case study
Published: 16 May 2018

Knowledge Transfer Partnership: WSP

Global engineering professional services consulting company WSP, and their SME partner Concepture, collaborated with the our Departments of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Computer Science to undertake a KTP to deliver a new optimisation tool for smart water networks.

Duke of Kent Building and lake

Fast facts

  • Brought academic rigor to WSP's product development
  • Developed and implemented new tools and upskilled staff
  • Provided new insight to business opportunities for applications of adaptive and predictive algorithms and machine learning technology
  • Acted as a catalyst to change WSP's approach and investment in R&D activities
  • Developed WSP's reputation in the water industry
  • Offer of employment to the Associate
  • Provided student projects and developed case-studies and publications.

The company: WSP 

With more than 7,000 employees in a network of offices across the UK, WSP engineer projects that will help societies grow for lifetimes to come.

"The Knowledge Transfer Partnership created a framework for WSP to invest in developing an innovative product which is designed to be a market leader."

Alastair Atkinson, Technical Director, WSP UK Ltd.

WSP and their SME partner, Concepture Ltd, approached the University of Surrey looking for specialised expertise in computer programming and data management for modelling complex environmental scenarios with the aim of optimising a solution.

The aim was to develop an optimisation engine for a system which manages freshwater in the environment to deliver multiple water services to multiple stakeholders through storage of excess freshwater in a network of automatically controlled storage systems.

The KTP has delivered a new proposition from the existing simulation-based optimisation used by WSP. The new optimisation methodology offers a move away from the traditional trial-and-error simulations to find the optimal flow network by using machine learning algorithm to automatically determine the parameters of the water network for optimisation. As a result, the proposed technology saves the engineer time in optimising a water network, leading to a cost benefit level not previously achieved.

Benefits 

The partnership with the University of Surrey was vital to the KTP, providing access to leading-edge academic expertise. It also provided a very proactive KTP Associate, who worked across the company, gaining valuable experience throughout the KTP.

The KTP has supported developing academic rigour in parts of WSP product development and has enabled WSP to develop a product which is ahead of the market.  

WSP have developed their position and perception in the water industry.

The KTP has helped to deliver the company’s approach to smart consulting. It has advanced recruitment and investment in machine code learning and artificial intelligence.

WSP staff have benefitted from upskilling through Python programming workshops for data manipulation and management; and a workshop on machine learning and its applications in engineering.

Both partners are keen to maintain the relationship and are currently expanding networks across both the company and the University to actively seek other opportunities to work on collaboratively.

Results 

  • Developed future-focused tools that are unique and ground breaking, using adaptive and predictive technologies
  • Changed WSP's use of digital technology by demonstrating the power, potential and applicability of machine learning in real-world scenarios
  • Enabled WSP to raise its profile within the wider water industry; supporting the development of a more sustainable water business
  • Utilised the new digital approach on major infrastructure projects to increase efficiency
  • Acted as a catalyst for change in culture around the company approach to R&D and investment.

The Associate: Dr Kostas Eftaxias

Dr Kostas Eftaxias was given real responsibilities, becoming a project manager with the objective of developing a novel software tool to provide a robust and adaptive solution to water management problems.

"I had the unique chance to apply the knowledge that I gained in my PhD solving an exciting real-world problem, while working in a perfect balance between industry and academia."

Dr Kostas Eftaxias, KTP Associate

In addition to developing new tools, Kostas provided training courses and facilitated workshops, he developed specialist code, offered new ideas and developed internal relationships across the Company.  

The work undertaken by Kostas has given the Smart Consulting team a new insight to business opportunities in terms of applications of adaptive and predictive algorithms in machine learning technology. These skills can be applied in numerous fields including smart/sustainable cities, smart buildings, autonomous vehicles, asset management technologies, digital rail, and smart water management.  

Kostas was offered and accepted a full-time employment offer from the Smart Consulting team.

    Benefits

    • Experience of working for a global organisation
    • Significant training opportunities, investing in both professional and technical qualifications, including agile project management practitioner; data science for IoT; Scala and machine learning specialisations.

    Results

    • Developed a unique and ground breaking predictive and adaptive machine learning tool
    • Involved in shaping the development of the new Smart Consulting team
    • Employed by the company as a data scientist machine learning specialist.

        The Academic Partner: University of Surrey

        "We would encourage anyone to apply for a KTP as it provided the initial thrust that we needed to collaborate!"

        Dr Clive Cheong Took, Department of Computer Science and Dr Payam Barnaghi, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

        Benefits

        Prior to the KTP the academic supervisor did not have any substantive interactions with industrial partners.

        Through the KTP the academic was exposed to and gained an understanding of the needs of business and the applicability of research.

        The cross-disciplinary nature of the project meant that each academic member was exposed to the others’ research area. The University now has a track record in the smart water management.

        Results

        • Provided case studies for teaching modules on data structure and algorithms to demonstrate the application of graph theory in solving a real-world problem
        • The findings have been disseminated in academic publications
        • A GIS project was undertaken by a final year student who won the best digital prize award for his project
        • A Summer internship was undertaken to enhance the scalability of the programming implementation code of the project
        • Potential for the KTP Associate to become a visiting lecturer at the University of Surrey
        • Opportunities for further collaboration.

        Benefits of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

        Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are designed to benefit all partners involved:

        • Company partner: acquire new knowledge and expertise; transform the business; create around two new jobs; increase annual profit; access University’s facilities
        • KTP associate: lead a strategic project; gain fast-track industry-based work experience; undertake significant  personal and professional development opportunities
        • University academics: stimulate and enhance the business relevance of their research and teaching, develop impact case studies and produce publications.

        About the sponsor  

        Innovate UK is the UK's innovation agency, working with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. KTPs have been helping businesses to innovate and grow for more than 40 years, linking a university and a graduate to work on a specific project, bringing creativity and a fresh mindset to a UK company.