From inspiration to innovation

Author - Jasmin Brown

Date published:

Whether your business is a start-up, a scale-up or an established company, innovation could play a key role in your long-term success.

If you need help to bring your ideas to life, Newcastle University could provide expertise and support to get you started. The university offers a number of schemes that can benefit businesses, including Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and the Arrow programme.

Mike Capaldi, dean of innovation and business at Newcastle University, says: “At a time when so many businesses are facing huge challenges, universities can play a key role in supporting recovery and growth. “We’re extremely proud of the work we do through KTPs and the Arrow programme, which deliver real benefits to our local economy and the wider business community.”

Read on to find out more about the schemes available and how they’ve made a difference for businesses like yours.

Knowledge transfer partnerships – Gain knowledge directly into your business

If you have an idea for your business, but don’t have all the inhouse expertise you need to develop it, a KTP could help.

The idea of KTPs is to transfer knowledge from world-leading research into businesses to help them expand their capabilities.

This could be a great step to take if you’re looking to develop or create a new process, product or service.

The university identifies and directly employs a KTP associate to work exclusively on the project. KTP associates are overseen by university academics and can help embed knowledge into your business.

Long-term benefits for businesses

As well as helping you to address specific business needs, a KTP could also help you:

• develop innovative business solutions
• increase profits
• gain entry to new markets
• grow new revenue streams

The knowledge created through a KTP is transferred into the business and can help to support long-term profit generation: typically, £250,000 to £750,000 within five years. This distinguishes KTPs from a typical consultancy.

For more than 40 years, KTPs have helped businesses become more competitive and productive through better use of knowledge, technology and skills. The programmes are UK-wide and are part-funded by Innovate UK.

Businesses can choose to partner with a university which has research specialisms in areas relevant to them. They can also undertake further KTPs later down the line.

Case study: Coastal Grains Limited

Coastal Grains Limited (CGL) is a farmer-owned co-operative. It specialises in cleaning, drying, storing and marketing combinable crops for 105 farmer members based in Northumberland, the Scottish Borders and the Tyne Valley.

Gaining knowledge to giving farmers the confidence to diversify

As a co-operative, CGL wanted to fully understand the opportunities for alternative crops that could be financially profitable for its members.

Working in collaboration with Newcastle University, a two-year KTP project was developed to identify and market alternative crops for organic and conventional farmers in the region.

Through the KTP, CGL gained and embedded knowledge including:

• which crops would work, and which would not
• what the full end-to-end requirements would be for crops such as spelt and buckwheat

Gaining knowledge on processing and marketing these products proved to be invaluable in CGL’s business case and decision-making processes.

Ten-fold increase in sales turnover anticipated

The KTP has equipped CGL with the knowledge and ability to diversify, including:

• providing access to niche specialist markets
• establishing new trading partners
• opening new UK supply chains

Following the project, CGL is anticipating seeing a ten-fold increase in sales turnover in alternative crops over the next three-year period.

Graeme Wyld, chief executive of Coastal Grains Limited, says the KTP was “an enriching experience, delivering tangible benefits to all involved.”

Arrow – Innovation support for North East SMEs

Newcastle University’s Arrow programme is designed to make it easier for SMEs and start-ups based in the North East to collaborate with the university and boost innovation.

Arrow provides two routes for SMEs:

• Innovation Catalyst – which provides access to expertise
• Innovation Accelerator – which enables up to £10,000 in match funding to enable projects or purchases

Access to expertise

Getting access to research expertise and facilities can be costly and difficult. The Arrow team can make this much easier, by working with you to co-design a fully-funded project.

Projects can last for anything from a few days for delivering support for your start-up business, to up to three months for a research and development project. Each project is led by an academic and supported by an Arrow innovation associate.

Access to funding

If the intended project needs services and expertise from outside the university, SMEs can access up to £10,000 in match funding. This can be used to buy services or equipment for a research and innovation project from other universities, research institutes or private sector suppliers.

Case Study: Nebula Labs

Nebula Labs is a small technology company based in Newcastle, specialising in mobile app development and bespoke software. They were asked by Cobalt Business Park, in North Tyneside, to automate an annual travel survey of workers, to make it faster, more accurate and more cost-effective.

Access to specialist data skills

Although the Nebula Labs team have a great deal of expertise in digital technologies, they needed to enhance those skills with additional data knowledge to develop the survey app.

Nebula Labs approached Arrow and they were quickly matched with the university’s National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD). The NICD team then worked with Nebula Labs to identify an off-the-shelf model that could be used to analyse the
data. They recommended how it could be adapted and improved with some additional coding.

Dylan McKee, co-founder of Nebula Labs, says: “By gaining expertise from the National Innovation Centre for Data, facilitated through the Arrow scheme, we were able to come up with a really good solution that pushed the boundary of the app side of things and brought in some really intelligent machine learning.”

Discover the benefits for yourself

If you’ve been inspired by the case studies featured here, why not find out how Newcastle University could support your business?

To discover more about developing a KTP, visit
For information about Arrow, visit
If you’ve got an idea for a project and would like to discuss it
further, email [email protected]

Photo credit: NewcastleGateshead Initiative

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