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KTP drives food industry innovation

For the past 40 years, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) have provided businesses throughout the UK with the opportunity to accelerate innovation and drive productivity. Funded through Innovate UK, KTPs exist to provide businesses with early career graduates/post graduates and the necessary academic support to undertake ambitious projects that may otherwise not get off the ground. The collaboration of universities with businesses offers a unique opportunity for commercial growth and academic research.

Ali Benger: KTP Associate at Western Commodities and Plymouth University

If I had to summarise my experience as a KTP Associate in three words, they would have to be‘unrivalled development opportunity’. Seldom is one given the opportunity for career advancement with such emphasis on personal development and progression, combined with the necessary academic rigour and financial support.

My KTP journey started in 2014, when I embarked upon a short 9 month KTP with Western Commodities and Plymouth University. The key project objective was to research the nutritional properties of dates, Western Commodities’ core import, with a view to developing a range of healthier snack products. I spent a lot of time in the Food and Nutrition Unit at Plymouth University carrying out proximate and mineral analysis, as well as glycaemic index testing of dates and date products. This venture resulted in GOOD Full Stop, a new range of date based snack bars. 

The objective of a second KTP was to develop a range of sports nutrition products with a strong evidence base to support functionality, utilising the key commodities imported by Western Commodities. My KTP training budget allowed me to complete numerous training courses, as well as joining relevant professional bodies. Additionally, it has supported my studies towards a Masters in Applied Sports Nutrition. During the research project, I developed caffeinated energy bars, which were tested on road cyclists in the exercise physiology laboratory at Plymouth University. This research showed that the caffeinated sports bars enhanced endurance performance. We are now working towards publishing my dissertation in a scientific journal. Back in the office, I bspend a lot of time assisting the technical department and have gained invaluable insight into the implementation of the globally recognised British Retail Consortium food safety standard.

Seldom is one given the opportunity for career advancement with such emphasis on personal development and progression, combined with the necessary academic rigour and financial support.

Within a small company, it is‘all hands on deck  and that is often the best way to learn. With my second KTP coming to an end, I am reflecting on the opportunities this partnership has given me, whilst looking forward to a future in the food industry. I am grateful for the support I have had from the KTP team at Plymouth University (Dr Victor Kuri, Dr Melanie Moore and David Marshall) and at Western Commodities (Richard Stoker and David Parsons).

Anna Tatkiewicz: KTP Associate at Langage Farm and Plymouth University

When I first heard about the KTP position at Langage Farm, I thought it would be a brilliant pportunity for me as I already had experience working both in the food industry and in a university; with KTP I could combine both environments.Indeed, the project has been challenging and I have learnt a lot.

Working closely with industry allowed me to speak with technical specialists from other companies in order to improve the production line from a technological point of view. The KTP budget allowed investment in new tools for improving our curd cheese, skyr and yoghurt production. This was a milestone, as we could not only facilitate process control, but also ensure repeated and consistent quality.

Langage Farm is a small family dairy business, whose goal of continuous improvement fits perfectly with the KTP objectives. I find it very exciting that information in scientific articles and books, as well as my own research using facilities at Plymouth University, can be directly introduced as innovative approaches relevant to the production processes on site. Some production problems have been successfully resolved using this approach. Additionally, some of the results from my research have been incorporated into a scientific communication at a conference and will hopefully appear in journal articles in the future. I have just returned from a fantastic conference in Turkey focusing on Food Structure Design, which was funded by my personal development and travel budget.

KTP allows graduates to gain experience of putting theory into practice and solving real industrial problems, which is very beneficial when entering the job market. This is made possible by knowledge gained, opportunities to work with experts in the field and project related research. My advice for graduates would be to gain as much industry experience as possible and to be proactive in proposing new concepts and ideas.

I find it very exciting that information in scientific articles and books, as well as my own research using facilities at Plymouth University, can be directly introduced as innovative approaches relevant to the production processes on site.

One year into the project, we have already introduced some new products on to the market, improved existing ones and worked towards new goals. This is all thanks to the fantastic team of Plymouth University academic staff (Dr Victor Kuri, Liz Preston, David Marshall and Professor RoyMoate) and company supervisors from Langage Farm (Paul Winterton and Becky Smith).

Dr Victor Kuri: Faculty of Science and Engineering, Plymouth University

As academics, collaborating with companies on KTP projects enables us as to maintain relevant and fresh knowledge, skills and capabilities. Allowing business to access the university infrastructure and expertise is rewarding, as we learn from enterprising partners. To work with brilliant graduates, such as Anna and Ali, is particularly satisfying as we have the privilegeto witness their professional growth and share the journey and the success of the projects. We can be reassured that we are in touch with the needs of the job market, which enables us to better customise our courses to serve both our future graduates and their future employers.

Ali Benger and Anna Tatkiewicz are KTP Associates based at Western Commodities and Langage Farm respectively.

Dr Victor Kuri, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Plymouth University

Email: v.kuri@plymouth.ac.uk

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