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KTPs – An underutilised route to innovation and collaboration

For some reason KTPs are a well-kept secret or perhaps just mis-understood? Either way they are certainly an underutilised source of innovation funding in Scotland.

Innovation can be somewhat risky for companies as it is a financial or resource investment that has no guarantee of success BUT with potentially large returns. It is also a really important element of any business to continually look to the future and to evolve as needed to maintain market relevance and ensure sustainability. Focussing on innovation is a great way to ensure this strategic thinking becomes a normal part of the business and ideally part of the company culture.

KTPs help to reduce the financial risk by supporting the innovative project being considered.

So what exactly is a KTP?

The purpose of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership Scheme is to help businesses in the UK to innovate and grow. It does this by giving business access to academia in a way that may otherwise not be possible. The KTP project will bring together a business, an academic or research institute (referred to as a knowledge base) and a suitably qualified graduate (referred to as the associate) to collaborate on the project or idea which the business has proposed. As a result, it provides the business with expertise they may not have in-house.

How does this work?

Well a KTP is part funded by a grant, the business would be expected to contribute to the project budget. The size of the contribution varies depending on the size of the company and the scale and length of the project. Projects are usually 12 to 36 months long. Typically a SME would contribute 33% of the cost and a larger Enterprise would be expected to contribute 50%. KTPs can cover a wide range of project types and do not necessarily need to be tied to technology.

KTPS help businesses and universities a like as well as being of enormous benefit to the graduates. Many businesses in Scotland have already put KTPs to great use or are undergoing projects currently.

KTP projects provide a great career opportunity for the associate, who as well as working as an expert on an innovative project will project manage the team and pursue significant personal development activities including leadership and management training from the KTP programme. It is a great way for companies to help develop a trained workforce while benefitting themselves.

Stuart MacDonald, CEO of Seric has stated that “With a history of innovation and bringing new products to market Seric were massively interested in the KTP platform to assist and accelerate their most recent development project.  KTP has allowed Seric to research and develop their most recent project a Digital Safeguarding platform involving AI, specifically Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing.  With this we are working to ensure that the digital spaces for our young people are as safe as the physical ones.  We started this KTP in July 2019 and are now almost a year into our 30 month programme already with our first commercial outcome from the project.   Seric would highly recommend the KTP process and indeed the teams we work with at UWS to others in the sector.”

How do you apply?

The best place to start is your local or nearest KTP Centre of which there are 3 regional ones in Scotland (North, West and East) as well as University of West Scotland having a dedicated KTP Centre, or reach out directly to your local KTP Advisor (North, West, East and Tayside). The KTP Centres are run on behalf of the universities and play a key role in the partnership development role and matching academics with industry for specific projects. The KTP Advisor plays a key role in the application submission and a meeting with them as well as a brief project outline is a pre-requisite to an application being made. The aim is to ensure companies have the right type of project in mind and at least a reasonable chance of success before starting the application process. The KTP Advisor will become part of the project team offering support and guidance and in particular mentoring and supporting the associate who is carrying out the work. Due to the effectiveness of the application process, starting from that initial meeting, applications have a 80% success rate….which by all accounts is a lot higher than a grant application tends to be!

The UK wide competitions run roughly every 2 months so there is plenty of opportunity to apply through the year. Each application needs to achieve a certain ranking and all projects above this ranking will receive funding as long as there are sufficient funds, which is usually the case.

There are usually around 800 projects in progress at any one time in the UK with around 13-14% of them being in Scotland. In 2019 alone there was just under £12 million allocated in grant funding to Scottish projects. To get started you really only need the business idea and an ability to contribute financially to the project. You can find local contacts and further information at the links below:

And finally, to top it all off, there are KTP Awards to celebrate the achievements and success of the projects and companies involved. Gerry Black, KTP Advisor has stated ’To counter KTP being a well-kept secret we have KTP Awards. The 2020 KTP Best of the Best Awards are on the 9th September and will showcase remarkable achievements, always for the business and University and often impacting widely on significant societal challenges.  The Awards will inspire other businesses to embrace innovation as their route to growth and resilience and will inspire graduates and post-graduates to see the delivery of industrial and commercial innovation as an exciting career.’

75% of applications are from SMEs so this is absolutely is for you – drive innovation through collaboration and benefit from the funding available to support you and your business!

Our Head of Cyber, Ciara Mitchell, authored this article explaining more about the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), with contributions from Gerry Black, Senior Knowledge Transfer Advisor, and Stuart McKay of the KTP Centre at UWS.

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