This paper describes the process of establishing an industry-driven Postgraduate level research degree programme that embedded the values of knowledge exchange (KE), particularly business support, whilst maintaining academic rigour. This aim was achieved by placing research students at the heart of KE as a discipline whilst undertaking research that would be of direct, tangible relevance to industry, ensuring that research activity was user-driven. The activity was focussed geographically in England’s North West (NW) Region allowing it to dovetail with the priorities of regional economic strategies and growth initiatives, and particularly, those of a technical nature delivered through Lancaster University. These programmes work primarily with Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and so the development of the research degree programme had to accommodate these requirements, unlike conventional (taught) industry-based degrees that can work largely with multi-nationals and other corporate organisations.
The paper further outlines the innovative MSc Engineering (by Research) programme that has been piloted by Lancaster Product Development Unit, the team that co-ordinates the KE activity for the Engineering Department at Lancaster University. It demonstrates how industry focussed problems have been addressed to varying extents by the utilisation of several research-focussed Masters-level degree students. It further highlights how economies, educators and students can all benefit from Postgraduate degrees delivered from within a KE environment. The paper finally goes on to conclude that whilst added resources are required over traditional and more established degree schemes, that very effective outcomes can be obtained, capitalising on the tailored nature of the processes and methods of delivery.