Retail KTP boosting the charity sector – Harvey Ells

Myself and Chris Dutton (a fellow retail academic) are three quarters of the way though our most recent retail KTP. This time, we are working with St Wilfrid’s Hospice (Eastbourne) but have previously had successful partnerships with The Seafood Restaurant (Padstow) Ltd (better known as Rick Stein’s) (Retail and Hospitality), Pordum Foods Ltd (Hot food vending) and Spring Barn Farm near Lewes (Farm Shop start-up.) final quarter is always an exciting time in these ESRC/ Innovate UK (previously TSB) funded projects as the first year is very much about implementation and systems. By comparison, in the second year we then move in to intensify the knowledge transfer components and finely tune the retail management and marketing elements. The second year also allows us to measure and reflect on the range of benefits that we can leave the organisation with and identify what each of the project partners have learned from the process.


Why retail needs knowledge transfer

Most owner/managers as retailers are passionate about what they do and have great ideas and ambition for growth, but at times, their entrepreneurship and drive doesn’t readily translate into mainstream retail merchandising, new product development (NPD) or marketing strategies. This is where we can provide the expertise. By combining our work experience with the academic elements, including Retail BA and MSc teaching we have found that we can help the SMEs that we work with to do things better for their customers, ultimately making more profit as a result. What is also particularly pleasing is that increasingly, the UK Government is recognising the value of a quality retail offer to the national economy whether it be from a multiple, SME or start-up business perspective. Last year there was a specific ESRC call for retail KTPs as a result.


Successes and achievements

These projects are not for the faint-hearted as they do require a lot of planning and if you get it wrong it can have serious consequences for the businesses you are working with. That said, because Chris and I understand the retail mind-set, talk lots about retail and love a challenge (and there are plenty!) we have never found it to be a problem. In fact, KTP gives us a real buzz, whether it be from a new initiative, a good set of sales figures or provision of a general highlight to incorporate into our teaching. We’ve achieved the top ‘A’ grade for all of our completed retail partnerships to date, this being a real achievement for the university and our course profiles. KTPs also give us raw materials to publish from which we are getting better at over time. The university also runs a yearly KTP Associates conference that allows us to network with the KTP community and update them on our activities.


Making a difference to the classroom

Knowledge transfer is not a consultancy exercise – it’s a mutually beneficial three-way partnership between the company, the university and the Associate. Our experience of working on KTPs has given us lots of new material to incorporate in to our teaching, even to the point where we ask students to write a case study application centred on the outline bid process, as part of our Level 5 undergraduate Retail Management in Action Module. The students find this novel pedagogic delivery which is more aligned to working in collaboration in industry to be a challenge ….but it works! Having this timetabled at the end of the second year really pulls together the content of the first 2 years of their studies in preparation either for their critical final year or their time out on placement. Our External examiners regularly highlight this as a good example of best practice.


 The Partnerships

The other great thing about KTP is that you get to work with a load of really interesting specialists whether it be the KTP Advisors, the University of Brighton KTP Centre or the company partners. But the most important group that we work with are the recently qualified graduate Associates, who make up the backbone of KTP. They are amazing individuals, with loads of energy and ideas – we reckon that KTP gives them the equivalent of 5 year’s mainstream retail experience condensed into a traditional 2 year KTP project. A good Associate is a key ingredient in making a project successful. Once the project is complete, they go on to do really great things, often with the company partner, which is why we always prompt our final year students to think about KTPs as their first graduate destination.


In Summary

It’s never been so good to get out of the office… give a KTP a try!


Harvey Ells, Principal Lecturer in Retail and Food Studies






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!