Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

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Sub-stream: Effective models of SME engagement

Related public funding scheme:




Departments involved: School of Applied Science; School of the Arts; Northampton Business School and The Knowledge Exchange.


Function Addressed: The positioning of UCN as a key player in the provision of KTP in the areas of marketing; business strategy; product development and design; e-commerce; fashion; wastes management and information technology.


UCN’s existing KTP portfolio comprises mainly private sector commercial organisations, from a multinational to small owner-managed SMEs. Although the majority of its KTP programmes are based with companies in Northamptonshire, UCN does run one programme in Norfolk where specialist expertise was required.


UCN recognises the importance of KTP and has specific, strategic objectives for the programme’s take up. KTP works well for UCN, as it is a logical, structured way for the Institution to benefit from two way knowledge transfer.The five year plan states that it wishes to reach a sustainable level of 25 KTPs at any one time, having progressed from 10 in 03/04, 15 in 04/05 and 20 in 05/06. The key deliverables in this strategy are an increase in research degree students; an increase in staff involvement with KT activity; student projects; guest lectures; student placements; further engagement within the Region and staff development.


The success of a single KTP project (and therefore the long term stability of UCN’s KTP portfolio as a whole) are many. Crucially, the ability for any potential programme to generate two-way knowledge transfer is established at the outset, by testing, for example, the academic partner’s desire to engage and the company’s willingness to “contribute back” such activities as student projects, guest lectures etc. When seeking company partners, UCN utilises a stringent checking mechanism, which ensures that the potential participant is verified as absolutely suitable as a stake holder. This extends to verifying the company’s real attitude towards engaging with an HEI, and its key drivers in doing so. Likewise, the academic supervisors are carefully selected on the basis of their research interests, their readiness to embrace such collaborative work and the likely impact on their personal development. Finally, the recruitment of the right KTP Associate is paramount, and extensive work by the company and university partners is carried out to ensure the right appointment. Only then is a potential KTP project taken to the next stage of seeking approval from the sponsors.


UCN has increased its profile to a national level in within KTP circles, with attainment of DTI KTP Office status, and a keen personal interest from the relevant Directors of the DTI and managing agent Momenta.

Critical success factors:

  • Overall attainment programme numbers against target each year
  • Sustainability of individual programmes
  • Secondary outputs, such as attainment of guest lectures; further corporate sponsorship; student projects; research degrees; etc
  • Key activity, leading to KTP engagement amongst local employers. This includes quantifiable campaigns using direct mail; telemarketing; networking and events.

Outcomes: key concrete benefits for external beneficiaries:

According to Economic Consultants SQW Ltd in the “TCS Evaluation Report 2002”, companies engaged in KTP reported benefits including:

  • An increase in the overall value of the company by 52%
  • Increased overall sales of 42%
  • Increased sales in existing domestic markets and
  • Increased profitability of 42%
  • A one off related profit of £32,000
  • Recurring profits of £130,000

For each £1m of Government grant spent on KTP (2002-2003), the effects on business are as follows:

  • Number of jobs created – 62
  • Number of company staff trained – 161
  • One-off increase in profit before tax - £0.9M
  • Annual increase in profit before tax after programme completion - £3.5M
  • Investment in plant and machinery £3.5M
In the case of UCN’s company partners, all report significant benefits, ranging from better legal environmental compliance for effluent release; to increased sales via new e-commerce technology and exciting new industrial roof lighting products. The Region, too, has recognised the benefit of KTP and supported UCN’s activities through the Northamptonshire Partnership.

Outcomes: key benefits for HEI:

UCN has persued a policy of service excellence in respect of its KTP portfolio, which is now recognised across the Region and nationally. Its rapid growth in its KTP activities has resulted in UCN being granted full KTP Office status by the DTI; a delegation visit from DTI and managing agents Momenta (key directors) and the appointment of a member of UCN staff to the Momenta Working Group on KTP Associate Development. The success of UCN’s KTP activity has very much encouraged further engagement by a number of members of staff, invigorating the academic environment and providing a platform for staff development leading to enriched teaching. Increasingly, academic members of staff engaged in KTP are building strong relationships with their company partners, which have resulted in financial support for events, guest lectures, sponsorship and student projects.

Key lessons learnt:

Knowledge Transfer, in the academic sense, does not need to be “from the HEI” to the community – with the right management and support, it is perfectly possible to achieve two-way knowledge transfer to benefit all parties. However, the success of any KT project is based entirely on the partners’ commitment to it succeeding, and close monitoring of the achievement of key deliverables. A key lesson learnt is that not all KT projects will succeed; indeed, some will fail as a percentage of the total amount of activity undertaken. However, a small failure rate is acceptable, and in many ways desirable, for an organisation such as UCN in demonstrating its ambition and aspiration whilst “punching above its weight”.


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