A new multi-million pound package of funding for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships between universities and businesses is a significant boost to the Northern Ireland economy, it was claimed today.
Tim Brundle, Director of Innovation at the University of Ulster, welcomed the announcement by Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster that £13 million will be injected into the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme in Northern Ireland over the next five years.
The UK-wide initiative supports businesses that want to improve their competitiveness, productivity and performance by helping them to access the knowledge and expertise available within local universities and further educational colleges.
The University of Ulster is one of the main providers of KTPs in Northern Ireland and is ranked in the Top 10 of UK Knowledge Transfer performers out of 156 institutions.
Ulster has been involved in over 200 KTPs in various industrial sectors throughout Northern Ireland including engineering, food, manufacturing and service.
Mr Brundle said: “The University of Ulster is pleased to welcome a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership fund for Northern Ireland.
“The fund will accelerate the diffusion of University knowledge into the economy, resulting in new innovative products. It will build competitive advantage within our client companies and also create jobs.”
KTP programmes are designed to help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity by placing a University graduate within a company.
Graduates play a key role in managing and implementing strategic or tactical developments in companies and transferring knowledge between the business and the University.
Graduate Associates are mentored by one or more academics from Ulster.
Mr Brundle added: “The University plays an important role in the development of the economy and is committed to sharing the vast knowledge of its staff and students, gained through world-class research activity and excellence in teaching.
“Alongside our state-of-the-art learning resources, our high-calibre staff nurture an environment where knowledge is created, tested and shared with enthusiasm and commitment.”
In 2010 the University of Ulster and James Leckey Design Ltd won the UK Best Partnership at the KTP Awards.
They worked together to develop a range of accredited clinical training and education programmes for internal customer service staff, helping the business to become a centre of clinical excellence in the development of postural management equipment for children with special needs.
In this latest round of funding, Invest Northern Ireland will contribute £7.2million of funding over the next five years. With additional input from the Technology Strategy Board, a business-led government body and other KTP Sponsors, total funding could amount to £13 million.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “Northern Ireland businesses are increasingly aware of the value of collaboration and the rewards it can bring.
“KTPs help get the best minds working together to solve problems, respond to challenges and spark creativity, thus stimulating growth and helping to drive future economic prosperity.
“As well as helping businesses add value to their products, services and operations, the programme will also enable Northern Ireland’s knowledge institutions to engage in applied research which is relevant to the needs of the local economy.”
Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: “KTP supports innovation-led, three-way partnerships between businesses, academic institutions and Graduate Associates. It is the leading knowledge exchange programme in Europe and there is clear evidence of a continued demand for it in Northern Ireland.
“The benefits of KTPs to companies include enabling the development and introduction of new products, entry into new markets, improved quality, operations and management processes as well as increased sales and profitability. It is an integral part of the Technology Strategy Board’s overall strategy and range of programmes to support businesses on their innovation journey.”
Further details are available from http://www.ktponline.org.uk
Caption: Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has announced a multi-million pound funding package for the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme in Northern Ireland.Pictured with the Minister are (l-r): Professor Hugh McKenna, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), University of Ulster, Iain Gray, CEO of TSB, Tim Brundle, Director of Innovation, University of Ulster and Dr Debbie Buckley-Golder, Head of Knowledge Exchange, TSB.