Bright sparks in the winter gloom

The Iain Gray Column

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership awards show how UK scientists and industry have embraced cross-disciplinary research, says the Technology Strategy Board chief executive

November can be a challenging month here in the UK. Not quite time to get excited about Christmas  but firmly in the ‘clocks have gone back – dark when you set off for work and when you leave’ mood set.

And I’ve certainly had my ‘standing on a train platform in the drizzle’ character building moments. So it’s thoroughly heart warming to witness great examples of energy and enthusiasm from some of our collaborations across the country.

Two  events brought me into close contact with good examples of these collaborations this month, our annual Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) annual awards and the KTP Managers Conference. The first – the KTP Annual Awards was co hosted by myself, with our Chairman Phil Smith and the Minister of State for Universities and Science, the Rt Hon David Willetts.

The space sail, for deorbiting satellites, is an example of KTP research

Here we awarded eight finalists projects with their Best Partnership certificates; five individuals with their Business Leaders of Tomorrow awards; Clyde Space and the University of Strathclyde with the runner up certificate in the Engineering Excellence category; closely pipped by the Engineering Excellence Knowledge Transfer Partnership winner – Helitune with the University of Bristol.

And the overall winner of Best Partnership 2012 also went to the Helitune and University of Bristol Knowledge Transfer Partnership – an extremely impressive project transforming Helitune’s standing in the worldwide helicopter maintenance market by offering civil and military operators a cost-effective, more accurate way to minimise damaging helicopter vibration.

For those of you new to Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, we went around the country and filmed all of these projects, so hear from them how KTP has transformed their businesses.

I was struck, while handing out these awards, firstly by the passion that each project has for improving the company’s commercial offer, and secondly by just how many of the ‘associates’ (or newly qualified individuals) who transfer from academia into business to shared their skills and knowledge – then get employed at a senior level in the businesses as a result of the partnership work.

My second KTP event this month was the Knowledge Transfer Partnership Managers’ Conference, which I also found hugely motivating. There is a huge amount of energy and commitment around amongst the KTP Offices and it was good to make the direct connections back to our agenda through Catapults, our overall toolkit and the companies we have supported.

This year’s conference was organised by the University of Hertfordshire – well done to Philip Fiddaman and the team. I very much appreciated thespeech from Philip Ternouth of CIHE, picking up on a number of points from the recent KTP report

He stressed the importance of collaboration and the top academic motivations as well as the value to business. He outlined the 5C model – company opportunity, co-recognition, co-formulation, co-creation and commercialisation and how the KTP programme supports good practise in business-university collaboration.

The pipeline of future Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (of which there are some 800 current projects UK-wide) looks really healthy and if anyone is considering being part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, please just contact us. Details are all on the KTP website and one of our many KTP advisors will be happy to talk to you.

And once again I’d like to thank The Engineer for supporting our endeavours. Here are two pieces published this month about our KTPs – enjoy!