Q&A with KTP Associate: Joe Morecroft

Name: Joe Morecroft

Role: KTP Associate for Extech Cloud

Project details: 2 year project which aimed to develop and implement a transformative and disruptive business innovation strategy. New knowledge was brought into the company from academics from the University of Brighton Business School, via the KTP Associate, Joe.


Why do you think KTPs are important?

It’s beneficial for all three parties – the university, the company and the Associate. The company has access to knowledge from top-tier academics, the university gets access to industry and real challenges, and the Associate benefits from both. Everyone mutually benefits.

How did you find out about the KTP scheme and the job opportunity?

Luck! I was speaking with a family friend, who just so happened to be working with KTPs as one of the academics. She was giving me career advice, and after a while the KTP came up in conversation. It interested me, so I applied and luckily, I was hired!

How did the KTP offer you something different?

The benefit of the KTP is that you have the backing of the University and academics. They help you with evidence-based knowledge, rather than ‘best practice’ myths. It allows you to then apply tools and models in industry and see real outcomes.

How did you use your personal development budget?

I used it for training, notably with a course called Aware Competitive Intelligence and a mini-MBA in Marketing. Both were excellent. The personal development budget was one of the best things about the KTP.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of being an Associate?

The conversations with the academics and learning from them. Spending a few hours each week with both my mentors was hugely beneficial to me and my career. To work with the academics was one of those opportunities that are rarely comes along in life, and I was fortunate enough to have that for two years.

What are you hoping to do next in your career?

Take what I learned from the KTP, improve it and use the experience to continue developing my career.

How would you describe your KTP experience, in three words?

Paul Levy’s biscuits. We could always depend on our lead academic to always bring biscuits to meetings and quarterly reviews to get the discussion going!

Why would you recommend KTP to other graduates?

There are several benefits that come with being a KTP Associate: mentors, personal development budget, university access etc. Use the time wisely to develop yourself and make the most of the benefits that come with being a KTP Associate.


Find out more about being a KTP Associate on the graduate page of our website, or see the business pages for more information on the scheme.

Putting AI to Work – an Associate’s reflections on attending cutting edge AI Conference in New York

By Ajibola Obayemi

Data and Knowledge Systems Developer – KTP Associate

The O’Reilly AI Conference held in June in Manhattan, New York brought together industry pioneers, university experts, and thought leaders to debate, discuss and move thinking forward in one of the most cutting-edge areas in computing: Artificial Intelligence (AI). Attending this Conference and undertaking the training has deepened my knowledge, inspired my thinking and widened my network.

The conference covered two days of training and tutorials and two days of talks, workshops and seminars about applied AI in businesses and the use cases in different industries. As a Data and Knowledge Systems developer with BCMY Ltd and the University of Brighton, I have been tasked with building intelligent systems, optimizing work flow and using technology to facilitate business growth. This conference and the training provided just the right mix of learning, networking and understanding what other businesses are doing, what they are using to do it and how this is positively or negatively affecting their businesses.

The training

There were four different training sessions: Deep learning with TensorFlow, NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute bootcamp, Natural Language processing with Deep Learning and Neural Networks for time series analysis using DeepLearning4j.

The training was hands-on and we worked with a few deep learning frameworks (Caffe2, TensorFlow, Theano, and NVIDIA Digits) and library (Keras). For the most part, we used Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) to solve Image Classification, Image Segmentation and Object Detection problems and used Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN) for modelling timeseries. Using transfer learning we made a model solve a similar problem on a new dataset which the model was not trained for. This is interesting as it means by making some changes and removing the output layer we can use pre-trained models on a new dataset, saving a significant amount of time and resources.

One of the cogent points for me is the clear distinction between training, validation and test datasets. Usually, validation and test datasets are used interchangeably in books and papers but each of these datasets have their uses and should be treated differently. Hyperparameter optimization was key as well, as it affects your learning rate, loss function, momentum and basically your training iterations.


The Conference

After two days of training, the full Conference got underway with some great keynotes from industry pioneers and experts leading significant projects and research in companies such as Google (Google Brain), IBM (IBM Watson), Facebook, NVIDIA, Intel (Intel Nervana), Salesforce and universities such as MIT, UC Berkeley, John Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University. The O’Reilly AI Conference is definitely a key place to network with industry experts. There was also a speed networking event which set the basis for introduction and other non-formal events held after the day was over for attendees to bond outside of the conference.

Several sessions were held with experts showing how they have applied AI and Machine Learning to varying problems. Some of the sessions highlighted the use cases for using AI and Machine Learning in discovering new drugs; discovering cancerous cells; solving eye care issues; predicting faults in machines before they happen, thereby facilitating cost effective preventive maintenance for industries that cannot afford any sort of downtime; cognitive mobile healthcare for patients and physicians; solving financial fraud with Machine Learning; and solving child pornography and human trafficking with AI. Seeing first-hand the diversity of AI applications across such a range of sectors and their impact was inspiring.

Some of the more technical sessions included Deploying AI systems in Edge and Cloud environments; Running TensorFlow at scale in the cloud; Software architectures for building enterprise AI; integrating deep learning libraries with Apache Spark; Recommending products for 1.91 billion people on Facebook; and the AI-powered newsroom.

Certainly, there was a lot to take away from the conference and the blend of these experiences from the training sessions and seminars/ workshops has for me ignited a new way of thinking about problems which can be solved using these Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning techniques.

My project

For my project, the team and I have worked on a model for dynamic product pricing based on historical prices and product performance and I am currently rounding up work on a classifier algorithm for customer classification. With the new skillset, I will be optimizing the product pricing model, predicting demand and using this to generate a demand curve which can be clustered and the effective pricing for each cluster can be applied to products that have not been sold before. I will also be using sentiment analysis to reduce sales cycle and increasing the average negotiation turnaround period. Specifically, deep learning will help facilitate operational efficiency at BCMY Ltd by solving some computer vision tasks and ultimately remove certain constraints experienced at the moment. It is certainly an exciting time for BCMY Ltd as technology continues to play important roles in the service delivery pipeline.

I have the support of an effective team at BCMY Ltd and the University of Brighton and undoubtedly look forward to the coming months and how these implementations will deliver value to both BCMY Ltd and the University of Brighton.

Lastly, a word to take home, “as an Engineer, your focus should be in building your network, increasing the inference accuracy and ensuring your model does not mimic human bias”.

Ajibola Obayemi

Data and Knowledge Systems Developer – KTP Associate

BCMY Ltd and University of Brighton

KTP: Migrating a legacy software system through Architecture Recovery – Nour Ali

Our KTP project is about re-engineering the software system of Travel Places (http://www.travelplaces.co.uk/) and migrating it into a more modernised and structured one that can be more maintainable and adaptable. The system has been developed over the last 20 years by a single developerand it exceeds 400,000 lines of code. Re-engineering the system is critical to the growth of organizations that need to meet clients’ needs, as they request new features, or catch up with the growing demand to use web, mobile and cloud enabled services. However, the migration process is complex as legacy systems are not manageable as often they do not follow a well-defined structure, are not documented, and are implemented in abandoned technologies – for these reasons, the company approached the university as they could not overcome these challenges without specialist expertise and support. Our KTP Proposal was submitted in April, approved in May. We advertised and interviewed over summer and in September our KTP Associate Stelios took up his role as Software Development Architect which involves him leading and delivering the project, supported by myself and Dr Roger Evans.

The project will redesign and redevelop Travel Places’ system into a more structured one that follows well defined architectural patterns and a service oriented architectural style, this involves applying a tool and techniques that I developed during my postdoctoral research. The main two key challenges of the project are: 1) To migrate the system without affecting clients, users and external systems that it interacts with 2) To identify parts of the legacy system which can be reused and other that have to be redeveloped.  To achieve this goal, we are applying software architecture recovery techniques and tools that will allow us to find out how the software is structured, and subsequently define a new software architecture that is based on reusable architectural patterns and services.

For me as a new comer to the UK and as a researcher starting my career, the KTP project allows me to be in contact with a local-based company that provides a real world scenario to apply my research results and validate them. At the same time, this work has inspired my research towards new directions and has given me the opportunity to focus on interesting new case studies. This will help me to demonstrate the impact of my research and reflect continuously on it; I expect to generate publications from the KTP too. From another perspective, the KTP project provides the resources that allow the establishment of a group formed by academic staff, a recent graduate (KTP Associate) and industry staff which creates an excellent research environment to develop and discuss new ideas. Also, the supervision of the KTP Associate is very rewarding as eventually he will become an expert in the area.

I would recommend Knowledge Transfer Partnership projects for academic staff at all different stages of their career. Their flexible nature allows researchers to define short term objectives that can be easily adaptable and realistic.

Travel Places

KTP Team From Left to Right: Dr. Nour Ali-Knowledge Base Supervisor, Mr. Jeffrey Best – Industry Supervisor, Mr. Stelios Moschos- KTP Associate, Dr. Roger Evans- Academic Lead

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.