A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) is a UK government scheme between a graduate, an organisation and a university. KTP has been successfully running for over 40 years and has become one of the largest graduate recruitment programmes across the UK.
Recently, Aston's Business Partnership Unit caught up with previous KTP Associate Lorna Everall to see how the project had influenced her career. Lorna began her KTP project with Smart Fibres Ltd in 1999.
How did you hear about the opportunity? I was doing a PhD at Aston University, and Professor Ian Bennion who was my professor at the time, who then became my TCS supervisor, introduced me to the TCS, I’d never considered it before, but I loved the idea that it was about taking research that I’d already done for my PhD and creating a real world product and as a result working with businesses as well as still having that link with research and the university. I am a huge advocate of PhDs and KTPs as they are called now!
How would you summarise the project that you worked on? It was challenging at the beginning, because it was effectively my first experience of the real world of work and I was actually working for a small company, so I felt like I was the expert, and everybody looking to me, which was exciting but slightly nerve racking. The guidance and support of the university behind me made me feel like I wasn't actually on my own: that was a real benefit to me.
What was your specific role in the project? I was the ‘Applications Engineer’ within the organisation but my role was essentially to take some research that was done at Aston University for the development of a novel structural monitoring system. Our ultimate aim was to create a commercially viable product for the company (Smart Fibres).
Previously, I was doing my PhD around strain monitoring, using fibre optic technology, which hadn’t been used really in a commercial environment. I was effectively taking something which worked in the laboratory, and trying to make it into a product that was small, lightweight, waterproof, shockproof and affordable which then businesses would use in the real world.
What did you achieve throughout your time working on this project? I did my KTP 14 years ago now, and that product is now still being commercially sold, (albeit in a slightly refined format); that for me is a huge achievement!
The most memorable, and proudest, moment for me was when we featured on BBC Science based TV programme, “Tomorrow’s World”, demonstrating how the optical fibre strain systemworked. It’s amazing that I could proudly say that the hard work that I had been involved with managed to get television acclaim.
What did you enjoy about working on this project? I had very diverse experiences beyond the technical aspects of the project. These included working with suppliers, marketing, exhibitions and presentations to a non-technical audience. TCS helped me shape the direction of my career.
What did you find most challenging about the project? I think it was when there were times where I had to speak up to the suppliers, who are far more experienced far more senior, but ultimately I knew that I wanted the best for the project, that was quite a challenge.
Did the project meet your expectations? Yes, and because I got involved in so many different aspects it exceeded my expectations. I felt that at the end of the project we had done what we set out to do: commercialise the product. We’d also looked at different markets for the product, and had done some marketing.
At the beginning thought it would be very technical, but the experience I had was much broader than that, so I felt I also developed lots of commercial skills.
What impact did this have on your career? I think it significantly had influence on my career. Absolutely!
Following that I carried on doing technical development, then subsequently I went back on to working at a university and part of the Business Development Team at Coventry University for the last 10 years. My job is to help academics bid for research funding and actually secure a KTP for themselves. I work closely with businesses and go out and speak to companies and bring them into the university. It is predominantly as a result of the KTP that I have been able to work with PhD students and academics, as I can say I’ve “been there and done that” and know what to expect.
What would be your advice to a graduate who hasn’t taken part in a project with industry before? Ultimately, I thought it was a fabulous experience! I would highly recommend it to people. It’s a fantastic next step, and as I’ve said you get the best of both worlds: you get established in industry, as well with the support and backing from the university.
I absolutely loved my time there!
To find out more about how your business can benefit from a KTP, or how you can become an Associate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 204 4242.