Manufacturing KTP Case Studies

Engineering and manufacturing are pivotal to the UK’s business success. Birmingham has long aligned its research programmes with industry and national priorities – and we now lead the way in significant areas. Below are some examples of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships that have utilised our expertise to create innovative results for our company partners.

Atkins Rail

Developing advanced railway simulation solutions

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Birmingham and Atkins developed a multi-train railway simulator (MTS) to provide the capability for advanced simulation work that addresses future sustainability, carbon and legislative issues.

Atkins is a major consultancy company that provides knowledge, application, innovation and expertise to the rail industry across many rail engineering and non-engineering disciplines. The Company needed to develop its own software simulation tools for use in modelling AC/DC railway infrastructure as the existing commercial modelling tools available do not allow access to the source code, and therefore, provide very little control on the solution methods used.

Working with Professor Clive Roberts and Drs Stuart Hillmansen and Paul Weston from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education the collaboration provided Atkins with the capability to develop the required skills and competencies to develop a MTS and keep it continually up to date. In particular, the KTP project looked at innovative ways to address electrical safety standards requirements and the need to ensure that new designs take into account carbon critical design. The engineering tool also had a unique feature to simulate anticipated operating timetable in a ‘real time’ manner to assess the performance and behaviour of the operational railway.

Roger White

Professional Head of Electrification and Plant, Atkins Rail Division

“The MTS tool being developed with the University of Birmingham will increase Atkins capability and competitiveness in this area and enable us to offer our clients designs to develop and operate the railway infrastructure that minimise carbon emissions.”


Cobra Biologics

Streamlining manufacturing processes

The average member of the public is unlikely to have heard of protein therapeutics. Yet human insulin, the first native recombinant protein therapeutic, has become a household name over the past 25 years. Cobra Biologics, an internationally trusted contract process developer and manufacturing organisation, have been involved in the production of protein therapeutics for over two decades.

It provides advanced production solutions for clinical investigations and in-market supply. While insulin is a native recombinant protein therapeutic (meaning that the instructions to make the protein come from humans, but that it is made in bacteria), Cobra’s customers are demanding increasingly complex synthetic protein products. Current manufacturing processes are not adequate to meet market demand and the development of new processes is challenging, with no guarantee of success.

To improve its response to customer needs, Cobra needed to create new manufacturing solutions with significantly higher success rates and simplified processes. In addition, it also wanted to develop a systematic approach to selecting the most promising new processes, and to focus on these for development. These aims required an in-depth knowledge of protein production systems and microbial fermentations and the University of Birmingham is recognised as a centre of excellence in these fields.

The University and Cobra Biologics embarked on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) that explored these challenges further. Led by Dr Tim Overton, in the University’s School of Chemical Engineering, the KTP sought to design a knowledge based approach that will lead to accelerated development times, improved success rates and simplified manufacturing processes.

Peter Coleman

CEO, Cobra Biologics

“We are pleased to be working with Dr Tim Overton and Prof Jeff Cole on this KTP project and to be developing our long term collaboration with the University of Birmingham in the field of microbial protein production.”


Drywite Ltd.

Driving innovative product development

Drywite Ltd is a small family-owned business that has been manufacturing vegetable washes and preservatives for the catering and vegetable industries since 1933.

The company engaged the expert help of the University of Birmingham’s Chemical Engineering department to develop an organic non-sulphite preservative to increase the shelf life of its peeled potatoes. This would enable the company to further strengthen its UK and export markets by mitigating growing resistance amongst customers to the use of sulphites on prepared vegetables.

In addition, most fresh fruits and vegetables have a pronounced tendency to discolour to a greyish brown after periods of storage, producing an appearance that is unacceptable to consumers.  Therefore, another focus of academic work carried out was on reducing enzymatic browning, one of the primary reactions responsible for such discolouration, in addition to increasing the shelf life of the potatoes.

The KTP Associate recruited to work on the project, Birmingham PhD alumni Dr Matthew Cave, had not worked in industry before, so the project enabled him to gain a solid grounding of the food industry.  Matthew, throughout the KTP and beyond, brought his academic experience to the company, embedding Quality Control procedures and IS0 Certification within the business.  He was subsequently employed by the company to continue as Technical Manager and has since moved into the Operations side. As a direct consequence, the company’s approach to R&D has changed – a more controlled, systematic approach to New Product Development and verification is now in place. A further benefit of the KTP project was that it enabled the company to gain confidence, manifested through investment in capital equipment and training of staff.

Kelvin Lee

Managing Director, Drywite Ltd

“We are use the expertise of Dr Tony Hasting and the resources of the University of Birmingham for a project that our company may not otherwise have been able to afford. We were very happy with the report that Dr Hasting produced and would like to continue to develop links with universities.”


Paraytec Ltd.

Translating theory into real-world solutions 

Paraytec is a UK based scientific instrument company manufacturing and distributing a range of products for pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical applications.

They are constantly striving to build further capability into their instruments and one of the key problems they were facing was how to characterise the key attributes of biotherapeutic proteins whilst using extremely small volumes (10 microlitres or less) of what is a very high value material.

Usually the proteins are injected into, and driven by pressure, through a capillary, and their concentration profiles visualised at two windows. Analysis of these profiles yields some information about protein size and solution viscosity. Further development of the analysis techniques and application of mathematical modelling was expected to significantly improve the efficiency of measurements.

Working with researchers from the University's School of Mathematics, led by Dr Jamal Uddin, the Company embarked on a KTP project which established a theoretical framework for the modelling of concentration-dependent effects under the flow conditions relevant to Paraytec's TDA200 instrument. The model provided a theoretical basis from which the extraction of concentration dependent parameters can be achieved.

Professor David Goodall

CSO, Paraytec Ltd

“We are delighted with the outcome of the project. We now have a sound theoretical model upon which to build further capability into our instrumentation. We have very much enjoyed working with the University of Birmingham and would recommend the shorter KTP approach to other companies.”



Reducing component life cycle costs

Rolls-Royce generates around half of its revenue from aftermarket services and offers a comprehensive suite of services that cover all aspects of managing and maintaining its engines throughout their lifecycle. 

One area identified for development within their aftermarket services was a novel interlayer repair process for titanium blade integrated disk (blisk) aerofoils. Due to the high cost of each part, this area was seen as a key element in reducing the life cycle costs of Rolls-Royce components and, consequently, the Company were keen to develop and implement an advanced repair process for these parts. The new process would then become an addition to the portfolio of novel joining methods designed to meet the future repair needs for Rolls-Royce.
A Knowledge Transfer Project (KTP) with the University of Birmingham allowed Rolls-Royce to access expertise in a range of  analytical techniques at the University’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. In turn the partnership provided real benefit to the University of Birmingham researchers, led by Dr Moataz Attallah, allowing them to understand the practical challenges related to interlayer repair technologies and exposing them to several new technologies of relevance to their research. 

The project employed a ‘KTP Associate’, Silvia Marchisio, who was based at Rolls-Royce and jointly supervised by the Company and a member of the University’s academic team. The associate completed four phases of this project delivering an intellectual property map, a summary report on key process variables and a summary technical report on the tooling concept for interlayer repair and its demonstration on a representative component. The technical success and commercial relevance of the project have been demonstrated by Rolls- Royce’s continuing commitment to retain Silvia full-time so that she can actively develop the outcomes of the project. 

Dr John Forsdike

CEng MIMM, Repair Technology Programmes, Rolls-Royce

“Working with the University of Birmingham on this KTP has enabled Rolls-Royce to look in detail at a complex technical challenge using a range of techniques and expertise. This has allowed all partners to appreciate the challenges which need to be overcome in order to fully exploit the potential of the process, which in turn will support our manufacturing base.”


Truflo Marine Ltd.

Expanding manufacturing expertise

Based in Birmingham, IMI Truflo Marine has been a specialist designer, manufacturer and supplier of high integrity valves, actuators and pressure reducing stations for critical seawater and naval marine applications for over 50 years. To extend their core competencies, IMI Truflo Marine were interested in exploring the development of ‘metal seated’ valves for use in severe service settings in new industires, drawing on the University of Birmingham’s expertise in the properties of surfaces, friction, wear and lubrication and the effects of these on the performance of complex mechanical systems.

Through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Research Fellow, Catalin Pruncu was employed to work with IMI Truflo Marine to understand the physics of severe service tribological interaction to enable the development of a substantiated range of valves which has directly led to the development of patent protected technology, peer-reviewed research and presentations as well as demonstrations and sales interest.  

As a result of the work undertaken, IMI Truflo Marine, have embedded new knowledge within the company enabling a systematic approach to material selection and enhanced confidence in the development of new products utilising the TRIZ methodology used within the KTP. Through the KTP, IMI Truflo Marine were able to broaden their market opportunities and have enhanced their surface engineering capability, specifically in severe service settings. 

Tony Hill

IMI Truflo Marine

“With no previous experience of KTP’s, everything has been a first. I feel the team and the process have worked well. The KTP Associate has managed the project with enthusiasm and conscientiousness, our KTP Advisor has helped, overseeing the research and maintaining the project. The organisation of the KTP process with its regular input and meeting has helped drive the project in a structured and timely manner. The links with the University of Birmingham have supported IMI Truflo Marine in its goal of "Engineering GREAT", providing high quality graduates recruits, and year in industry students.”


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