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In Touch: “We knew that linking to a university would be absolutely critical”

In part two of the Technology Strategy Board’s feature on collaboration, it shares a story of successful alliance

For over two decades, In Touch, a radio and communications systems company from Morecambe in Lancashire, has served many of the UK’s leading plcs and public authorities in providing radio communications for highways and quarries. In 2009 the company applied for its first TSB collaborative research and development grant when it joined forces with Lancaster University and highways maintenance company Carillion plc. This will result in the launch of a revolutionary two way community travel information system early next year.

The opportunity to collaborate with a university and a public sector organisation to meet the needs of a large client has seen In Touch transform its business. The company now undertakes all its own development work – employing an extra eight people. It has also strengthened the long term viability of its business by taking part in a consortium approach and using expert innovation and technology advice.

Managing director John Walden said: “We knew that we needed academic input and that linking to a university would be absolutely critical. With help from Lancaster University we were able to take a long term strategic look at the data and communications industry and predict the likely advances and innovation path we needed to take.”

In Touch received a grant for £484,000 in the Informed Personal Travel Collaborative Research and Development competition run by the TSB in 2009. The resulting end product ‘Our Travel’ will launch in early 2012 once trials are completed by the end of this year.

Walden said: “It is a daunting prospect for a small company to think about collaborating – you do worry about finding the right partners and whether there will be competition issues.

“But with the right partners and a common goal the progress you can make is substantial and much more than you could ever hope to do on your own.”

He added: “There has been such a change in the way that universities have opened up to businesses like ours in the past 10 years. More small businesses should take advantage of these fantastic resources in the UK.”

For another example of TSB’s work, read about the collaboration it facilitated between the MOD and Intelligent Textiles

If you are interested in working in collaboration with higher education institutions, Crimson’s new publication with TSB, Working with Universities , has information on how to access innovation centres, research partnerships, grants, and venture funding.

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