Design and Knowledge Transfer Partnership collaborations
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Northampton
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeEconomic
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Artificial Intelligence and Image Processing, Information Systems
Built Environment and Design: Design Practice and Management
Summary of the impact
This case study describes the impact of research in Design Management and
Product Design carried out by the Design Research Group at the University
of Northampton in embedding design competencies in a number of British
companies, particularly in the Northampton region through inter-related,
collaborative Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). This case study
demonstrates how the research in Product Design and Design Management has
benefited companies economically in adding value to the UK economy, and as
a consequence of one particular KTP, significantly improving quality of
The nature of the underpinning research took place between 1999 and 2010
in the fields of Product Design and Design Management in the form of
research by members of the Design Research Group: Mark Wilkinson
(1995-2008); Randle Turner (1997-2012); Vicki Battle (1993--); and
Friedemann Schaber (1999--).
Dr. Mark Wilkinson (1995-2010), founder and leader of the Design
Research Group at the University of Northampton (1995-) and Reader
in Product Design (2004-2010) -(later Director of the Leather Institute at
UoN (2010-2012)), in collaboration with Roger Sale (Professor of
Industrial Design at the University of East London, previously at the
Royal College of Art) articulated (1,2,3,4) new insights for the role of
Design Management and Product Design in the development of new products.
Their research identified new opportunities for networked partnerships
between retailer, technology developer and academic researchers which
found an application as applied research through KTPs with the companies Datapride
(2001); Hambleside Danelaw (2003); and Creative Topps (2004),
where Wilkinson acted as KTP Principal with others including Turner
and Thomas (Battle). In "Beyond the Fridge —Collaboration as a
paradigm for Innovation" (1), a demonstration project funded with £20,000
by partners J. Sainsbury, Electrolux and 3M, and in
research "Collaborative Envisioning", (2,3) Wilkinson and Sale
contested the accepted model of partnership based on the transfer of
ready-made solutions. This provided a new model that used an inclusive,
iterative and objective driven method, with a focus on the role of design
as a project management tool. This model was tested through the project
and suited to the exchange of knowledge and new product development in
KTPs. A further insight resulted from the analysis provided by Wilkinson
and Sale (1,2,3,4) of the transfer of technological innovation and its
identification as a creative process (e.g. the early case study of design
management and creative technological process in creating Dyson's first
products, and in supply chain innovation(4)).
The KTP with Hambleside Danelaw (Wilkinson and Turner)
was a key outcome (8) / (S5) of the successful application of research by
Wilkinson leading to a research model that was used and applied by
other members of the Design Research Group (Turner, Schaber and Thomas)
in studying the Design Groups KTPs (5,6,7) for the purposes of applying
the resulting research to the development of new KTPs (Sue Ryder, BCE and
John Crane). Friedemann and Thomas (Battle) also researched the impact of
international trade on the UK toy design and businesses in the giftware
market (6), important for some of the KTP partnership companies. Turner
followed Wilkinson's technological innovation transfer research to apply
his research on: computer-aided design; creative applications of
visualising software; and specialist laser-cutting and three- dimensional
printing technologies in creating prototypes — into the work of Sue
Ryder Care Ltd (2008); BCE Distributors Ltd (2010); and John
Crane Ltd ( 2010).
References to the research
(1) Wilkinson, Mark and Sale, Roger (1999). "Beyond the Fridge:
Collaboration as a Paradigm for Innovation" in New Structures for
Design Management in the 21st Century:
Proceedings of the 9th International Forum on
Design Management Research and Education. New York: The Design
Management Institute. (561-578).
(2) Wilkinson, Mark and Sale, Roger (2001). "Collaborative
Envisioning - a methodology for new product development in a connected
economy" in desire designum design: Proceedings of 4th
European Academy of Design Conference. Aveiro, Portugal (300-303).
ISBN No: 972 789 024 5.
(3) Wilkinson, Mark and Sale, Roger (2000). "Collaborative
Envisioning - a strategy for future innovation" in Design and Knowledge
Management: Proceedings of the 10th International
Forum on Design Management Research & Education. Frankfurt: The
Design Management Institute. (875- 912).
(4) Wilkinson, Mark and Sale, Roger (2002). "Designing Supply
Chain Innovation" in Common Ground: Proceedings of Design Research
Society International Conference 2002. Stoke-on-Trent: Staffordshire
University Press (183 and CD-ROM). ISBN No: 1 904133 11 8.
(5) Schaber, F. Thomas (Battle), V. and Turner, R. (2011).
"Designing Toys, Gifts and Games: Learning through Knowledge Transfer
Partnerships" in Handbook of Research on Trends in Product Design and
Development. Eds: Silva, A. and Simoes, R. Hershey, Pennsylvania.
(6) Schaber, F. and Thomas (Battle),V (2008). "Knowledge Transfer:
Industry Academia and the Global Gift Market in Design Management
Journal, Vol 3 Issue 2. Design Management Institute, Boston,
(7) Schaber, F. and Turner,R.( 2010). "Design and Local
Development, Case Studies from the UK" paper presented at the 1st
International Congress on Design and Innovation of Catalonia,
Details of the impact
The Design Research Group engaged in applied research through KTPs with
the following companies and charities during a nine-year period: Datapride
(2001); Hambleside Danelaw (2003); Creative Tops (2004); Lionmede
(Northampton Signs) (2006); Sue Ryder Care (2006); BCE (2007); The
Salvation Army (2007); Primarius UK Ltd (2009); and John Crane (2010).
The companies and charities supplied and manufactured a range of products
including: toys, games and gifts; signage; phone systems; building
products; household goods; and train seats. This resulted in the following
impact: the creation of new products; growth in design capability; and
resulting business growth with increases in sales, profitability and
employment. A further impact, an increase in quality of life provided by
the charity Sue Ryder Care, followed from the improved business
performance of the charity. This account will focus on the impact on three
of the KTPs: Sue Ryder Care; BCE; and John Crane.
Sue Ryder Care KTP (2006-2009) was the central project of the
Design Research Group accounting for considerable impact. Previous KTPs
informed The Sue Ryder Care KTP: Datapride (2001); Hambleside Danelaw
(2003) (S5); and Creative Topps. Research carried out by the Design
Research Group informed more recent KTP projects such as the BCE KTP and
John Crane KTP.
In the Sue Ryder Care KTP the associate (Stewart Betts) under the
supervision of lead academics Turner and Battle applied
the research in design and design management, and the application of
computer-aided design (CAD) in the design process to retail new products
(primarily toys) through its chain of 380 shops. Sue Ryder Care had
previously sourced the design and manufacture of its products overseas but
due to poor-quality products, required an in-house design facility. The
KTP addressed the previous quality problems by implementing a new product
design methodology. This contributed to an increase in total gross
profit of £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION] for the charity in the year following the beginning
of the KTP (S1) as part of an increase in sales of £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION] (S1).The
income generated was used for palliative care, a further impact of the
The new design capability has enabled the charity to capitalise on
opportunities that previously would not have been explored and continues
to impact positively on the charity's sales and profits. Sue Ryder Care
reported (S4) that over the period 2006-2009, a creative design capability
had been embedded and through a successful marketing campaign in the Daily
Mail, a profit of £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION] was added to the charity's figures
for one new product. The charity reported an increase in turnover of 30%
and an increase in sales of 50% (S1) during the KTP period. In
response to a questionnaire in June 2013, Sue Ryder Care Head of
Commercial Operations, Dawn Bullen (S4), reported that during the period
2009-2013 — from the date of the final KTP report to June 2013 - turnover
had increased by £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION]: from £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION] to £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION], noting an
annual profit increase between 2009 and 2013 from £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION] to £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION]
for 2012-2013. Bullen reported that the number of employees had increased
from 14 to 19 in the same period.
Bullen stated that Sue Ryder Care had benefited from KTP associate
Stewart Betts (subsequently employed by Sue Ryder Care): `Stewart
brought a distinctive taste level and innovation to the own branded Sue
Ryder offer of toys and musical instruments. During 2010 the
organisation "re-branded" itself. Stewart was the principal driver
behind creating products and packaging that fitted the new brand. This
was key in differentiating Sue Ryder New Goods from the donated goods
that they also sell and has helped raise their profile and promote their
sale.' Bullen summarised the increase in profitability at 6%,
with percentage increases in market share and sales, and improved quality
KTP associate Betts was awarded KTP Business Leader of the Future
by TSB and Nesta at Westminster (2008). The nomination form states clear
evidence of the Associate's impact upon the financial success of the
company, through the application of the research by Wilkinson and others:
`The finacial expectations have been surpassed, with extensive sales
and profits being made in year on year. . . more importantly Stewart has
embedded new products and design capabilities which will considerably
impact the company's sales and profits going forward.' (S7).
BCE reported (S1) that between 2007-2010 the KTP was `invaluable'
—as a consequence they were able to register three patents. The
KTP introduced "a completely new style of design to BCE customers" with £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION]
saved because they no longer outsourced their creative graphics; an
increase in employees by three; a 50% increase in turnover;
and a 50% increase in sales (S1).
In a response to a questionnaire (S3) in April 2013, BCE reported that `.
. . the KTP collaboration has allowed BCE to bring all design elements
in house, which during the downturn, has been key to how responsive we
can be. In the past all design/creative work would have been outsourced
to different companies, which would produce work but never quite capture
what was wanted as a business and brand. With this internal
infrastructure BCE have been able to build several solid brand
identities that portray a consistent brand image, which is expected from
the leaders or their respective markets.'
Further: `The all round design capability that the KTP associate
offers has allowed the company to put in place several successful
patents and design registries, which have eliminated the many problems
that the company faced from rival businesses in the markets in the years
before the collaboration. Once promoted to Design Manager, shortly after
the collaboration had concluded, the associate also took control of all
forms of media, marketing and advertisement for the company's brands.
This allowed BCE to strengthen their brand's image even further.'
The impact of the KTP is clear: The internal infrastructure enabled BCE
to control their brand and design direction and champion
new design technology and innovation in their products, which increases
appeal to customers and strengthens their brand image in the marketplace.
In a design capacity, the company is now more proactive than reactive and
customers recognise this strength when selecting their products. (S3)
John Crane Ltd (2010) successfully embedded design competencies
through our KTP partnership that enabled them to develop their own design
studio. Many companies were buying and distributing finished products from
overseas rather than designing and creating their own ranges.
As a consequence of the KTP scheme, John Crane's Managing Director
Jonathan Thorpe reported in April 2013 (S4) that `this autumn
we will have nearly 15 products in John Lewis that
the design department has taken from paper to retail shelf and this will
generate up to £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION] in sales'.
He further notes: ` . . . we will also have 10 products in our own
Tildo brand that will produce revenue up to a further £[TEXT REMOVED FOR PUBLICATION].' Thorpe
states: `With your help (the KTP principal) and that of the University
of Northampton and the KTP programme, we have established a studio and
it now works exactly how I envisaged it should nearly two years ago . .
. resulting in financial rewards'.
Sources to corroborate the impact
S1 Analysis of KTP reports held by the University of Northampton
Knowledge Exchange office, now part of the Research and Strategic Bidding
S2 Independent Testimonial from Sue Ryder Care: Dawn Bullen, Head
of Commercial Operations, Sue Ryder Care, June 2013.
S3 Independent testimonial from BCE: Richard Friend, Operations
Manager, BCE. 17 April 2013.
S4 Independent testimonial from John Crane.
S5 The Danelaw Hambleside KTP
S6 References to KTP reports submitted to the Knowledge Transfer
Directorate, UK Government Department of Trade and Industry and
Technology Strategy Board.
S7 Independent Testimonial Nomination form for Business Leaders of
Tomorrow, submitted by Sye Ryder Care 2008.