How a KTP helped this UK footwear firm saunter to success
‘Customisable comfort with a stylish twist’ describes WearerTech’s Custom Pro footwear, a new line of shoes for demanding environments created in a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) with the University of Salford.
The success of the line has been credited to the partnership, which was earlier this year shortlisted as one of three finalists for the Best Knowledge Transfer Partnership Award Category in the Best of the Best Awards by the UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network.
According to WearerTech, its strategic aim was to be the best footwear brand in demanding environments where wearers were required to stand for significant amounts of time such as those working in the hospitality or healthcare industries.
Although already an established leader in the UK in footwear for these industries, it wanted to grow its market dominance by increasing sales, growing through export markets and retaining its competitive edge against lower-cost alternatives.
To achieve this, the firm first needed to improve its understanding of the demands in the footwear market in this area, and then turn that information into product features that could differentiate WearerTech’s footwear with other brands.
The knowledge transfer partnership with the University of Salford’s School of Health Sciences helped it advance this mission.
“Our partnership with the University of Salford and the applied research we carried out together has enabled WearerTech to develop new shoes, based on evidence-based research,” WearerTech CEO Will Ghali said.
The knowledge transfer team reportedly conducted and completed a range of research to contribute towards the finished product, including interviews with staff, activity monitoring, lab-based research looking at the in-depth biomechanics of standing and the testing and development of products in kitchen environments.
“The novel research focused on standing for prolonged periods, which is present in a range of jobs including chefs and hospitality staff. This research ethos is embedded in the WearerTech brand,” the firm said on its website.
The final result was Custom Pro, a line of footwear with demonstrable benefits and backed up by proven and measurable benefits from improved efficiency to reduced sickness rates.
“These new shoes provide greater comfort, protection and personalisation to help people standing on their feet for long periods of time at work,” Ghali said.
Involved in the project were Salford Professors Chris Nester and Dr Anita Williams, and KTP Associate Jenny Anderson, who gained a raft of benefits from the partnership.
In addition to attending courses more related to the business side, Anderson also got the opportunity to publish her research on the project.
From the partnership, Anderson was also offered continued employment with WearerTech, taking on a research and development role to enable the continuation of her research. She is now the Company Supervisor of a second knowledge transfer partnership, working with Salford’s Nester and Price on a mass customisation strategy for workplace footwear and a tool to aid selection of appropriate footwear via an online platform.
Given the success of the partnership, Anderson urges other graduate students like herself to consider participating in one.
“I would recommend a KTP as it provides a new challenge on top of the academic research and helps to develop a different set of skills, as well as building on existing ones. It gives you the chance to apply your research in a real-world application, which is very rewarding,” she said.
A KTP is a 40-year-old UK-wide partnership government scheme funded by national innovation agency Innovate UK and created to support business growth and productivity.
Part of the government’s industrial strategy, the scheme is a three-way partnership between a local business, a university academic or research organisation and a graduate student, who will be employed by the organisation throughout the project term, which could be anywhere between 12 and 36 months.