Across the globe, governments and corporations seek faster and better ways to bridge the innovation gap: to take new ideas out of the labs and lecture rooms of the world of research, and put them to work in companies that can find the applications and the markets to bring them to productive life.

Here in the midst of Oxford’s innovation ecosystem, one approach we find especially useful is a UK government programme that has just turned 40 years old; a British invention that has consistently attracted international interest. It’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, or KTP, and it’s a tried-and-tested, long-refined and recently re-engineered process that offers a sure-fire way to take science into business and make it work.

Take Meta Vision Systems, for example. An early spin-out company from the University of Oxford’s engineering research, it developed a global market for its laser guidance systems for robot welders, used in oil and gas pipelines, space applications, the car industry, and many more. But what if (thought the Meta Vision directors) you could use the onboard camera data not just for guiding the head, but also for assessing the quality of the weld? Vision-based AI that would automatically detect defects ‘on the fly’ would greatly increase the value of the system.

A conversation with the Computer Vision Group at Oxford Brookes University led to a successful bid to the KTP programme, and a two-year project that aims to bring a new product to market. Key to the process is the KTP Associate, a bright and ambitious graduate who is recruited via the university to match the needs of the project, but is based in the company as a member of their team. The Associate is jointly supervised, with the university providing access to the latest research from across the world, and the company giving direction in terms of product development and market needs.

KTP therefore brings together the science and the business in a focused and efficient manner that’s hard to match. All parties are linked into a project with clear, tangible goals, that takes the best research but is based on commercial needs.

It’s perhaps not surprising then that 91% of companies who use the KTP programme say it will be significant to their future performance, or that UK governments of all colours have continued to fund the scheme over decades. Streamlining of the programme this year has also made it more accessible and simpler to operate.

So, if that suggests an opportunity, do please get in touch! You can reach me via [email protected], or call 01865 484204.

John Corlett, KTP Manager, Oxford Brookes University

Oxford Brookes are hosting the Social Robotics and AI Conference