Great Minds Work Together
GREAT MINDS WORK TOGETHER
An interview with Dr Peter Hedges, Director of Research Support Services
Dr Peter Hedges, Director of Research Support Services explains the process behind the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and highlights the benefits they hold both both the University and the partner businesses. What benefits do Knowledge Transfer Partnerships hold for businesses? Are they a good stepping stone for students to get valuable experience that will aid them in getting into the job market?
Strip Tinning, a components manufacturer based in Birmingham, wanted to review its company culture and strategic management in order to expand its market and improve the production process. To achieve their goals the company turned to the University of Warwick to establish a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).
Dr Peter Hedges, Director of Research Support Services at the University of Warwick, explains the process. “It’s a national scheme across a number of universities to support research in SMEs” he says. “For example in the old days in the infancy of computers universities knew about the technology but companies didn’t, so the universities would advise companies on the implementation and benefits of computer systems.”
Since then the scheme has grown and is focused much more on two-way knowledge sharing between business and academia rather than universities simply advising industry. “The University learns a great deal from KTPs” points out Dr Hedges. “Businesses don’t necessarily have simple problems to solve. It’s a chance for the University to put academic theory into practice, especially when it is multi-disciplinary with difficult challenges. Academics and people on placements learn new skills to bring back to their next research. It might not necessarily be research that will deliver top quality research publications, but it will have a real impact in business.”
Funding for KTPs comes from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills via a grant to universities. Companies taking part also make a contribution. KTPs range from undergraduate-level knowledge to cutting-edge research. Their usual form is a Master’s level person working at a company for two years supervised by an academic.
The programme benefits all participants. The person on placement gains experience and potentially a job at the end; the company gains a recent graduate’s enthusiasm and knowledge; and the university keeps up-to-date with the workings of industry and improves it links with local businesses.
Susanne Tanner was assigned to the KTP with Strip Tinning. She and WMG academic Dr Charles Tennant decided that the company should introduce the principles of Strategic Quality Management (SQM) to define a systematic approach for setting and meeting goals within the company, employing ‘Hoshin Kanri’ (a Japanese business strategy) as a management technique.
By the end of the KTP the improvements in the company were dramatic. There was a 38 per cent reduction in re-work levels; customer rejections reduced from 35000 kg to 5000 kg a month; and sales exports increased by 19 per cent to 86 per cent of turnover. Says Susanne: “The application of policy deployment at this company proved a highly effective tool in focusing management efforts to achieve the business objectives through transformation of company culture and ways of working.” She used the material for her MSc thesis and was offered a position at Strip Tinning.
Academics and people on placements learn new skills to bring back to their next research.
Currently there are ten KTPs involving the University. Departments taking part include WBS, WMG, Computer Science, Physics and Life Sciences. Companies involved include AWE plc, Prestige Plastics, Green Room Ltd and Johnson Matthey. Says Dr Hedges “KTPs take a more cohesive approach to business engagement, working across the University to enhance the support we provide to business”.
Recently there has been an innovation to establish more short-term projects of six months, known as KTS secondments, funded by the EPSRC. These involve either a PhD student or academic going into a company. The Science City Research Alliance, funded by Advantage West Midlands via Birmingham Science City and the European Regional Development Fund uniting the University of Warwick and the University of Birmingham in a strategic research partnership, is also involved in KTPs.
KTPs fit in well with the University of Warwick’s strategy to work with local businesses and facilitate students into employment. Diane Park is Warwick’s KTP officer and is the first point of call for students who are looking to join the scheme and businesses who think they may benefit from it. She helps the parties to submit their application.
Warwick alumni with a business who want to access the University’s expertise, and recent graduates who are looking for a way into work, can contact Diane for more information at Diane.Park@warwick.ac.uk.
Dr Peter Hedges is Director of Research Support Services at the University of Warwick. He manages the University's externally-funded research and works with Warwick Ventures on intellectual property management and the commercialisation and exploitation of research.
Also on the Knowledge Centre
Chris Beer, UK Managing Director of Merryck & Co, examines risk from a career and leadership perspective.
Professor André Spicer, WBS has been researching varying methods of leadership.
Naomi Stanford explores what organisational culture means, and how it impacts on a company's performance.
Related WRAP Articles
Cassam, Quassim (2009) What is knowledge? Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, Vol.84 (64). pp. 101-120. ISSN 1358-2461
Fuller, Steve, 1959- (2009) Knowledge politics and new converging technologies: a social epistemological perspective. Innovation, Vol.22 (No.1). pp. 7-34. ISSN 1351-1610
Gregory, Ian C. (1997) The transfer of 'best practice' knowledge into manufacturing companies : executive summary. EngD thesis, University of Warwick.