From multi-nationals to SMEs - businesses collaborate with The University of Nottingham in increasing numbers

Rio Tinto launches new 6m research centre at The University of Nottingham 
22 Dec 2014 15:33:11.277

A growing number of businesses are turning to The University of Nottingham for support, according to the latest figures to be released by the University.

During 2013/14, almost 300 businesses engaged with the University to access a diverse range of services such as research, consultancy, training and access to facilities. In total, projects with business partners amounted to £99m over the year, £59m of which involved contract and collaborative research with external companies.

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Research deals with corporate partners
Several major research deals were announced with corporate partners. The largest was with Rio Tinto, who announced a £6 million, five year partnership to deliver the next generation of innovative technologies for the mining industry.

A wide-ranging research agreement was also signed with Unilever, exploring new research opportunities in areas including consumer psychology, green processing, and energy and sustainability. Other industrial giants such as Rolls-Royce, E:On, Boeing, Airbus, GSK, Alstom, SAB Miller and many more have also been working closely with the University over the year.

However, it is not just the big companies which are partnering with Nottingham, an increasing number of local SMEs are also benefitting from engaging with the University by participating in student placements, business networking events, support programmes like Growth 100 and accessing academic expertise to drive innovation in their businesses.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
One of the ways in which SMEs can work with a University is through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme - a government funded initiative which provides businesses with academic expertise in order to solve a problem or develop a new idea. Since 2003, over 70 companies have worked with The University of Nottingham on KTP projects, and two-thirds of these were SMEs.  A number of regional businesses have undertaken KTPs with the University.

One of Britain's best-known crisp brands, Pipers Crisps, based in Lincolnshire, is working on a project which examines how oil behaves at different temperatures and how to minimise wastage and ensure flavours are locked-in. As a result, the shelf-life of the product has been improved, opening up new export markets. While in Nottingham, Attenborough Dental is working on a KTP to develop a new capability in computational design and product safety validation procedures to commercialise spinal implants.

Working with small businesses
Each month, up to one hundred SMEs also attended the University’s Ingenuity KnowledgeXchange breakfast events. Subjects cover a variety of subjects of interest to small business owners, such as the language of leadership, cash flow management, marketing and many other topics.

Partnering with Nottingham City Council, the University has been delivering the successful Growth 100 programme for local small business owners, and has been instrumental in establishing the Nottingham Manufacturing Network. The University also offers specialist outreach support to businesses in a number of sectors ranging from aerospace to energy, environmental technology to chemistry and food & drink to geospatial engineering.

Looking towards the entrepreneurs of the future, the University has been awarded University Enterprise Zone status and a funding package of £5.2m to build a new Technology Entrepreneurship Centre at the University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP). This will provide accommodation and incubation support for start-ups and early-stage SMEs linking with the University’s research base.

Commercialising new technologies
In addition, the University is successfully commercialising new technologies through licensing deals with businesses and the formation of its own spin-out companies. University spin-out, Molecular Profiles, which offers pharmaceutical development services varying from formulation development to clinical trials, was sold to a US based business during the year for £16m.

Other University spin-outs and joint ventures such as cancer antibody and vaccine developer, Scancell, and the innovative baby heart monitoring company Heartlight Systems, have raised multi-millions of funding to take their research to the next phase of commercialisation.

Speaking about the University’s work with industry, Chris Rudd, Pro Vice Chancellor for External Engagement at the University, said: “This has been another very successful year for The University of Nottingham. The numbers of businesses we are working with are increasing and the difference that we are making through the services provided is being reflected in the increase in revenue that we are seeing in this area.

Outstanding research work
“Many of the world’s biggest businesses continue to work with us on major research projects, and that is a great testament to the outstanding research work that our academics are doing. However, I am also particularly pleased that a growing number of local SMEs are also engaging with us, as we recognise the vital role that they are playing in creating jobs and wealth in the local economy.”

For more details about The University of Nottingham’s work with businesses, please visit

or contact Dr. Dan King, Head of Local and Business Partnerships, on 0115 95 13946.


More information is available from Nick King, Marketing Projects Manager, University of Nottingham, +44 (0)115 82 32184, or email:

Photo shows, left to right: At the signing of the £6m five year research deal with Rio Tinto - Professor Sam Kingman, Associate Dean for Research, and Research Director of the Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies (University of Nottingham); Professor Chris Rudd, Pro-Vice Chancellor for External Engagement (University of Nottingham); John McGagh, Head of Innovation, Technology and Innovation (Rio Tinto); and Preston Chiaro, Group Executive, Technology & Innovation (Rio Tinto).

 Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Globelynx fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at University Park campus. For further information please contact a member of the Communications team on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email

or see the Globelynx website for how to register for this service. For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also the most popular university in the UK among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the World’s Top 75 universities by the QS World University Rankings.

Story credits

For more details about the University's work with businesses, contact Dr. Dan King, Head of Local and Business Partnerships on +44(0)115 95 13946 
Nick King  

Nick King - Marketing and Communications Manager, Energy Research Accelerator (ERA)

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 74 86727 Location: Coates Building, Faculty of Engineering, University Park Nottingham

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