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Strategic Partnerships Office

Business Partners Day 2022

The Business Partnerships team within the Strategic Partnerships Office manages the University’s relationships with its strategic business partners.

What do we mean by a strategic partnership?

A strategic partner is an organisation with which we have a long-term, multi-stranded, mutually beneficial partnership spanning a wide range of disciplines and activities.

These partnerships are all different but are likely to have some or all of the following elements:

  • Strategic engagement at senior levels within both organisations: Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Business & Enterprise for the University and a board-level sponsor for the industry partner.​
  • A framework agreement to define the scope of the partnership and confidentiality and intellectual property arrangements so that both parties are able to explore new opportunities as they arise.
  • An executive committee to oversee the strategic development of the partnership
  • A steering committee to monitor progress and take operational decisions
  • A dedicated partnership manager at the University and a counterpart at the corporate partner to provide day-to-day oversight of all partnership activities.

The Business Partnerships team

Dedicated partnership managers within the Business Partnerships Team have oversight of key partnerships and can connect partners with expertise across the University.

As domain specialists, they support existing partnerships and develop new ones in digital, energy and life sciences and other industry sectors where the University has significant research expertise.

Meet the team

The Business Partners’ annual event

Each year the Strategic Partnerships Office hosts an event for key partners, bringing together some of the world’s most successful businesses across a wide range of sectors with leading academics to address some of our most pressing challenges.

Challenge-led pump priming fund

Academic-industry interactions often require some early-stage investigation of ideas and approaches in order to get them off the ground. However, these can be difficult to resource when they are at a very explorative stage.

In 2017, the Strategic Partnerships Office established a ‘pump priming’ fund to support these kinds of challenge-led activities across the University.

The kinds of activities supported by the fund include:

  • Up to four collaborative projects leading from an interdisciplinary workshop (with the workshop already funded)
  • An individual proposal which has the potential to catalyse a new or longer-term relationship between the University and industry.
  • Costs of a challenge-led workshop and up to three subsequent collaborative projects
  • Up to four collaborative projects to develop proof of concept data to support a future collaborative funding bid

Members of the University’s Knowledge Exchange Network can apply for this funding. There are usually three calls per year (ie one per term).

In total, the Fund can support up to five projects a year to help progress new, impactful partnerships.

To find out more, email:

University of Cambridge Decarbonisation Network

The Decarbonisation Network aims to connect University of Cambridge academics with external industry representatives working towards decarbonisation. Currently, there are three Special Interest Groups (SIGs): Light Harvesting, the Built Environment and Hard to Decarbonise Technologies. The SIGs have been identified as clusters of expertise within the University of Technology areas that can benefit from broader academic-industry collaborations. The Network works across the collegiate University, is supported by Strategic Partnerships Office and operates in collaboration with Cambridge Zero and the Energy Interdisciplinary Research Centre.

The Network organises a wide range of online and in-person events which bring together University researchers with industry experts. More than 400 specialists have registered with the Network, half of whom are external, representing more than 130 organisations.

Summaries of meetings are available on the Network’s website.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

The Business Partnerships Team also facilitates the University’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs).

The KTP programme is run by Innovate UK. Its aim is to help UK businesses innovate and grow by linking them with both with an academic or research organisation and a graduate who manages the project.

Part funded by Innovate UK, other government co-funders and the participating company, KTP projects apply the expertise of academics to business-critical projects.

The scheme can last between 12 and 36 months.

For more information, contact: Simon Daly


ThinkLab began life as an initiative designed to help Cambridge doctoral students connect with social, private and public organisations. Devised with input from senior leaders of the BBC, Arts Council England, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the ThinkLab model has been applied with a range of partners including the BBC, Aviva, the NHS, the Reading Agency, the Royal Society of Arts and the Fitzwilliam Museum. Students join a ThinkLab project for a term, working as a team on a live challenge alongside employees from a host organisation.

Recent ThinkLab projects include:

  • The development of a neurodiversity employability scheme with Aviva
  • Co-designing a more inclusive workplace with the BBC
  • Achieving net zero within the NHS: system-wide transition to greener, sustainable care
  • Workplace diversity and inclusion with the BBC

Find out more here: University of Cambridge ThinkLab