or gaining insights from your big data. Whatever your challenge, we are keen to know more.

Why attend?

  • Discuss business critical challenges
  • Share strategic business insights
  • Connect with national and international support agencies
  • Shape and curate the content of our follow-on events designed to match your needs with relevant solution providers
  • Receive support on your innovation journey

Agenda

  • 13:00 – Welcome and Introduction
  • 13:05 – One minute pitches from national and international support agencies
  • 13:15 – Business Leaders: ‘Challenges and Needs’ discussion forum
  • 13:55 – Concluding remarks and next steps

More details

There are a vast array of strategic business support and funding initiatives available. Understanding and deciphering which is the most suitable to address your specific need can often be a challenge. At InnovateUK-KTN our mission is to connect ideas, people, and communities to respond to business challenges and drive positive change through innovation.

Your invaluable feedback will underpin the framework for our next series of face-to-face themed workshops which will be held in collaboration with InnovateUK, InnovateUK Edge, The Defence and Security Accelerator, The British Business Bank and our local partner Universities. These round table discussions will enable us to delve into the most pressing regional business challenges by bringing together business leaders, with academic experts and potential solution providers. We will also highlight the different funding opportunities available to support your strategic business needs, such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

About Innovate UK KTN

Our mission is to connect ideas, people, and communities to respond to business challenges and drive positive change through innovation.

KTP Associate wins Scotland’s Innovators of the Future Award 2022

Congratulations to Juliette Farrell, KTP Associate from University of Strathclyde, who won the 2022 Innovators of the Future Award at Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards on Thursday 17 March. 

Juliette Farrell is a KTP Associate from the University of Strathclyde, who collaborated with Elite Contract Furniture came away with the award for her work embedding new tools and methodologies into the business, including rebranding and developing an e-commerce site for a new product, allowing them to sell online for the first time in 68 years.

Now in its seventh year, the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards celebrate the exceptional work achieved through academics and businesses, third sector or other end users.

The awards cover eight categories – from businesses, social enterprises, public sector organisations, third sector, universities, research institutes, innovation centres and colleges that, through knowledge exchange, are leading the way towards economic growth, societal improvements and environmental advances in Scotland and beyond.

KTP Associates reflect the exceptional role that the Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme has in developing leadership and talent in innovation. KTPs are an integral part of that ecosystem within Scotland, with an average of 100 projects live at any one time. We’re delighted that this has been reflected in the recent success of KTP Associates in the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

In attendance at the Awards, Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, commented: 

“I would like to congratulate the winners today for showing the ingenuity, industry and creativity that is essential in achieving success.

“Scotland has world-class universities, with businesses looking to draw on that knowledge to develop, test and research new products, processes and services. By bringing the two partners together, we can solve some of our biggest challenges, such as driving recovery from COVID-19, supporting the transition to net zero and delivering inclusive growth.”

Laura Goodfellow, Interim Director, Interface, added: 

“I am delighted that the appetite for businesses to partner with academics shows no signs of decreasing; if anything, the last two years have brought more ideas to the fore and driven an upturn in the number of companies and organisations Interface has supported.”

I was really thrilled to win the award. It is always so fascinating attending these events and seeing the diversity of knowledge exchange work taking place across Scotland, so to have my work selected was excellent.

 My time in the KTP programme has given me opportunities for further training and professional development that I couldn’t have dreamed of. The KTP structure has also helped me develop so much as a leader and project manager, pushing me out of my comfort zone and helping me take risks all within the supportive partnership environment.”

Gerry Black, who is the KTP Adviser for the Innovator of the Future Winner, commented: 

Juliette has done a great job in helping the company diversify into a new product range with new design processes, new materials and new sales channels.  The quality of her leadership and the enhancement in her own skills make her a worthy winner.

Juliette has done a great job in helping the company diversify into a new product range with new design processes, new materials and new sales channels.  The quality of her leadership and the enhancement in her own skills make her a worthy winner.”

About KTPs

KTPs are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including Innovate KTN, Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.

If you have an innovative business idea and would like to see if a KTP could help take it forward,  get in touch.

Enabling the circular economy with Aquapak Polymers Ltd & Heriot-Watt University

Next in our series looking at Materials and Sustainability, we take a look at a KTP between Heriot-Watt University & Aquapak Polymers Ltd

The project is looking to investigate the environmental implications of Aquapak’s innovative plastic polymers that have the potential to reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment. 

About Aquapak Polymers Ltd

Aquapak Polymers is the developer and manufacturer of innovative environmental plastic materials based in the West Midlands.

Hydropol™ – one of their solutions – allows packaging designers to replace packaging containing generally unrecyclable traditional plastics to be replaced with a highly functional polymer allowing multiple end-of-life options specifically designed for the circular economy but one that biodegrades safely and harmlessly in the environment. 

It can be used on its own or, more importantly, combined with other materials including paper and other biopolymers and is suitable as a film, laminate, coating, or in rigid form.

The KTP 

Aquapak Polymers has partnered with researchers in Heriot-Watt University’s Consortium for Plastics and Sustainability (COMPASS) to investigate the behaviour, ecotoxicology, and decomposition of these polymers – Hydropol. 

Joining the project as a KTP Associate was Dr. Joel Kuhn, Student from Heriot-Watt University. Joel’s PhD in Chemical Engineering brought expertise from a multidisciplinary perspective, with backgrounds in material science, surface chemistry and data analysis to biology, biomedicine and environmental toxicology.

Prof Ted Henry HWU, KTP project lead explains: 

“The Hydropol polymer has unique properties with the potential to contribute to the future direction of plastics within the circular economy and reduction of environmental impacts.  Results of our investigations of dissolved Hydropol are consistent with previous reports that this material is innocuous to aquatic life for the variety of organisms that have been tested.  

Further investigation into the decomposition of the polymers within the environment by abiotic and biotic factors is ongoing to establish rates and processes.  These analyses will enhance understanding of how the attractive properties and unique opportunities of Hydropol could be part of the solution to achieve circular economies for plastics”

Comment from Dr John Williams, Company Supervisor: 

“The investigations of HWU into the behaviour, ecotoxicology and decomposition of these polymers have provided not only vital data for Aquapak but also a new way of approaching these issues, which we believe will have impacts well beyond this initial study. We are looking forward to building on this important work over the coming years.

Status of the project 

The project duration was two years with a kick-off date in August 2019. In March 2022, the project was successfully finalised with continued engagement between Heriot-Watt University & Aquapak Polymers.

About KTP’s

KTPs are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including Innovate KTN, Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.

If you have an innovative business idea and would like to see if a KTP could help take it forward,  get in touch.

Recycling PPE with Globus Group & Heriot-Watt University

In the first of our sustainability and recycling series, we take a look at a recently announced KTP between Heriot-Watt University and leading international PPE manufacturer Alpha Solway, part of Globus Group.

PPE has been an essential part of our everyday lives in the recent past, with little focus given to reusing the materials used. Since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 8.4m tonnes of plastic waste has been generated from 193 countries[1], the majority of which ends up in landfills or, in some areas, in the ocean.

With this in mind, Globus Group has recently embarked on a journey to Net Zero by 2024 and to reduce the impact of PPE on the environment. To help, they’ve enlisted the help of Heriot-Watt University in a KTP project to design and develop a bespoke PPE recycling process.

About Globus Group 

Globus Group is the UK’s largest PPE manufacturer and a leading European provider of innovative protection technology solutions. With over 25 years’ heritage, the organisation is dedicated to developing innovative, high-performing and resilient European-made PPE products for distributors, healthcare providers and clients across global industry.

Alpha Solway of Annan in Dumfriesshire, part of Globus Group, is a significant local employer and one of the world’s fastest-growing manufacturers of personal protective equipment.

As a leader in the manufacturing sector, Globus Group has committed to a sustainable future, driving energy efficiency, recycling and re-use through our robust sustainability plan and a commitment to reach net-zero by 2027.

The KTP 

The new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project is set to develop an innovative process to recycle 10kg of plastic PPE waste every hour. The aim is to revolutionise how used plastic PPE is treated to turn the waste into a secondary raw material called pyrolysis oil, which can then be refined into new commercial products like new PPE products or fuels. 

Dr Aimaro Sanna, an assistant professor in chemical and process engineering at Heriot-Watt University is an expert in thermochemical conversion of biomass and waste material. He said: 

“We will be working closely with our commercial partner Globus Group to develop a bespoke process that will be applied to PPE plastic waste that cannot currently be recycled mechanically due to various technological, economic or ecological reasons. As the world strives to reduce its landfill, ocean impact and carbon emissions, this project is a significant step towards addressing the increased waste generated during the global pandemic.

“Initially the research will help to recycle over 100 tonnes of product generated by the manufacturing process every year – the equivalent to 10kg of waste every hour. However, our hope is that this new process will be adopted more widely. Many countries have been unable to process their plastic waste PPE properly. Our ground-breaking research aims to address these challenges providing an exemplar technique for application globally.”

Status of the project 

The project kicked off in October 2021 and is due to close in two years. The recent announcement of the project and the ambition from the company saw a tremendous response from the national press. Over 180 articles were published across the print, broadcast and online media including the BBC, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and others.

Jim Berryman, Knowledge Transfer Advisor, Innovate UK KTN added: 

“The commitment to provide a circular solution for 100 tonnes of PPE per year is hugely ambitious and is exactly the sort of innovation step we seek to support through our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. Working in collaboration with the Alpha Solway factory and Heriot-Watt University will see us applying research expertise to address a significant environmental challenge, helping deliver the Globus Group’s net zero ambitions.”

About KTP’s

KTPs are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including Innovate KTN, Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.

If you have an innovative business idea and would like to see if a KTP could help take it forward,  get in touch.

KTP between Sterling Pharma Solutions and Northumbria University builds new commercial opportunities

A KTP project with partners Sterling Pharma Solutions and Northumbria University has been awarded the top grade of ‘Outstanding’ by Innovate UK’s independent assessors. The KTP provided an ideal approach for the application of Northumbria’s knowledge in biocatalysis research to create new commercial opportunities, building on Sterling’s existing expertise in development chemistry.

About Sterling Pharma Solutions

With over 850 employees based across the UK and the US, Sterling Pharma Solutions is a Partnership Development and Manufacturing Organisation producing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) in a business model which develops customer-driven solutions, integrated into customers’ supply chains. KTP is directly aligned to the company’s distinctive approach which sets a new standard of transparency and collaboration with scientific partnership at the core.

The KTP Associate

KTP Associate Greg Holgate was recruited to join the KTP shortly after graduating with a first-class MChem degree in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry. Greg joined the R&D team at Sterling Pharma Solutions and quickly got to grips with delivering the project plan, undertaking experimental work in the lab and desk-based research to investigate and select new manufacturing routes using biocatalysis. 

Greg participated in Northumbria’s pilot of a bespoke Action Learning programme for the university’s cohort of Associates. This powerful problem-solving activity was vital to support Northumbria Associates during the pandemic, which was showcased in the 2021 KTP Awards.    

The Challenge

The use of biocatalysts in the pharmaceutical industry is rapidly expanding, as it offers compelling advantages like improved efficiency, reduced costs, customisation capabilities, and enhanced sustainability.

In order to win business on customer development projects, Sterling Pharma Solutions’ aim was to further its knowledge, particularly at an industrial scale and demonstrate credibility in deploying the relevant technology. 

Partnering with Northumbria University on the KTP provided an ideal mechanism to address this challenge for biocatalysis. The KTP created new knowledge and expertise in biocatalysis to enable the company to identify and apply natural and engineered enzymes to accelerate customers’ syntheses, enabling them to realise enhanced efficiency in a sustainable and scalable way. 

The Project 

To meet this challenge, the KTP created a new commercially driven enzyme discovery workflow developed through practical application of biocatalytic methodology in lab experiments and analyses, directed by research insights from the Academic team. 

Throughout, the lab work was closely aligned to the market potential and the company’s production processes. Decisions on candidate compounds and routes to manufacture considered the needs of customers, regulatory requirements, alongside the scientific parameters of improved yield, efficacy, and recycling of raw materials.

Dr Mark Muldowney is Head of Technology and Innovation explains the KTP’s impact: 

“The KTP with Northumbria was envisaged initially to address a specific business opportunity but our experience of the KTP and what has been possible through it has led to a broader appreciation of how the technology can be deployed and developed to innovate further and create value in the business. The close collaboration with the Academic Team has led to other collaborations and an ongoing relationship where ideas are regularly shared and issues discussed.”

During the KTP, new modules have been developed at Northumbria University for the teaching of ‘Industrial Biochemistry and Biocatalysis’. Dr Graeme Turnbull, Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University, who is a synthetic chemist with a focus on the application of biocatalysis to improve routes to synthesis, designed this module directly informed by his work on the KTP, with research-rich examples at the core. 

Students will receive case study lectures from guest speakers from industry including Mark who will explain the KTP process. Several undergraduate research projects were carried out during the KTP as a result of the collaboration. 

Graeme comments: 

“This KTP has given me the opportunity to explore the processes and practices of the pharmaceutical industry while contributing to my own research group. As an Early Career Researcher, being able to work with a talented team of academics and industrialists to train our Associate and transfer knowledge into the company has been a rewarding experience.”

The broader than anticipated benefits of Sterling Pharma Solutions’ new knowledge in biocatalysis resulted in new business being won during the KTP, and several new contracts and projects are in development and ongoing. These include new customers who have not previously partnered with Sterling Pharma Solutions and a healthy pipeline of enquiries. 

Sterling Pharma Solutions can now quote customers for an ‘end-to-end’ service, from the initial development of appropriate biocatalytic technology through to scaled-up manufacture as they have the knowledge, processes, and facilities to confidently deliver. This is being expanded to incorporate in silico design in a second KTP with Northumbria, to develop new capabilities in biotechnology and computational biology.

John Clayton, Innovate UK KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Adviser, to the project, summed up the value to the partners as being:

“Outstanding across the three agendas delivering a new, market- and sector-leading, capability in biocatalysis for the business, a blue-chip relationship with a global business for the University which has developed into a recently awarded second KTP, and a prestige career opportunity for the Associate.”

About KTP’s

KTPs are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including Innovate KTN, Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.

If you have an innovative business idea and would like to see if a KTP could help take it forward,  get in touch.