I was a KTP Associate between 2010 and 2012 with the University of Brighton and Mooncup Ltd. The project involved developing a new product for Mooncup and a new product development process to allow them to continue to methodically develop products, marketing campaigns and packaging after I had finished the 27 month project. As a product design engineering graduate, this job was an excellent opportunity to use my new qualification and skills in a real project within both industry and a university setting.
My project in particular included a wide multi-disciplinary team at the university because of the complexities of researching and designing the product. Mooncup, who sell an environmentally friendly alternative to disposable tampons and sanitary towels, wanted to expand their product range in order to appeal to slightly different market. The several elements involved in designing this product meant the project required a team of academics to reflect the potential areas this product could develop into, this included Textiles, Marketing, Science and Design. Between the university who could provide expertise in all of these areas, and Mooncup’s knowledge of the market and their customers, we had lots of useful and valuable information to help me deliver the project.
I uncovered a wealth of information in working with so many academics, however it also meant that time was often limited and though the meetings were very insightful, it was often hard to break down the information which would help me develop real solutions. Occasionally because of this, focus on the product and the timescale of the project became unaligned and I needed to re-focus my work. I overcame this challenge by using a project time line which helped me to see what needed to be achieved in the short and long term, broken down into manageable tasks. This challenge also helped me develop as a project manager; I began to assess more carefully when I needed information and advice from certain academics rather than communicating with them on a regular basis.
The other learning curve for me was discovering the complexities in producing a textiles product in the UK using sustainable and environmentally friendly materials. As the textiles industry in the UK has declined over the last few decades, there were a limited number of manufacturers who were able to help develop the product for larger scale manufacture. As the materials also proved difficult to source locally, which was an important aspect for Mooncup, I adapted my approach in order to find materials as close to home as possible.
BENEFITS OF KTP
The benefits of working on a KTP project for the product meant the outcome was well rounded and all options had been considered – in using the experience, insight and knowledge of the university academics and the company’s employees, the whole project was much richer than it would have been if I had been an individual working alone.
Another benefit to working on a KTP project for me was having a very generous personal development budget on top of my salary. This was hugely important for me as it gave me the opportunity to undertake training in areas I had little or no experience in.
As a first job after graduating, I found the support from both the university and the company extremely encouraging throughout the project. Managing a 27-month project for the first time was quite a daunting task but having not only support from the project team but support also from the KTP team and advisors gave me the confidence to run the project successfully. Having regular project meetings helped me structure the product development process to ensure I was meeting deadlines.
I’m working on a few ventures at the moment; developing the family farm business and also setting up various ‘food swap’ events in Scotland. Working through the challenges and successes of the KTP project, I have gained experience which has set me up for future employment and I hope that one day soon I will be running my own business!
Sally Darbyshire, Mooncup KTP Project