Wed 9 Feb 22
The University of Essex is lighting the way for business collaborations as it shines a light on the help and support it can give to help companies grow through innovation.
A new video campaign launching today highlights how the path to business innovation can feel obscured at times, but with the support of university expertise and funding, businesses can grow faster and smarter. The aim is to drive greater awareness for the guidance and support available to companies across Essex and the UK.
It launches as Essex reveals it has now supported over 100 Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), worth around £20m, with businesses across the country since 2001 – with over half being delivered in the last five years.
Rob Walker, Head of Business Engagement at the University of Essex, said: “As we say in our new campaign, a business is never really finished. It can always be better. Smarter. Faster. At Essex we’re here to partner with companies of all sizes across the country to share our university expertise to help businesses thrive.
“The opportunities we offer for business collaboration are always closely connected to the Government’s national industrial strategy and this has been rapidly developing in recent months. UK Research and Innovation and Innovate UK recently set out their Plan for Action for Business Innovation and 10 Year National AI Strategy – offering research hungry firms and collaborative universities some clarity over their priorities and vision. This is good news, with significant funding expected to flow towards technology, diversity, health and more crucially added business-value across 2022. Our teams will continue to watch this space and help businesses find the right path for them.”
From Innovate UK funded Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and Smart Grants to Innovation Vouchers, Corporate Partnership Funds, consultancy and collaborative research, the University is committed to helping find the right solution for businesses to flourish.
Essex has an incredibly successful track record for delivering innovative and disruptive projects with industry, and is announcing three new KTPs worth over £850,000 with national health specialist Newcross Healthcare Solutions, alongside Essex-based global logistics company Simarco and Brightstar Financial. The KTPs are supported by funding from Innovate UK, the UK research and innovation agency – part of UK Research and Innovation.
The University’s dedicated Research Enterprise Office helps businesses find the best pathway for innovation, with Essex’s teams of researchers perfectly placed to support organisations through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes and services.
Dr Robert Singh, Director of Research Enterprise Office at Essex said: “Our experts have years of experience in working with businesses and organisations of all sizes, regionally, nationally and internationally. Companies have the opportunity to draw on knowledge from our 700 academic experts and gain access to specialist consultants to support their business needs.
“Our researchers can find solutions to meet any business challenges brought to us, and our fields of expertise continue to grow. In February we are launching our new Institute for Public Health and Wellbeing, which will see our researchers pushing boundaries, reaching across disciplines and providing authoritative research, policy recommendations and insights to improve lives.”
Professor Tracy Lawson from Essex’s School of Life Sciences said: “As an academic, business collaborations give us the opportunity to see how our ideas can make a real difference to real-world problems.
“It’s an amazing experience working directly with industry as we’re able to demonstrate how our research can be truly transformative when applied to business challenges. It showcases the value of fresh thinking for a company as they look to grow.”
Essex students also feel the benefit from the University’s ongoing business collaborations through work placements and employment opportunities. Essex KTPs have led to 26 KTP Associates – talented graduates or postgraduates who project manage the KTPs – being permanently employed by their partner organisation. And with nearly 50% of those being graduates from Essex, these business-led collaborations are proving to be a successful stepping-stone from academia into full-time employment.
Watch the full campaign video to see how Essex can light the way for businesses looking to innovate.
Above Surveying, a market leader for solar photovoltaic (PV) drone inspection and software solutions driven by high-quality drone data, are already benefitting from the success of their first KTP with Essex.
Having rapidly grown the business using human operations to inspect vast amounts of solar health data, Above Surveying was limited from further growth as a result of labour constraints and were hungry to automate fault detection.
As a company on the cusp of a Series A fundraise, this adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) was deemed critical to the company’s next stage of development. It was forecast that automating the detection of faults from video data would unlock growth potential of near to £3.2m post-project.
Partnering with the University’s Institute of Analytics and Data Science brought in leading AI expertise from an academic team led by Professor Hani Hagras and Dr Javier Andreu. This saw the project team pioneer the rapid processing, formatting and importing of high-resolution inspection videos from aerial video streams using machine learning classification techniques enabling the detection and classification of any micro-crack anomalies in the PV cells.
Will Hitchcock, CEO of Above Surveying said: “Our partnership with the University of Essex and Innovate UK will give us the combined expertise to take our innovative UAV technology to the next level, keeping our business at the forefront of this developing market.”
Above Surveying is now a long-term strategic partner with Essex, going on to secure further successful funding from Innovate UK for a second KTP exploring the next product evolution using digital twin technology and a Smart Grant developing next generation robotic techniques to fully automate the flight of the drone.
Essex offers a wide range of options for businesses looking to collaborate, including the likes of:
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: This successful UK-wide scheme supports UK businesses that want to be more competitive and productive by accessing university expertise. Sponsored by Innovate UK, Research Councils and other bodies, KTPs help by addressing a specific issue, such as new product research and development or developing new operational processes.
Smart Grants: Innovate UK Smart Grants are funding for game-changing and disruptive ideas. They are available to UK based companies and not limited to a particular industry or technology area. Different amounts of grant funding are available depending on the size of the business applying and the stage of their project.
Corporate Partnership Fund: This offers a large corporate business a fund to support initial engagements with experts from Essex. The fund can be used to access consultancy, collaborative or contract research project from our world-class researchers to help develop new products, solve problems or to develop new training schemes.
University of Essex Innovation Vouchers: SMEs can apply our Innovation Vouchers worth up to £10,000 (ex VAT) to start working with us and to foster a long-term partnership. This could go towards scoping and developing a new product, staff training, or stimulating growth.
Consultancy: Whether it’s a short-term consultancy agreement or an ongoing partnership, accessing Consultancy expertise with Essex academics can give businesses of all sizes access to current trends in specialist areas or tailored advice to meet the business requirements.
Collaborative Research: These projects involve at least two collaborators and are generally co-funded with the interested business. They are funded by a range of organisations including research councils, trusts, charities and Innovate UK. Collaborative research funding supports universities and industry to work together on strategically significant projects.
IP Licensing: We have a number of novel technologies available for businesses to license. These can be developed into research collaboration opportunities and combined with support provided by our academic experts to deliver the greatest benefits to a business.