• Status: Closed

  • Key features: The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is to invest up to £500k to establish new Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) to stimulate innovation in the UK retail sector.

  • Programme: Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

  • Award: Up to £500k

  • Opens: 25 Feb 2013

  • Registration closes: No deadline

  • Closes: 21 Aug 2013

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Supporting innovation in the UK retail sector


To take part in this targeted call a business should contact one of our KTP advisers to seek further information on eligibility and the application process. You can find you local adviser at the following link: http://www.ktponline.org.uk/advisers

The Economic and Social Research Council  (ESRC) is to invest up to £500k to establish new Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) to stimulate innovation in the UK retail sector.  It is seeking proposals that will help retail  managers address the major economic, social and environmental challenges that  they face, leading to new opportunities and tangible outcomes for business.

This targeted call, which is being run by the Technology Strategy Board on behalf  of the ESRC, offers retailers the chance to  work in partnership with the UK's world-leading social and economic scientists, to  access skills, knowledge and technology and address sectoral challenges, helping  to improve competitiveness, productivity and performance.

Through this investment we aim to:

  • increase knowledge exchange between  retailers and social scientists develop a greater understanding of the  changing nature of the UK High Street  and retail spaces, to drive growth,  innovation and efficiency within the sector
  • develop a greater understanding of the changing nature of the UK High Street and retail spaces, to drive growth, innovation and efficiency within the sector
  • stimulate and support innovations in  e-commerce, m-commerce and  omni-commerce, to maintain and  strengthen the UK's position as a  global leader in internet retailing
  • promote and enable innovations in the  use of ‘big data,' providing insights into  consumer behaviour, increasing efficiency  and growth within the retail sector.

The ESRC will part-fund KTPs. The  competition opens on 25 February 2013 and the deadline for applications is noon  on 21 August 2013.


Contact details


The retail sector forms an important part of the UK economy, and has a profound  impact on the whole of society. Valued at over £300bn, it employs one in nine working people in the UK and accounts for one in 12 companies. Innovation is  having a significant effect on the sector, and it is clear that retail managers face  many economic, social and environmental challenges in ensuring that their businesses  remain competitive.

The social sciences are essential to developing the international competitiveness of UK  business, and improving the wellbeing of  citizens in the UK and beyond. With a  total budget of £205m for 2012/2013, the  ESRC is the largest organisation funding  research on social and economic issues  in the UK. The ESRC focuses its activities  on three strategic priority areas:

  •  improving economic performance and supporting sustainable growth
  •  influencing behaviour and informing interventions
  • helping to create a vibrant and fair society.

The ESRC funds research across a  number of economic and social research  areas, including those that relate to these strategic priorities.

This targeted call builds on the findings of a strategic review of retail research  capability and research agendas, which was undertaken by the ESRC Retail and Retail Data Knowledge Navigators in March 2012 (see www.esrc.ac.uk, under ‘funding opportunities'). The review  identified a number of significant  challenges facing the retail sector, including:

  • the changing nature of the UK High Street and changing physical retail spaces
  • the growth in e-commerce, m-commerce and omni-channel retailing
  • changing expectations among consumers.

The UK research base (including the higher education sector and research and technology organisations) has world-leading knowledge and expertise in economic and social sciences which could help businesses address these challenges, for example in:

  • demographic analysis
  • behavioural psychology
  • advanced quantitative methods, including the application of advanced  tools and techniques to analyse large and complex datasets.

Through this targeted call we want to encourage retail businesses to work in  partnership with the academic research base on innovative collaborative projects,  and address the challenges facing the sector through the transfer of knowledge  and skills.

What is KTP?

KTP helps businesses to improve their competitiveness, productivity and  performance through better use of the knowledge, technology and skills that are available within the UK knowledge base. The programme is UK-wide, headed by the Technology Strategy  Board, and supported by 12 other public sector funding organisations.  

A KTP involves the formation of  a partnership between a  business, an academic institution (or knowledge base partner) and a  recently qualified graduate, who is  known as the Associate. The aim of  the partnership is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, and embed new capability within the business.

Through collaboration, these partnerships can:

  • involve highly qualified people in spearheading new projects
  • engage experts to help take organisations forward
  • develop innovative solutions to help organisations grow
  • develop the capacity and capability to innovate more effectively.

This targeted call for KTPs is running in parallel with a £2m ESRC knowledge  exchange opportunities scheme, focused on the retail sector – for more information see www.esrc.ac.uk, under ‘funding opportunities'.


We want to support high-quality KTPs that  will promote knowledge transfer, to help  UK businesses in the retail sector address the challenges that they face.

These KTPs will involve businesses in the retail sector that:

  • need further support to understand and respond to the challenges facing the sector
  • are looking to access social and economic science skills and knowledge, to help them innovate in dealing with these challenges
  • want to build and improve their capability in innovation.

Through this investment we aim to:

  • promote increased knowledge exchange between retailers and social scientists
  • develop a greater understanding of  the changing nature of the UK High  Street and retail spaces, to drive growth, innovation and efficiency within the sector
  • stimulate and support innovation in e-commerce, m-commerce and  omni-commerce to maintain and strengthen the UK position as a global leader in internet retailing
  • promote innovation in the use of ‘big  data,' providing insights into consumer  behaviour, driving efficiency and growth within the retail sector
  • support other innovative projects, addressing one or more sectoral  challenges.

KTP projects can last between six and 36 months. We expect the KTP projects in this targeted call to last typically for  24 months, although shorter or longer  timescales will be considered on their  merit. We expect business outcomes to  be realised in a timeframe appropriate  to the sector.

The group of KTPs funded through this  targeted call will be expected to engage, as a cohort, with the projects funded  through the retail-focused knowledge exchange opportunities call mentioned above (see www.esrc.ac.uk under  ‘funding opportunities').

The ESRC will appoint a co-ordinator to encourage knowledge-sharing across projects, potentially giving the businesses involved access to knowledge and expertise held  by a range of academic groups, with different perspectives on the high-level challenges facing the retail sector.

A portfolio approach may be adopted in the selection of cohort members to achieve a spread of topic areas. The ESRC and the Technology Strategy Board will support knowledge-sharing between the KTPs by:

  • holding an initial knowledge-sharing event when the KTP projects are  established, enabling the cohort of KTPs to meet and discuss matters of wider interest, such as generic challenges and shared aims
  • holding a mid-way knowledge-sharing event while the KTP projects are  running, enabling the cohort to meet and discuss breakthroughs and matters  of wider interest
  • holding a wrap-up knowledge-exchange event, involving Associates,  business partners and knowledge base partners, to disseminate  project findings, exchange best  practice and discuss potential future projects
  • setting up a dedicated group on  the _connect site for the partners to  communicate and share information
  • working to promote the success of the individual KTPs and of the whole cohort
  • bringing the cohort together with participants in other relevant ESRC- and Technology Strategy Board-funded projects.


We will fund part of the cost of running the  KTP project. The level of grant that the  KTP can receive depends upon the size of  the company involved. The grant is paid  through the academic partner, and the level also depends on whether the  academic partner uses a full economic  cost model.

As an example, a small or medium-sized  enterprise might contribute around a third  of the project costs, with the remainder of  the costs being paid as grant. Currently  average annual project costs are around £60,000. Larger companies generally  receive a lower level of funding. For this  targeted call, previous involvement of the  company in KTP will not be taken into account in determining the grant level.

Your regional KTP Adviser will be able to provide more details on funding levels.

Application process

To take part in this targeted call, businesses should contact one of our KTP Advisers.  The KTP Advisers provide advice on eligibility and timescales, and work with  all the potential KTP partners to develop joint proposals. The application process involves:

Stage 1: Expression of interest (EOI)

Stage 2: Businesses whose EOIs are approved are invited to submit a grant  proposal and application form

Stage 3: Our Partnership Approvals Group (PAG) makes a funding recommendation

Stage 4: For this targeted call there is also a further assessment involving the ESRC.

Both the EOI and application must be agreed by a KTP Adviser before submission  by the academic partner, for consideration by the Partnership Approvals Group.

KTP projects may be independent of, or complementary to, applications for funding  from calls that run in parallel with this KTP  targeted call. However, organisations  applying for both KTP and knowledge exchange opportunities funding (see funding section above) should ensure that their proposals can stand alone, and are not dependent  on both applications being successful. 

KTP Advisers can help businesses to identify suitable academic partners. Visit  www.ktponline.org.uk and go to ‘contact  us' to locate your local KTP Office and/or  KTP Adviser. 
High-quality KTP proposals that are not selected as part of the cohort may be funded as part of the wider KTP programme. 
If you have a proposal that is not within the scope of this targeted call, you may still be eligible for a KTP grant. The  scheme runs throughout the year and supports projects in many fields. You should contact your local KTP Adviser in the first instance (www.ktponline.org.uk). 
This competition opens on 25 February  2013. The deadline for applications is  noon on 21 August 2013

Further information

For more information about KTP or about  eligibility or suitability of projects for  this targeted call please contact your  regional KTP Adviser. Adviser contact  details are available on the KTP  website – www.ktponline.org.uk under ‘contact us'. 
KTP Helpline: 0300 321 4357 


As part of the application process all applicants are asked to submit a public  description of the project. This should adequately describe the project but not disclose any information that may impact  on intellectual property, is confidential or  commercially sensitive.

The titles of successful projects, names of organisations, amounts awarded and the public description  will be published once the award is confirmed as final. Information about unsuccessful project applications will remain confidential and will not be made public.

E-mail pressoffice@tsb.gov.uk with any queries.