Instigating change with KTP – Paul Levy

“Who guards the guards?” – so goes the old saying. Companies can become very set in their ways, valuing stability over change and innovation. Indeed, they can become gatekeepers of the status quo and often that is where a KTP can really make a difference.

A KTP team (comprising 2 or more academics and a graduate, known as the KTP Associate, who is specifically appointed to lead a project) can bring fresh eyes on a stable situation, often a situation that needs to change. For those eyes to be clear and be able to reflect observation objectively, a process of triangulation can be vital. An Associate has one foot in the world of industrial and business practice, one foot in academia. The KTP academic team can provide an objectivity check for the Associate who becomes immersed in the problems and challenges of the organisation.

Often a company has reached a point where it is restless for change and innovation. It recognises that some aspects of the status quo are not serving the organisation. In a current KTP with Plastica Limited, Associate Sam Ekton is bringing new thinking, creativity and practical ideas to bear on new product innovation. Guided by the academic  team, the KTP Associate scrutinises the traditional way of doing things, collects data, interrogates the situation and begins to experiment with “newness” – new practices, new philosophies, new product ideas.

Quickly the Associate becomes immersed in the situation and there’s a danger that this immersion degrades the useful external perspective that the Associate brings as a new outsider. That’s where regular check-ins with the university supervisors come in, who ensure knowledge is transferred by offering some guided reading, proposing strategies/methodologies, questioning assumptions and looking li for evidence to justify any interventions in the business. The academic perspective looks for logical action, for different perspectives, and for reflection on practice. I also personally benefit as I learn from what is unfolding and can take lessons and new ideas back into university practice – in my case, research and education – this being the intended academic outcome for any KTP.

That works less well when the Associate doesn’t experience the academic element as vital to maintaining objectivity and enhancing thinking with research. In our case, there’s a healthy dialogue between myself as KTP Lead Academic, Mark Milne (Senior Lecturer, School of Computing Engineering and Mathematics) as KTP Academic Supervisor and Sam as KTP Associate. Conversations are not always easy. We look for evidence and rationale to back up Sam’s intended challenges and interventions as an agent of change at Plastica. We ask tough questions and also confirm action with established ideas in the literature and our own research base. We help Sam to challenge the status quo and also his own assumptions. Sam, in turn, brings healthy disruption to established modes of thinking and practice in the company. Why do we still do things in that way? What if we changed this process and simplified it?

The disrupter, the shifter of mind sets, the Associate does not always get an easy ride from managers who sometimes guard the status quo for good reasons and do not want change for change’s sake. So, the Associate must prove his case, with a pilot project, establishing an evidence-based case for urgency, as well as some demonstrable quick wins.

So, the Associate brings challenge and ensures the guards aren’t guardians of ‘un-change’ for its own sake. The Associate disrupts in favour of needed innovation – to product and process. The wider academic team guards the Associate, deepening his or her thinking, encouraging objectivity, and ensuring that change is rooted in reason and makes sense for the company. The result? Discomfort. Frowns. But also bottom-line benefits, new capability and learning.

As a lead academic I particularly enjoy the discussion of ideas at the core of the Associate’s project. It is also rewarding to see beneficial change happening before my eyes. Communication is at its best when there is a healthy and regular flow of questions, ideas, concept challenge and practical suggestions, so it’s important to keep this going.

Sam and I have recently presented a paper together based on the early KTP work. A learning experience for both of us – ideal!


Paul Levy

Paul Levy is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Research in Innovation Management (CENTRIM) at the University of Brighton.


KTP in the charity sector – Veronica Malley


During my KTP Project, I was the Retail Development Manager for St Wilfrid’s Hospice Trading Company and the University of Brighton, where I was responsible for the development of an innovative retail strategy which aimed to increase the revenue in eight shops and online stores, generated in order to support the work of the Hospice.

Just to name a few of the highlights from my project I will start from the beginning; receiving management accreditation from the Ashorne Hill Management College in the first 6 months of my time at St Wilfrid’s allowed me to really understand my position and keep on top of my objectives. The opportunity to gain extensive experience leading a project team, motivating shop managers and working alongside senior managers in a retail environment that was and definitely still is a fast paced and rapidly changing will forever remain with me as much more than simply ‘a job.’

It was so satisfying to change people’s perceptions about charity retail and I still find myself talking people into sustainable fashion. There were many challenges that I had faced in this project like at any organisation budgets are tight and one is forced to think creatively about how to make the most from what you have. I was so lucky to have such an open minded organisation to work for who were so willing to support the KTP and our ideas. We managed to get £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to open a completely new concept shop called Rotate, which opened on the principal high street in Eastbourne this past June.

Working on tight deadlines and managing many different projects at one time, going from refitting shops one week to presenting a workshop on branding to the charity’s board of directors the next, I learned what it meant to work under pressure and still maintain control over all the situations at hand. Bringing new ideas to the table during monthly management meetings and motivating a team of shop managers was an essential part of my job and one that I loved doing.

Learning throughout the project from my academic supervisors Harvey Ells and Chris Dutton from the University of Brighton’s School of Service Management, by the end of the project I was advising on all decisions regarding shop design, visual merchandising and store layouts. To do this I had to manage close relationships with printers, designers and industry professionals including other business development managers, start-up companies and wholesalers. All this work led to making positive strides forward and in one year we managed to raise our turnover by 29%.

I would now consider myself a creative manager and one of the great benefits that has come out of the project was the close relationships I made with the University of Brighton and St Wilfrid’s. Recently, I have moved to London and am now working as a Marketing Coordinator for a Film school, where I am using many of the skills I developed during my time as a KTP Associate. I am in no doubt that the experience I gained and the fact I had demonstrated my ability to take responsibility contributed to me getting this role and taking my next step on the career ladder.

The KTP project gave me the opportunity to grow and the nurturing and support of my work from all those involved will stay with me for the rest of my career. I would tell future KTP’s to always do their research before committing to the project and once they have to just jump right in and appreciate every chance that the scheme gives you. It was a wonderful time in my life which I will always cherish.

Veronica Malley, St Wilfrids Hospice KTP


How KTP launched my career – Jugal Desai

My KTP project was with Dando Drilling International, a company with over 146 years’ experience in the design, manufacture and sales of water well, mineral exploration, geotechnical and GHP drilling rigs and equipment. My KTP project was about integrating the supply chain and enhancing the product development process at Dando in order to strategically support the company in becoming more competitive.


My primary role was to lead and manage strategic change at the company. No matter how simple this sounds I believe that what I did is equivalent to most of the tasks that are done by strategic management teams. I not only had to lead a change but also work with the top management to define the vision for it and, with the help of , construct the path to push it forward and engage staff with the process to ensure buy-in. The major work then for me and the company managers was to make everyday operations hassle-free. My work involved all the aspects of the business viz. creative designing, decision making, implementing, analysis, networking, making etc. What I did has helped to develop an in-depth understanding of the engineering business and its management. Therefore, I call KTP  a good ‘Learning-By-Doing’ programme for aspiring engineering and/or management executives and I believe this is the KTP’s ‘Unique Selling Point’.


Overcoming the challenges

Like every change project, the key challenge in our project was to motivate and drive the project stakeholders towards a successful change. To gain their trust and confidence was one of the biggest challenges. UoB helped me in realising the fact that the Law of Engineering Attraction is Innovation – people are attracted towards innovative products, processes and promotions so this is what we used to overcome the challenges. We designed and demonstrated an innovative system and process and promoted it with an innovative flair which helped us in gaining trust and confidence and to develop positive curiosity for change among stakeholders.


What I’m doing now

My KTP ended in April 2014 having fulfilled all its objectives and delivered a great impact for Dando. This was reflected in the final report which was graded ‘outstanding’. Post KTP, I was employed by Dando as Operations Manager.  As rightly quoted by Benjamin Franklin, “without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” One of the biggest tasks of my current role is to keep on finding this meaning and implementing it. My current role looks strategically at identifying, designing and implementing a business operational change which supports future growth. At the same time, the role involves fulfilling current demands successfully.


The benefits of being a KTP Associate

I believe that “To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge” – UoB and Dando have helped me in finding “what I know and what I do not know”. I undertook training, professional qualifications and, most importantly, received moral support which has significantly impacted on my knowledge and experience. At the same, I had a platform to implement this knowledge in the real world. This I believe is one of the biggest benefits of being a KTP Associate. I was part of a top-management decision making process and at the same time I was a learner. This ‘Learning-By-Doing’ principle of KTP is the biggest benefit that an Associate can gain early in their career.

Jugal Desai during filming for the Dando Drilling KTP video case study 

Jugal Desai during filming for the Dando Drilling KTP video case study


Jugal Desai, Design Operations Engineer at Dando Drilling International



Streamlining processes with KTP – Derek Covill

What it’s about

Earlier this year, we completed our KTP project with Dando Drilling International which was an exciting project that generated lots of new knowledge and processes within the company and that provided some great case studies for my teaching. The project went from strength to strength and the success shone through as the project was recently awarded the highest mark for KTP, a grade A (Outstanding) and Jugal our Associate was shortlisted as a Business Leader of Tomorrow. We published a paper in the 2013 KTP Associates Conference on the supply chain integration work we did with local suppliers, and are in the process of publishing an academic paper on the design of bespoke data management tools. The project has of course had its share of ups and downs; there were times where the company have had all hands on deck to deliver an order on time and times when I was super busy with marking, but other times there was great fusion between the academic and company staff which ultimately delivered great solutions.


A bit of background

Dando are based locally in Littlehampton and are the only designers, manufacturers and sellers of water and mineral drilling rigs in the UK – and they’ve been going for over 140 years! The project was set up to implement new design processes and to improve supply chain management in their products – a very exciting project with a very impressive company. We were really keen to work with Dando for a number of reasons; because of their clear expertise in engineering design, their keen enthusiasm for innovation, their relatively close proximity to the University, and their all-round approachable nature.  They were keen to work with us in order to bring in some fresh thinking, some engineering design expertise that they could draw on and some supply chain integration knowledge which they could apply both internally and to their own supply chain.


The project team

The project team included Jugal Desai (Design Operations Engineer and KTP Associate), Erik Dalley (Operations Director and Company Supervisor), Martin Fitch-Roy (Managing Director and KTP chairman), Gina Fitch-Roy (Finance Director), Dr Mark Jones (Faculty Academic Director), Dr Kaiming She (Senior Lecturer in Hydraulics, Coastal and River Engineering), and me (Dr Derek Covill – Senior Lecturer in Engineering and Product Design.


What we achieved

Key outcomes in the project have been:

  • The development of a bespoke Dando Design Data Management system (D3M) to support, track and respond to the internal flow of design and decision data. This has been extended throughout the company and is linked with the company’s Materials Requirement Planning (MRP) software. It’s also being tailored to work with suppliers, to allow for the most impactful integration of the supply chain.
  • An insightful supply chain analysis of key suppliers to see what changes the company can make to their relationship with their suppliers in order to have the most impact on the flow of information and the streamlining of processes.
  • Operations tracking analysis – since there are many logistical balls to juggle at one time on any one order, operations tracking has helped to support internal decision making and identify sticking points which has streamlined internal processes and speeded up time to delivery.
  • Attendance at the 2013 and 2014 KTP Associate’s conferences in Brighton were a great chance for us all to get out of the office, network with others (we made some great links with companies who can help a) me with my teaching, and b) Dando with their software) and it was also a great chance to show off our wonderful KTP Associate and for him to realise how much we value him. At the most recent Conference, Jugal wowed the audience with his passion for KTP as keynote speaker.
  • 12 successful student projects at the company which added value to the project as wel as providing our students with a great opportunity to hone their skills within a company. Such was their success that the projects resulted in 2 excellent University of Brighton graduate engineers being employed on a full time basis at Dando Drilling.


In summary

The KTP with Dando provided a great opportunity for me to integrate my teaching and run student projects with live projects that were aligned with the needs and interests of the company. The students were able to get valuable feedback from the engineers and management at Dando who went out of their way to support the projects throughout.  A publication is in the offing and we have evidence of impact for the next REF. The whole KTP project was a pleasure to be a part of; I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Dando, but also looking forward to my next KTP!


Why do we need a KTP week?

Part of my role as KTP Manager involves going out and about talking to companies who are looking to engage with the university. I’ve been doing this for 5 years and I can count on one hand the number of times I have come across a company who has actually heard of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships before meeting me.  This is surprising as the scheme has being going for almost 40 years and at this moment in time there are over 700 programmes live across the UK. The longevity of the programme, its results (the 2013 annual report states that on average a KTP project generates £62k profit in-programme, projects a £550k increase in profits post-programme and creates 4 new jobs) and a grant rate of up to 67% make KTP very attractive to a company needing to access expertise to grow their business, so we need to raise awareness in the business community. Here at Brighton we’re focusing on sharing stories of KTP success with businesses, academics and graduates, the three essential partners in a KTP, hoping that examples will resonate with business owners and encourage them to consider engaging with their local university via KTP.

Welcome to the KTP blog!


Welcome to the KTP Centre blog!

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) team runs the University of Brighton’s successful KTP programme – a national government scheme which provides up to 67% grant funding to enable companies to become more innovative, competitive and profitable by engaging in knowledge transfer with universities. On this blog, we’ll be sharing news, case studies and information on upcoming KTP events. With National KTP Week coming up in November (3rd-7th), there’s never been a better time to find out about the benefits of being involved in KTP.