What are Knowledge Transfer Partnerships?

Coming up with a new product, service, or process can often be the catalyst for a successful business.

Sometimes though, a business will lack the in-house expertise to really make the most of their idea.

That’s where Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) can benefit a business.

In this article we discuss what KTPs are, who is eligible to take part in one, and how a business can go about applying.

What are Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)?

Established in 1975 and operated by Innovate UK, KTPs are designed to foster business innovation and growth.

These unique partnerships are collaborative efforts that result in positive impacts and propel innovation.

KTPs serve as a bridge between progressive businesses and the UK's top-tier knowledge bases such as universities and research organisations, facilitating business-led innovation projects.

Each KTP is designed to address a specific and strategic innovation challenge confronting the business partner and the scope of these projects can be expansive.

Presently, KTPs bring together around 800 businesses, 100 knowledge bases, and over 800 graduates.

There are two distinct types of KTPs:

Classic KTPs: These primarily focus on the development of new or improved products and services.

Management KTPs: These are centred around enhancing business processes and building up management capability.

The duration of a KTP project can range from 12 to 36 months, depending on the challenge the partnership is seeking to meet and the business's specific requirements.

The legacy of a KTP though can potentially last years into the future as well as providing shorter term impact.

Who can take part in Knowledge Transfer Partnerships?

A KTP is a partnership comprising:

A UK-based business or organisation

This can be an enterprise of any size, including non-profit entities such as social enterprises, charities, and certain public sector organisations.

Within the framework of a KTP, these participants are consistently referred to as 'the business'.

The business will have to have the financial capacity to part-fund the running of the KTP.

A registered knowledge base

This could be an educational institution like a university or college, a research and technology organisation, or a Catapult group in the UK.

A graduate with suitable qualifications

These individuals should have the ability to spearhead a strategic business project.

This structure ensures a balanced and productive partnership, harnessing the strengths of each participant to foster innovation and growth.

What are the advantages of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership for a business?

There are a number of advantages for businesses taking part in KTPs including:

Boosting innovation

It can help to incorporate expertise, stimulate the creation of new knowledge, enhance capabilities, and promote a culture of innovation within your company.

A competitive edge

KTPs can facilitate a competitive edge through expedited innovation and the potential formation of Intellectual Property.

Access to centres of innovation

They grant cost-effective and exclusive access to the UK’s premier knowledge base and resources, thus enriching your business with top-tier information and tools.

Enhancing profitability

KTPs could boost your revenue and profits by enabling access to new markets, fostering new product development, enhancing productivity, and refining processes.

Strategic insights

Your business can also gain from the strategic insights of a highly experienced Knowledge Transfer Adviser who can provide expert guidance and support.

How are Knowledge Transfer Partnerships funded?

A KTP is a program that is partially financed through grants with the rest funded by a cash payment from the business involved.

The average KTP project provides a support package valued between £80,000 and £100,000 annually.

This funding covers various expenses such as:

  • remuneration for the academic team
  • cost of project consumables
  • the associate's salary
  • expenses for mentoring, training, and development
  • travel and subsistence costs

The percentage of costs covered by the KTP grant depends on several factors including the size of the business, the type of group involved, and the chosen knowledge base.

Generally, the grant rates are:

  • 75% of project costs for non-profit businesses of all sizes
  • 67% of project costs for micro, small, and medium-sized businesses
  • 50% of project costs for large businesses and public sector organisations
  • Businesses are required to finance the remaining project costs, although they may be eligible for research and development (R&D) tax relief to offset some of these expenses.

To see if their business is eligible for R&D tax relief, business owners should consult with their accountant or seek other professional advice.

The categorisation of your business size is determined by several factors, including:

  • number of employees
  • turnover
  • location
  • whether your business is part of a group of businesses
  • evidence of charitable status (if applicable)
  • evidence of public sector status (if applicable)
  • These specifics will be discussed in more detail during the application process.

How does a business apply to become part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership?

KTPs are awarded competitively to the best projects and this is done on a competition round basis.

A successful application will be one that can demonstrate that their project will have sufficient impact, innovation, challenge and cohesiveness.

Every application for a KTP must be spearheaded by a knowledge base, in collaboration with a business.

If you have an existing relationship with a knowledge base, or if you have identified a specific knowledge base you wish to partner with for a KTP, it is recommended that you develop your application in conjunction with the KTP office of that organisation.

However, if you're interested in participating in a KTP but haven't yet identified a suitable knowledge base partner, you should reach out to the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN).

The KTN will:

  • Evaluate the feasibility of your proposed idea and provide feedback on its suitability for a KTP
  • Assist you in establishing connections with potential knowledge base partners who can help you develop a robust KTP application.
    Creating an application for a KTP can take a considerable amount of time and close collaboration between the business and the knowledge base.

The finalised application must be submitted exclusively by the knowledge base.

Every application benefits from the assistance of a Knowledge Transfer Adviser, appointed by Innovate UK.

This adviser offers guidance to both the knowledge base and the business throughout the application process and, should the application be successful, will continue to advise the business for the duration of the KTP.

To ensure fair support to all projects, the adviser may establish milestones during the application's development.

For a comprehensive review of projects funded by Innovate UK, you can delve into the organisation’s transparency data available online.

This allows you to gain insights into how Innovate UK allocates funding and supports businesses.

All applications are judged by an expert group of assessors and successful applicants can expect to hear within 12 weeks after the competition closing date.

If your application for a KTP is successful you should then receive a formal grant offer letter either from Innovate UK or another government co-funder.

A full list of current opening and closing dates for both classic KTP and Management KTP can be found on Gov.UK’s Innovation Competitions webpage.

What is a KTP Associate?

Upon acceptance of the grant offer, recruitment for a graduate with the expertise required to lead the project (usually a Master’s or PhD), can begin.

These graduates are known within KTPs as Associates and every Associate is given dedicated guidance and a development budget to support training:

  • specifically required for the project to succeed
  • that aids in the all-round development of the associate.
  • In addition, the Knowledge Transfer Advisor will also provide mentoring, coaching, and professional development to the Associate.

KTP Associate positions are publicised by the knowledge base, and those who are selected will enter into an employment contract with this institution.

However, the primary workspace will be the participating business.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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