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Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) wins prestigious Red Dot International Design Award

Posted on 22/03/2019

Successful partnership between Parker Hannifin and Northumbria University enjoys ongoing impact

The continuing impact of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Northumbria University and Parker Hannifin, supported by the KTN’s specialist Knowledge Transfer Adviser, John Clayton, resulted in a World Class RED DOT Design Award 2018. Graded A outstanding by Innovate UK, the KTP embedded customer-centric innovation through new design and strategic marketing capabilities in Parker Hannifin’s North East plant in 2017.

The Challenge

For over 50 years, Parker GSFE has been instrumental in the development of filtration technology, shaping several international standards. However, new price-based challengers were threatening their lead position in the market, and the company needed to find new sources of product innovation and distinctiveness. But how do you create added-value and distinctiveness in a very crowded market sector? Parker had already been working with Northumbria’s Design School, on a consulting basis, when they described their ambition to establish a new, accelerated approach to innovation.

The Solution

The University worked closely with Parker GSFE’s management team
to define the knowledge they would need to achieve their growth ambitions. Together with John Clayton, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) proposal was developed to help the company access expertise in Design Thinking, Industrial Design and Strategic Marketing. The proposal focused on building a design-driven approach to innovation, beginning by focusing on understanding real customer needs. This new approach gave Parker’s clients a say in future product-ranges, creating a mutual interest and opening a new channel for sharing market intelligence. Two graduates (known as KTP Associates) were recruited to deliver the project.

Matt Lievesley, Associate Professor, Northumbria University, was academic lead on the KTP:  “At the University, we felt that to help Parker achieve their ambition we would need to combine methods from Design and from Marketing, and we put those together in something we termed customer-centric innovation. That model fitted very well with the company’s own strengths in technical innovation. Being customer-centric means sharing product development trajectories with customers at an early stage, which unlocks real market intelligence around future needs, and importantly, this de-risks the innovation process for Parker.”

The Impact

For the first time in 40 years, Parker overcame legacy colour preferences from its three EMEA filtration plants, and proudly launched a unified family of gas filters, enjoying an overwhelmingly positive response from customers. NITROSource, the first product re-launched, generated a 30% jump in sales. Through the new investigative methods, Parker GSFE defined an entirely new, high-value market-sector (in beverage gas filtration) and is currently working with key customers and agencies to define new standards.

The KTP established the facility at Gateshead as a thought leader on product and marketing innovation, helping to secure its future within the Group. Corporate HQ in Ohio recognised several of the tools and methodologies as ‘best practice’, jointly presenting the work at a key global design conference in 2016.

Their new responsive approach has already helped Parker secure business in major export markets and in May 2018, the company was awarded their first ever Red Dot International Design Award. One KTP Associate, Callum Whitehead, with guidance from the academic team, used his skills to design the main interface / display which was highlighted by the Red-Dot judges.

Parker estimates that the impact of their KTP will be to boost annual pre-tax profits by £1.5 million within three years.

“The complementary strands of strategic marketing with industrial design in the KTP mean the business is now closer to its customers, with multiple benefits including a strong financial performance” commented Neil McPherson, Division Marketing Manager, GSFE, Parker Hannifin Manufacturing Limited.

John Clayton, Knowledge Transfer Adviser at the KTN, added: “This has been an exemplary double associate KTP, deservedly graded outstanding by Innovate UK, and delivering a world class design award winning product. The KTP impact went well beyond the core knowledge transfer and created a new customer-centric innovation culture in the business which established the North East England plant as an innovation beacon in a global business.”

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

John Clayton is one of 30 expert Knowledge Transfer Advisers based throughout the UK who help put together the unique three-way partnerships that KTP comprise: forward thinking companies + the UK’s world class Knowledge bases + a highly able graduate who manages the project.

KTP aims to help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills held within the UK knowledge base.  The Knowledge Transfer Network delivers the KTP programme for Innovate UK funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Further information about KTPs is here, and applications for funding are open all year round.

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