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Northumbria University designs outstanding results

10th February 2017

A North East manufacturing firm is set to boost its annual sales turnover by £2.5m in the next three years as a result of working with Northumbria University.

The University has collaborated with Gateshead-based Parker Hannifin (UK) Ltd, a subsidiary of US-based global engineering group Parker Hannifin Corporation whose motion and control systems have engineered the success of customers in the mobile, industrial and aerospace markets.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) – where university academics work directly with industry by jointly managing a strategic project in the business - developed a customer-centric innovation process that involved collaboration between marketing and engineering and the formation of an industrial-design capability within the business, representing a step-change in approach for the company.

This KTP with Northumbria has driven change at Parker Hannifin and the successful strategies developed have been shared across several of its European manufacturing sites and the company’s headquarters in the US. Also a number of the outcomes of the KTP have been recognised as examples of best practice by Parker Hannifin in Europe and the US.

As well as increasing Parker Hannifin (UK) Ltd.’s annual profit before tax by £1.5m within the next three years, this KTP has helped position the company’s facility, in Gateshead, as a thought-leader in product and marketing innovation.

Northumbria’s Strategic Marketing Associate Ellie Jones, from Newcastle Business School, and Industrial Designer Callum Whitehead, from Northumbria Design School, recently completed a two-year full-time job as KTP Associates and now are both in full-time permanent roles with the company. 

Neil McPherson, Division Marketing Manager at Parker Hannifin Manufacturing Limited, said: “Working with colleagues at Northumbria University, we have been able to identify a number of new opportunities for the business, which will generate significant revenues over the next three years.  For the first time in 40 years we decided to change the appearance of our products and when we presented them at the Hanover Fair, in Germany, the positive response from our customers was overwhelming.

“Our work with Northumbria University has helped to transform the way in which we use existing data to optimise business performance and we have successfully developed a dashboard focusing on new market opportunities which will deliver significant global sales.”

Such has been the success of this KTP that it has recently been awarded an A ‘outstanding’ rating - the highest possible - by an independent panel of assessors from Innovate UK. 

This exceptional rating is given to a very small percentage of KTP projects, signifying the highest quality of collaboration.

Professor Fraser McLeay, Head of Corporate and Executive Development at Newcastle Business School, added: “This KTP is an example of significant impact and contribution that a KTP programme, hosted at an ‘SME-sized’ site in the North East, can bring to a multi-national manufacturing company benefitting all the partners of the programme.  KTPs involve knowledge sharing where the most up to date and relevant academic advances can be used to put theory into practise, creating impact with industry and real live business examples for our students and academics.”

This multi-disciplinary approach of integrating industrial design with strategic marketing is unique, to discover new growth opportunities for the business, understand the potential revenue and then deliver new value propositions for customers.

Matt Lievesley, Business and Engagement Lead for Northumbria’s School of Design, said: “This KTP with Parker Hannifin is a really good example of where we’ve brought two disciplines together, the Business and Design Schools, and offered something which suits our region so well because we have a fantastic manufacturing base here in the North East.”

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