KTN: UK’s largest innovation network aims to “change the world”

Posted on 18 Aug 2020 by The Manufacturer

KTN, the independent organisation that connects ideas, people and communities to create real world solutions to the biggest challenges faced by government and industry, has launched a new strategy which will see it turn its innovation engine onto major environmental and societal issues.

The knowledge sharing powerhouse and major partner of Innovate UK, KTN, was founded to bring disparate sectors together to facilitate R&D and fast-track innovation, with the explicit goal to stimulate the UK economy.

KTN has had a hand in solving economy-stunting problems such as:

  • The ventilator shortage in the early months of the pandemic by connecting UK manufacturing to healthcare.
  • The safe transport of nuclear waste from old facilities to new by connecting medical X-ray suppliers to the nuclear industry.
  • Preventing major food shortages by connecting robotics researchers with commercial crop growers to overcome the dwindling picker workforce.

Today’s dramatic shift in focus, which is being driven by newly appointed CEO, Dr Alicia Greated, is the cornerstone of a five-year plan to “change the world”, using KTN’s deep expertise and powerful connections not only for economic good, but environmental and societal good too, starting with the goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions.


For every £1 invested in KTN by UK government, it has contributed £13.50 to the UK economy.

Dr Alicia Greated says, “Innovation is complex. The journey from idea to market is not straightforward and requires a diverse range of know-how, investment, market knowledge and research, and we make that happen.

“KTN exists to connect innovators with new partners and new opportunities beyond their existing thinking – accelerating the time it takes for ambitious ideas to become real-world solutions, and we’ve been incredibly successful over the years.

“KTN is playing an important role in overcoming some of the most high-profile and complicated problems the UK economy is facing. But beyond our shores, the world is up against some even bigger challenges; climate change, COVID-19, access to healthcare, trade and investment, the future of global finance and online security – to name a few.

“If we broaden our scope, we can tackle more of these problems and change the world for the better.”

KTN has ambitions to extend its global impact as part of its five-year strategy, but is already involved in a broader range of projects in the UK, such as:

Bringing its network of mathematical scientists together to help FareShare, the UK’s largest charity dedicated to tackling food poverty, better forecast demand for food products and optimise its distribution networks to meet that demand.

Holding a nationwide innovation call to address the challenge of social distancing requirements on transport ships. Five new technologies are now undergoing trials to ensure workboats can take the necessary number of engineers to offshore wind farms and prevent their failure.

These technologies are also being assessed for suitability in other industry sectors.

Creating a partnership between charity Positive Steps and Manchester Metropolitan University to create a new framework in consultation with young people from within the criminal justice system which has resulted in reduced reoffending rates and improved life chances.

The scheme is the first of its kind in the UK to be co-created with the young offenders themselves and was facilitated via the use of boxing, rap lyric writing and urban art workshops.

David Lawrence, Chair of KTN’s Board commented “World history tells us that innovation typically comes from new intersections between ideas, technologies and people, and KTN’s history confirms that.

“In the present, we are facing more and more problems as a society, some of which can be described as existential. Innovation has never been more important. That’s why KTN and its network is committed to creating and fostering diverse connections to drive innovation for positive change to our economy, but also towards a more sustainable society.”