K Sharp Ltd is a Gloucester-based consultancy business which researches technology and how people use it; in order to improve how they interact with their tasks, systems, tools and the environments they operate in.
Its founder, Barry Kirby, has worked in the defence industry for 15 years inside companies like BAE Systems and GE Aviation. Taking his passion and his hard-won knowledge, Barry founded K Sharp in 2011 and has been working with customers including the Ministry of Defence and the UK Space Agency ever since.
Challenges & Opportunities
Barry, a staunch supporter of academic-business synergy, had been looking to engage with the University of Gloucestershire for some time and the opening of The Growth Hub in 2014 presented the perfect opportunity. Through his work on the IET (Institute of Engineering & Technology) Committee he discovered a shared passion for wearable technology with Elaine Haines, Senior Enterprise Partner at The Growth Hub and fellow committee member. As a result he was invited to demonstrate his wares at the launch party and made the connections that he needed to get started.
Barry was open to the vast range of opportunities that a university partnership would offer, but had specific ideas around joint-tender bids, graduate recruitment, tapping into student talent and his own personal development.
Solutions for Growth
To that end Barry was introduced to Dr. Graham Edgar, one of the university’s psychology experts, and comments;
“The connection with Graham is where it all began. He shared my vision of a business partnership and over the last 18 months, we have submitted a number of joint bids to the Ministry of Defence. Having the university’s academic rigour on board gives us the extra clout to bid for bigger contracts and bolsters our resource.”
Barry has since gone on to start his PhD in Human Psychological Stability at the University of Gloucestershire, which has had wider benefits besides his own personal development;
“I now have great confidence in the quality of teaching and research at the university. Two of my recent hires have been graduates of the university – and where their degrees came from played a big part in my decision.”
Graham Edgar, Psychology Reader at the University of Gloucestershire, comments;
“The growing relationship between the university and K Sharp Ltd is living proof that business and academia can provide tangible benefits to one another. Besides the bids and employing graduates, Barry has also brought 5 current students into his business to gain real experience and take part in publishing industry papers on one of his projects. Their commitment and free-thinking helps him to innovate, whilst they get invaluable marks of commendation on their CV.”
Barry’s most recent interaction with The Growth Hub and the University of Gloucestershire was his participation in SCIENT; a Europe-wide programme for tapping into the business potential of PhD research. When the room was asked who their most valuable business introduction would be, Barry’s answer was ‘Head of Innovation at the NHS.’
“Since mentioning that job title, I am now working with two entrepreneurs who will be mentoring my breakout into the health sector. I have also been connected with one of The Growth Hub’s incubated businesses, who can make that invaluable introduction to the NHS’s Innovation Chief. I’ve never left the university with a question unanswered.”
Elaine Haines, Senior Enterprise Partner at The Growth Hub, works closely with Barry and is positive about his journey;
“Barry has accessed lots of support at the university, ranging from joint commercial bids to research and graduate employment. Next on the agenda is to connect him with our School of Computing, so that he can access their expertise in Product Design and Serious Gaming. In summer Barry will be travelling to Munich to study Sensor Technologies as part of the university’s entrepreneur program and when he’s back we’ve invited him to lecture on psychology courses. We want to have this level of engagement with all high-growth businesses in Gloucestershire, to help them accelerate and diversify like K Sharp has.”