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Driving innovation

22 May 2013

A University partnership that increased productivity and reduced costs at car giant Ford has been recognised for its success at the University's prestigious Innovation and Impact Awards.

The Business Innovation Prize was awarded to collaboration between the Schools of Engineering and Computer Sciences & Informatics and the Ford Motor Company Ltd. Over the last two years they have directly addressed technological and operational issues related to engine production at the plant resulting in improved production processes and significant savings in time, efficiency and costs.

The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, presented the team with the award in a ceremony at the University. The awards are sponsored by Geldards Law Firm and Fusion IP.

The initial Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the School of Computer Science & Informatics helped develop a modern, data-warehouse based system of reporting for the Ford engine plant in Bridgend, South Wales. An outbound engine traceability system was also produced which has resulted in significant savings per year, with more forecast for the future. Key elements of this project are now being further developed and rolled out across Ford's sites.  

Currently, a total of four Knowledge Transfer Partnerships between the University and Ford worth approximately £500,000 have been completed or are underway. Ford and the University have also signed a joint working agreement to explore further projects and the University was selected by the company as one of ten universities to offer Blue Oval Scholarships which are helping support a new generation of UK scientists.

Professor Roger Whitaker, School of Computer Science & Informatics who led the first Knowledge Transfer Partnership said: "The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships between the University and Ford have given rise to a productive, long-term strategic relationship. Ford has had unrivalled access to cutting-edge expertise and the academics involved have been able to test their theories against real-world data. As a result of these Partnerships there has been an increase in the range of commercial activities within the Schools involved and significant benefits for Ford."

Martin Everitt, Bridgend Plant Manager at Ford said: "The collaboration has allowed the company to undertake a more strategic approach to solving business issues rather than a day-to-day 'fire fighting' approach which has resulted in long-term gains, financially, environmentally and operationally. Promoting these innovations across Ford globally will deliver further great savings to the business as well as promoting the work of the Bridgend plant to the company."

Michael Wright of Cardiff Engineering's Business Gateway said: "The Knowledge Transfer Partnership  programme is a vital part of Cardiff's engagement with industry, enabling us to apply excellent research for the benefit of UK businesses of all sizes. The Technology Strategy Board, supported locally by Welsh Government, enables business improvement through intensive interaction with academics. We're delighted that research-intensive Russell Group universities, including Cardiff, are leading the way with innovative UK based manufacturers like Ford."   

The Innovation and Impact Awards Competition is organised by the Cardiff University Innovation Network; the business/university network established in 1996. They provide an opportunity for Cardiff academic staff to showcase their innovative collaborations with business and other non-academic organisations, demonstrating the positive impact that universities can have on economy and society.