KTP case studies

Yasa Motors – helping to power the future

Winner, Engineering Excellence Award, KTP Best of the Best Awards

Finalist, Best Partnership Award, KTP Best of the Best Awards

Game-changing, ground-breaking, best-in-class: the electric motors from Oxfordshire company YASA Motors make news not just in motorsport now, but across sectors ranging from industrial to marine and aerospace. The remarkable designs were produced with expertise from Oxford Brookes University and radically shortened production times, increased performance, cut costs, and improved reliability, preparing the company for mass production.

Read more about Yasa Motors

The initial designs were complex and time-consuming to manufacture. The company approached Oxford Brookes for help, and a KTP project was born, with the support of funding from the Technology Strategy Board. The partners recruited Brookes graduate Jonny Biddulph to work in the company, under supervision from James Broughton of the University's Joining Technology Research Centre. James is an expert in materials such as carbon fibre, and joining technology such as sophisticated resins.

By the end of the two-year project, motor production was reduced from seven days to two, material use was reduced, and defect rates were down ten-fold. The cost of a key component was reduced from £95 to under £10, thanks to the introduction of polymers. Lead times that used to stand at eight weeks were heading down to two.

Commercially, the company won a large contract with a major vehicle manufacturer, and made significant inroads into industrial markets. The motors were also adopted for 'the most technologically advanced roadcar ever conceived', the Jaguar C-X75, in which two YASA motors paired with a modest conventional engine to create a car with the performance of a Bugatti Veyron and yet emissions of a Toyota Prius.

Not surprisingly, as Jonny's project came to an end, a job offer was on the table to work directly for YASA as Materials Engineer.

Students working on electric motor

Risk management: making a global impact in the hotel industry

When you are the world’s biggest hotel group, a FTSE-100 corporation with nearly 700,000 rooms and a half-year revenue approaching a billion dollars, your risk management goes way beyond fire safety drills or security to include scenarios where Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) is the name of the game.

Read more about InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

An Oxford Brookes risk management KTP with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) had the opportunity to deliver savings to the Group in terms of insurance and increase in projected sales by as much as £18 million over the three years following the project. The partnership picked up a prestigious global industry prize from the Institute of Risk Management, ahead of major projects such as Crossrail and a UN Group of Experts.

The three-year KTP set out to minimise the Group’s exposure to loss ‘by assessing, monitoring and controlling risks associated with its core purpose and strategic decisions’, thereby helping to champion and protect the trusted reputation of its brands such as Holiday Inn and InterContinental itself. Providing safe hotels for customers is a core priority for the Group, but this ERM project looked beyond that to manage risks to finance, operations and strategy across the business, creating and safeguarding value for all its stakeholders and employees.

Key members of the Oxford Brookes team were Alex Paraskevas, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Risk Management and an internationally recognised expert in the hospitality industry; and Chris Yang Chu, who joined the project from Manchester Business School to be the KTP Associate. Alex and Chris worked with John Ludlow, Senior Vice President Global Risk, and Danny Wong, Director of Corporate Risk at IHG.

The ‘Risk Intelligence System’ created by Chris was acknowledged as his greatest achievement in the project, it surpassed anything previously available within the industry at the time. He developed it by working closely with IHG risk directors across Europe, Asia Middle East & Africa, Greater China and the Americas. The system is based on indices and metrics linking data from various company databases to provide practical information for risk-based decision making.

IHG’s senior management came to describe Chris as a 'catalyst of change' for risk management, and recruited him to join the team as he completed the project. At the same time he was nominated for a national award as Business Leader of Tomorrow for his outstanding work.

Back at the University, a whole postgraduate module was re-designed on the basis of the knowledge developed. The module exposes students to the 'risk universe' of international hotel groups and uses IHG as a live case study, teaching them strategic risk management based on real-life examples from the company's experience. In this way the academic knowledge that was transferred and implemented within the company is fed back into teaching for the benefit of students of the future.

InterContinental Hotels Group

Systematic change: creating the law firm of the future

The British legal profession is facing challenges on many fronts including competition from supermarkets, incursions from abroad and ever more extensive regulation. So how does an established law firm, set up to deliver professional services, make the transition to an agile, customer-focused business that can stay ahead in a changing world?

Read more about Brethertons LLP

In the case of Brethertons LLP, a large regional law firm that provides advice to businesses and individuals, a contact suggested a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Oxford Brookes University. A quick call for information led to a series of meetings at which a radical plan was mapped out – literally, on a very large whiteboard – that would take the firm forward in a coordinated two-year programme.

Academics Paul Jackson and Diana Limburg of Oxford Brookes’ Business School came up with the novel idea of a Value Integration Office, which would form the heart of the change project in this organisation of almost 300 people working across four sites. Together with the senior Partners at Brethertons, they applied for KTP funding and were awarded a government contribution of over £90k.

The partnership then recruited a Business Change Analyst to manage the project in-house at Brethertons. Yu-Chun Pan, who had recently completed his PhD in Business Informatics at Henley Business School, is working with Brethertons under Paul and Diana’s supervision, pulling together data from across the organisation, engaging staff and creating the foundations for systematic change.

Partner and Chief Executive, Michael Dibben, is confident that Brethertons has taken the right course. Michael says: “As legal professionals we needed someone who could take an independent view of our organisation, and bring experience from other sectors in developing customer relationships, improving our processes, and promoting internal collaboration. But at the same time we don’t want an off-the-shelf solution; it has to develop around our special culture and support the huge growth we are experiencing. It’s an exciting time.”

Alison McCormack with Oxford Brookes KTP Associate Yu-Chun Pan at Brethertons
Alison McCormack with Oxford Brookes KTP Associate Yu-Chun Pan at Brethertons

Sustainability: Cutting the Carbon with Oxford Brookes

Leading architecture practice Architype has won a prestigious award for its sustainability work, thanks to a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Oxford Brookes. According to the summing-up, their Cut the Carbon entry for the 2011 Building Awards ‘blew the judges away’.

Read more about cutting the carbon

Architype, a London-based practice with a long-standing reputation in sustainability, has been working on a KTP project with Oxford Brookes which is redefining the way architects approach low-carbon design.

Architect and researcher Lisa Pasquale was recruited to lead the project. She monitored the environmental performance of a range of Architype’s sustainable buildings and developed tools to collate, evaluate and isseminate her findings.

Lisa has worked closely with clients, even developing a tool for the pupils at St Luke's Primary School, Wolverhampton, to manage the energy of their award-winning building. St Luke's was Britain's first primary school to be rated Excellent by the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), and was also winner of the 2010 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Sorrell Schools Award and the British Council for School Environments (BCSE) Sustainable School of the Year Award.

Lisa is supervised by Mary Hancock and Dr Fionn Stevenson from Brookes’ Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development, which has played a leading role in research for sustainable development in the built environment.

Jonathan Hines, Director of Architype and former 'Green Guru Architect of the Year', said of the work with Oxford Brookes: ‘Embedding of this knowledge into our practice is incredibly valuable, and it's happening much sooner than we expected.’

Flooding: a new way to manage risk and mitigate calamity

A newly announced KTP project between Oxford Brookes University and Aquobex Ltd will develop a novel approach to mitigating the disastrous impact of flooding on homes, businesses and communities.

In place of piecemeal solutions from individual suppliers, the project will deliver an integrated system, drawn from a range of different technologies and based on rigorous analysis of construction materials and building design.

Read more about the flooding project

There are more than 5.2m properties at flood risk in England alone, and as rainfall records seem to be repeatedly broken, the social and economic costs are increasingly in the news. There is agreement among those in government, insurance and construction that applying flood resilience to properties will reduce the damage and disruption associated with flood events; but there is little evidence to date of how far the current methods provide these benefits.

The response from insurance companies and government has been to develop a 'flood re-insurance' scheme to help support households at highest risk. Flood Re, a national scheme offering better access to affordable flood insurance cover, went live on 4th April 2016, and will be in place for 25 years.

Pumping the Somerset Levels (photo by Noel Jenkins) 

Now the new KTP project will work with insurers and others to develop a comprehensive, fully researched approach that runs from flood reports and assessments through to design, installation, testing and maintenance. The company’s unique experience in flood risk management, protection and insurance will be complemented by Oxford Brookes’ Architectural Engineering research group. This interdisciplinary group, working across the fields of architecture and engineering, combines expertise in construction technology, structures, building physics and sustainability, and leads the way in a wide range of challenges in built environment flood research. Part of the project will use the group’s own laboratory for physical testing of designs and materials.

A rapidly expanding company, Aquobex is uniquely positioned within the industry to take advantage of what is now a substantial and expanding market, which it believes is worth in excess of £25bn. The two-year KTP will bring £95k of funding from Innovate UK, and the partners are now seeking an enterprising graduate in architecture or another construction associated subject to fill the role of KTP Associate. The Associate will be based with the company but will be managed and supervised by the researchers at Oxford Brookes.

Carlisle Civic Centre in 2015 (photo by Rose and Trev Clough)
Carlisle Civic Centre in 2015 (photo by Rose and Trev Clough)

Production engineering: rocket nozzles to wind towers

Meta Vision Systems supplies sensing and control equipment from its Oxford base to customers around the world, for welding applications that range from rocket nozzles in China to offshore wind towers, earthquake proof beams, and oil pipelines. Now a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Oxford Brookes University is to develop a new generation of smart inspection systems that will capitalise on Meta’s position and meet growing industry demand.

Read more about Meta Vision Systems

Dr Fabio Cuzzolin is the Oxford Brookes Reader in Computer Science whose world-recognised research on computer vision and machine learning will help to create the new systems. He will supervise a new recruit, the KTP Associate, who will work with Meta Vision’s R&D team to develop algorithms that can be built into the company’s existing products and give them new capabilities.

‘It’s a really interesting problem’, says Fabio. ‘There are many, many variations in weld quality, and what counts as acceptable can vary from one application to another, and even from one customer to another. We have to build a system with specially developed algorithms that are capable of being tailored to individual needs. What we need in effect is a learning system that will be able to carry out inspections better than a human.’

Meta Vision Systems was formed in 1984 as a spin-out from an engineering research project at the University of Oxford, which developed and patented laser sensors to guide robot welding. Today, with 40 people in Oxford, Munich and Montreal, Meta works internationally with major companies in sectors as diverse as automotive, aerospace, robotics and general fabrication. Creating the new systems will ensure it stays in tune with customer needs well into the future.

The new partnership secured Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to the value of almost £100k. ‘We have high hopes for this project’ says John Corlett, KTP Manager at Oxford Brookes. ‘It’s an ideal combination of a successful company and leading university research that has the potential to create an innovative product with great commercial value.’

Meta Vision Systems

Environmental impact: business with a global superbrand

Stannah Stairlifts is something of a special company. Described as a 'global British superbrand', it sells to more than 40 countries from its base in Hampshire where it both designs and manufactures its world-leading products. An independent, fifth generation family firm, it retains strong core values around ethical business.

Read more about Stannah Stairlifts

The company is the world's best known brand in its sector, but it wanted to improve its environmental performance and demonstrate its credentials as its markets become increasingly sensitive to sustainability issues. Oxford Brookes University was therefore delighted to be able to work with Stannah on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership to improve its care for the environment, with a project that also made sound commercial sense.

Stannah's engineering director Steve Leathley initially sought out Oxford Brookes for its expertise in sustainable vehicles, figuring that the same techniques could be applied in Stannah’s own design and manufacture. Two years on, with a successful KTP behind him, Steve's reasoning is fully vindicated, and the company has reduced costs while developing a demonstrably more eco-friendly product.

Dr Pat Winfield of the university’s Department of Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences led the academic input. She said later ‘I found the experience of the KTP very rewarding … The partnership was about a three-way increase in knowledge and team work’.

Key to the project was a Life Cycle Analysis of a typical Stannah product, in which the materials and processes involved in making a stairlift, from major components down to fittings and fastenings, were rigorously scrutinised. The lifetime running costs were then factored in, as were the opportunities for dismantling and recycling at the end of its useful life.

The results showed where significant energy savings could be made and where waste could be reduced, and led to new eco-design guidelines for the company's engineers. New products will be environmentally aware and can be benchmarked against old ones. Marketing literature will benefit from 'carbon labelling', and the work also highlighted the possibility of new business models based on remanufacture and recycling of components. Overall, the project enabled Stannah to set the industry standard in sustainability.

KTP Associate Charlie Symonds at Stannah Stairlifts

Charlie Symonds was a young engineering graduate with a passion for sustainability who was recruited to lead the project as KTP Associate. Through a combination of patient analysis and skilful communication, he was able not only to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, but also to change mindsets within the company and along their supply chain.

Employed and supervised by Oxford Brookes, Charlie was permanently taken on by Stannah when the KTP completed, with the role of Business Sustainability Manager. He began a PhD based on the project work, which the company is now continuing to fund.

During the project he was announced as runner-up for Graduate of the Year by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, for ‘single-handedly providing his company with a framework for its sustainability strategy for the next five years’.

The Starla stairlift from Stannah Stairlifts
The Starla stairlift from Stannah Stairlifts

Energy management: saving energy, improving health

A new approach to energy-saving in hospitals that has cut running costs by almost 20% is the focus of a new KTP project between Oxford Brookes University and Virtus Consult. Virtus will tap into Brookes’ expertise in sustainable construction to validate, refine and package a methodology for energy management that has shown exceptional results in its first applications.

Read more about the KTP project between Oxford Brookes University and Virtus Consult

The company, based in Birmingham and Oxford, worked with Heart of England NHS Trust over a period of four years using a holistic approach that incorporated a unique five-stage process. The Trust is now enjoying savings of almost £1m per annum, with a payback of less than five years, which it can plough back directly into healthcare. Virtus directors are convinced they can replicate the benefits widely across the sector, where many Trusts are struggling to heat and light ageing buildings that are still of critical importance to their operations; and indeed the public sector more widely could potentially use the same approach.

As a small consultancy however Virtus did not have the necessary expertise and resources in-house to take advantage of the opportunity. A chance conversation at an Oxford Brookes industry seminar led to the development of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, which was awarded £90k in grant funding over two years. The Partnership is now seeking to recruit a recent graduate in environmental science or construction who will work with the company under supervision from experts at the university.

Director Jan Ponsford believes it will be a way to bring strategic change and expansion to the business. “We have an exciting opportunity where we believe we can make a real difference to our clients’ energy management. The partnership with Oxford Brookes will give us a route to develop our method into a major programme.”

Enterprising young graduates who are interested in the post should watch for announcements on our job vacancies page.

NHS worker

Materials technology: from GT cockpit to swivel chair

Motorsport and office furniture are not industries that rub shoulders too often, but a new KTP between CMS Industries Ltd and Oxford Brookes University is making surprising connections between them.

Read more

It began with CMS founder Steve Liquorish's passion for racing, first in a BMW Mini, and now in a Porsche 911 420bhp GT3, where he's a serious contender for the marque's 2013 Cup Challenge GB. Steve observed that lightweight materials and sophisticated joining methods were everywhere in motorsport - so why not in the components he supplies to the contract furniture companies of Europe?

Steve was introduced to James Broughton and Shpend Gerguri, engineers at Oxford Brookes who specialise in novel materials and joining technology, and soon a Knowledge Transfer Partnership was born, with the aim of applying their expertise to the challenges of saving assembly costs for CMS customers. Primarily these are chair manufacturers based in Europe who need to compete against cheap labour in the Far East; so anything that could reduce the cost of components, shorten assembly times and lower the transport costs would be highly valuable.

The project would also bring a design capability to the company, and by looking at disassembly at the end of product life, it could bring environmental benefits too.

Supported by nearly £100k of funding from the Technology Strategy Board, the KTP partners recruited Glenn Le Faou, a Master of Design from Coventry University who gained his degree in Automotive and Transport Design with First class honours. Glenn's role is Product Design Engineer (KTP Associate) and he is leading the project at CMS, supervised by Shpend and James from Oxford Brookes. Among his first pieces of work was to design and prototype a new iPad holder, which was exhibited at a national design festival.

The project continues until the end of 2014 and further innovations are eagerly awaited.

Steve Liquorish in his Porsche 911
Steve Liquorish in his Porsche 911