A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) can help a business improve competitiveness, productivity and performance through better use of knowledge, technology and skills.
Ask a business owner today what keeps him or her awake at night, and the chances are that data - and maximising its potential - is likely to be very high on the list.
As Lecturer in Data Science, and Business Engagement Lead for Alliance MBS, Richard Allmendinger says: "Every company or organisation now keeps a daily track of their data. But when businesses start seeing their competitors using data analysis to gain commercial advantage then they know they need to act. Companies are really starting to wake up to the potential of data mining."
It is just one reason why demand for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) is currently at record levels at Alliance MBS, with many projects driven by demand for data analytics and machine learning skills.
First port of call
In his role as Business Engagement Lead Dr Allmendinger is one of the first ports of call for companies looking for help. Given that his own research area is in data analytics, he is particularly well-placed to advise businesses.
"Data mining applies to every industry and every sector and we have never been busier," he says. "Companies of all sizes are coming to us wanting to do KTPs, and for many of them it is because they want to maximise the potential of their data.
"Businesses have always had data coming in but in the past didn't do much with it, or didn't know what to do with it. Today it is very different. Companies are coming to us because they know that they need to make better decisions using their data. They need people within their teams with machine learning skills, people who can use the data to make the best possible decisions."
He says KTP partners are typically smaller or medium-sized businesses which don't have the budget to hire data science specialists. "My role is to work with companies to structure a project, thinking about who from the University is needed to make it happen."
The University of Manchester can offer multidisciplinary teams with complimentary skills. "Data science is most effective when combined with people who know the domain and therefore know how to make best use of the information and patterns discovered by data science," he adds. "To give one example in healthcare, a KTP team can consist of someone with data science expertise and then also someone with expertise in optometry if the project is related to data-driven diagnosis in eye hospitals. Being part of a large University means we can draw from lots of different departments, and the chances are that someone, somewhere, in the University will be working on a problem you are interested in."
Dr Allmendinger says that embarking on a KTP needn't cost a company a fortune either. He says a cost effective way for a company looking at a KTP is to set up an MSc dissertation project with an academic to do some exploratory groundwork which then supports the decision to go for a KTP and can provide a starting point for the application. Current KTP clients range from law firms and software consultancies, through to the wider advertising industry. Projects can be focused on any aspects of business, not just data analytics.
In response to these trends he adds that more and more students are studying business analytics, machine learning and data mining. Indeed numbers for the School's MSc in Business Analytics are extremely high, and the course was recently ranked the seventh best in the world in the latest QS world university rankings.
As such he is excited about the wider potential of the Alliance MBS offering for companies, academics and students. "If we do a data mining project for a business we get access to a data set that no one has ever worked with before, and that can be both tremendously powerful and exciting."