By Claire West

Demand from UK businesses wishing to get new innovation-led projects off the ground has almost doubled since last year, according to data collected by the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme.

Funded by the Technology Strategy Board, KTP supports business innovation by facilitating collaborative partnerships with further and higher education institutions. The programme received nearly twice the number of applications from businesses in the first part of this financial year compared with 2009/10 — 326 new applications, compared to 177 last year.

The findings demonstrate a significant desire from businesses to invest in future growth, despite on-going economic uncertainty in the UK.

Head of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships at the Technology Strategy Board, Dr Debbie Buckley-Golder, says: “This news is extremely encouraging and demonstrates a clear desire from businesses to innovate and grow in the post-recession era. The number of active KTP projects running for between 1 and 3 years reached 1102 during 2009/10, the largest number ever achieved in the 35-year history of the KTP programme. As a result of the Government money committed to Knowledge Transfer Partnerships during 2009/10, UK businesses now stand to benefit from increased annual profit before tax of around £150m.”

KTP partnerships support the recruitment of a high-calibre graduate to undertake a specific needs-based project in a business, helping to transfer the required skills and expertise from an academic institution which acts as the ‘knowledge base’ in support of the project’s implementa-tion. Projects can vary in length from 1 to 3 years (classic KTP) and from 10-40 weeks (shorter KTP), depending on the needs of the business and the desired outcomes.

One business to already see major benefits from KTP participation is Canyon Europe Ltd in Belfast which specialises in the design and manufacture of innovative trigger sprays and dispensers. They cut their manufacturing costs by 16% and boosted turnover from £9.5m to £12m after collaborating with Queen’s University Belfast on a programme of material substi-tution and the introduction of new technologies to optimise manufacturing processes and reduce waste.

Hugh Ross, Managing Director of Canyon Europe Ltd said: “The KTP allowed us to significantly develop our capabilities, which in turn has grown our market share and transformed the business. It has produced beneficial outcomes beyond our initial goals, established innovative R&D capabilities, and a partnership with Queen’s University is still ongoing on other projects.”

If you would like to take advantage of the skills and funding available through KTP please visit www.ktponline.org.uk or call the KTP helpline on 0870 190 2829.