Research and development centres for SMEs

Ambitious small firms can acquire top research and development expertise by teaming up with universities, according to Professor Rakesh Mishra, head of the University of Huddersfield's Energy Emission and the Environmental Research Group (EEERG).

The EEERG has more than 30 members, associates and research students, and has been successful in winning Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), attracting total funding of more than £1.5million.

KTPs are part-funded by the Government via Innovate UK. They have an academic supervisor and a KTP associate, normally a highly-promising graduate or postgraduate student who is based at a company that seeks to develop new products or make improvements to existing lines or processes.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Prof Mishra's involvement with KTPs. Since 2005, the EEERG has had nine partnerships with seven firms. Prof Mishra acts as academic supervisor for two of the current KTPs with HR Blowers and Weir Valves, but he has been the project manager for all nine.

Explaining why he places such a high importance on forming KTPs, Prof Mishra said: "I see universities as an R&D centre for small-to-medium sized firms in the region. This is because SMEs don't usually have the resources to do their own research and development.

"I look at it in a very holistic way. Universities produce engineers. Engineers go and work in industries. And when the output of industries increases, the nation's productivity increases."