Charlotte Ashley-Roberts transfers her knowledge about knowledge transfer

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts looks at career opportunities in the UK’s Knowledge Transfer Networks

Q  I currently work in industry and am looking to use my technical knowledge in a different way. Do you know of any jobs that would be suitable for me? I have heard there might be options for me in a ’KTN’, but I’m not sure what that is. 

A In answer to your question, one option is working for KTNs (Knowledge Transfer Networks). These are UK networks in a specific field of technology or business application. A KTN brings together people from universities, research and business along with finance and technology organisations, to share knowledge and ideas in order to promote innovation. 

KTNs span a whole range of industries and sectors from pharmaceuticals to transport to materials. They were established and are funded by the government, industry and academia to drive knowledge into and out of communities; think of them as a bridge between the two. 

According to the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB): ’The objective of a Knowledge Transfer Network is to improve the UK’s innovation performance by increasing the breadth and depth of the knowledge transfer of technology into UK-based businesses and to accelerate the rate at which this process occurs.’ You can find out more about the TSB on their website.

Chemistry innovation 

There is a specific KTN for chemistry innovation established in 2006 to stimulate and support product and process innovation in UK chemistry.  

The aim of the KTN is to deliver strategy and support for stakeholders and to facilitate knowledge transfer through events and networking opportunities on a national and regional basis to focus on a common innovation agenda. KTNs drive partnerships and collaborations with other UK and European organisations involved in the delivery of innovation services to ensure a coherent approach with industry/academia in defining and funding the delivery of innovation projects. Their activities have raised over ?1 billion of value for UK plc. 

There are also Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). These are three-way projects between a graduate, an organisation and a university/research organisation/further education institution (known as the ’knowledge base’). The graduate is placed into a business to work on innovation projects and is given company-based training at the same time as delivering results for the business. There are graduate schemes available, see their website for more details.  

KTPs enable companies to obtain knowledge, technology or skills which they consider to be of strategic competitive importance, from the further/higher education sector or from a research and technology organisation. The knowledge sought is embedded into the company through a project or projects undertaken by a good quality individual recruited for the purpose to work in the company. 

Where to look 

Knowledge transfer is a relatively new profession but there are lots of places supporting it where you can find more information, including: 

  • The Institute of Knowledge Transfer
  • The Research Councils
  • University Innovation Centres

I hope this has explained a bit more about what a KTN is and what it does. You may now of course be wondering what this means for you. What skills do you need?

You will need 

  • To have a technical background in the area you are looking at moving into 
  • The ability to develop effective relationships with internal and external stakeholders at all levels 
  • To work independently and collaboratively 
  • To work to tight deadlines and manage conflicting priorities 
  • To have a good understanding of the role of knowledge in supporting innovation
  • Ideally, experience of business development at the academic-industry interface 
  • Project planning and management skills 
  • To be an effective communicator, presenter and facilitator  

You can find positions through universities, job boards and specific sites for graduates. You could also think about working for the bodies themselves eg. TSB, CIKTN and the RSC.