New Ideas

Universities and colleges brim with expert knowledge, research expertise, and state-of-the-art facilities. They support the generation of real-world solutions to real-world challenges – and partnerships with external organisations is fundamental to this role.

Each of our HE providers has a unique offer: our membership includes a specialist building college, research intensive universities, college-based HE providers that specialise in professional and technical education, a music conservatoire, and the only specialist arts university in the North of England.

Our members work in partnership with businesses at all developmental stages, whether this is a new business idea in need of some support to flourish or a mature business looking to address a strategic imperative. There are a range of ways to connect and harness expertise, whether this is from an academic researcher with a specialist in a relevant field; a student group able to offer a fresh perspective on a business problem; or use of state of the art facilities.

Live projects

Live projects help organisations solve real world challenges in collaboration with students.

They usually start with a brief set by the organisation. Projects are referred to as ‘live’ because students work to address a current problem set by an external organisation and deliver the project in real-time, with a defined end result. They bring learning to life and enable students to see first-hand the impact of their interventions and outputs.

HE providers look to recruit organisations whose sector or job roles align with the course or programme of study. There is no cost to the business, just a commitment in time. Employers benefit from getting fresh perspectives on a piece of work, and introducing their organisation to potential future recruits.

Live projects provide students with the opportunity to develop their communication skills and collaborate within a peer group and external teams. The projects provide a tangible example of how they have applied their learning, something they can bring into job applications and interviews. They learn how to operate within the constraints the brief presents, honing key employment skills such as:

  • Team working
  • Communication
  • Stakeholder management
  • Responding to a client/brief
  • Negotiation
  • Delegation
  • Time management
  • Project management
  • Presentation skills

An alternative approach is for an employer to run a competition or challenge which students respond to.

Live projects are included in undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Businesses can connect with researchers and graduate to gain insights which will provide solutions for specific business needs.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are specific projects designed to boost company innovation, competitiveness, profitability, and/or productivity. The project is designed to respond to a key issue or priority that is strategically significant to the business.

KTPs bring together:

  • A qualified graduate (known as an Associate), recruited by the higher education provider and embedded within the business or not-for-profit.
  • A higher education or research organisation who supervises the Associate and contributes academic and research expertise.
  • A UK business or not-for-profit

The relationship between these parties facilitates the transference of academic knowledge to the non-academic partner in a way that can benefit the business.

KTPs is usually a longer-term project delivered over 1-3 years. Subject to a successful funding application, the project will receive funding from the UK government through UK Research and Innovation (typically a 67% contribution for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and 50% for larger businesses). The higher education provider will usually lead and support the funding application process.

KTPs are most frequently offered by universities but can be delivered by college-based higher education providers.

Employer engagement teams will be able to introduce you to the appropriate contact. Please see How to engage with HE Providers for more information.

Research, experts and consultancy

Businesses can engage with academic and industry experts working to create new knowledge and push innovation.

A higher education provider may be able to support the delivery of a piece of research initiated by a business. Equally, there may be opportunities to contribute to research led by a higher education provider. These opportunities will be promoted through the providers’ external comms and networks, and targeted at particular sectors or types of business as needed. Research opportunities are more prevalent at universities.

Support is available to help businesses in commercialising ideas or on a consultancy basis, this may aid access to knowledge and research, regulatory requirements, data, or consultants with an expertise in field that helps an employer to exploit an opportunity or solve a problem.

Some providers will present a directory of experts on their website for media and business enquiries. Some examples are provided below. Employer engagement teams can also facilitate access to an expert in a particular subject area.

Bradford College 

University of Bradford 

Calderdale College 

University of Huddersfield 

Kirklees College 

Leeds Conservatoire 

University of Leeds 

Leeds Arts University 

Leeds Beckett University 

Leeds College of Building 

University Centre Leeds 

Leeds Trinity University 

Wakefield College 

Enterprise & business start-up

Gain support to build a business idea or share your own journey with the next generation of graduates.

Enterprise and entrepreneurial skills are frequently embedded within higher education courses. These are enhanced through opportunities for students to engage with regional entrepreneurs.

HE providers are always keen to connect with businesses willing to share their journeys and provide students with insight on becoming a business owner, being self-employed or managing a portfolio of entrepreneurial initiatives. Businesses can explore partnership opportunities by contacting university and college employer engagement team.

Many providers have staff designated to supporting business start-up. Most frequently this will be targeted at their graduates. Graduates with a business idea, fledgling or developing business, may be able to obtain training, guidance, connections and sometimes funding from their former place of study. Connecting in with a provider’s alumni network is a great way to find out more.


Businesses can partner with HE providers to access facilities such as state-of-the-art laboratory spaces, equipped for a range of subject disciplines from healthcare to chemical engineering; suites supporting the latest technological advances; research and test centres; innovative manufacturing and engineering equipment; music recording studios; and sports facilities.

Spaces including conferencing; classroom; meeting; performance and incubation spaces are available to hire.

We’ve listed all the conferencing, event and venue hire opportunities for our college and university members:

Bradford Collegelist of venues 

University of Bradfordbusiness incubation and facilities 

Calderdale Collegeclassrooms and meeting room hire 

University of Huddersfieldconference and events 

Kirklees Collegeconferencing 

Leeds Conservatoirehire our spaces 

University of LeedsMeetInLeeds  

Leeds Arts Universityfacilities 

Leeds Beckett UniversityUniversity Business Centre meeting rooms 

Leeds College of Buildingfacilities

University Centre Leedslist of campuses and centres

Leeds Trinity Universityconference and event

Wakefield Collegevenue hire