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Managing knowledge transfer partnership for a rural community: the outcomes at Wirksworth, UKPurpose – This paper aims to propose a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) model, using higher education (HE) students researching in the UK. It is focused on community engagement via charitable trusts, New Opportunities Wirksworth (NOW) & Ecclesbourne Valley Rail (EVR). The researchers designed and implemented a pilot study that explored the potential of a small, yet attractive and active, market town to diversify and regenerate using tourism. This project, which has been funded by the UK Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), has been devised to operate and monitor a KTP in the culturally important heritage market town of Wirksworth, in Derbyshire. Design/methodology/approach – A systems-thinking constructivist approach is used and employs problem-based learning (PBL) through engagement of students in research and data collection. The authors identified that skills for sustainable development within the community are dependent on the reintegration of complex, inter-dependent and inter-disciplinary factors. A holistic approach to the learning and knowledge shared within the community underpins UK initiatives to promote capacity development in ways to change knowledge applications across product and service boundaries. Therefore, in addition to encouraging diversification and regeneration through tourism, this project supported the University of Derby's academic agenda to promote experiential and entrepreneurial learning in students working at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This paper accords with the current university initiatives to meet the student employability agenda through the application of PBL and knowledge management. Findings – The creation of outcomes and recommendations for Wirksworth's stakeholders provides sustainability through the knowledge creation and sharing processes. There are seven outcomes that chart a path to development and knowledge transfer (KT) and sharing. The authors simultaneously provided an environment for students to gain skills and a community to acquire new knowledge, and these are the outcomes and output of this project. New learning styles may support inclusive academic practice (see related samples of PBL such as Ineson and Beresford in HLST resources 2001). Implications for building a KT community through the social capital accumulated in the project are explored. Originality/value – In taking PBL from the classroom to the community, the authors have created a new KT environment in which skills can be acquired and a regeneration strategy can be tested in a work-or-practice-related setting. Students recognise that they are building learning for themselves that is unique in that it cannot be recreated in a classroom setting. The authors see this project developing into a robust long-term partnership between communities and institutions with KT benefits to teaching staff in addition to students. These benefits will include new skills for PBL, working collaboratively with partners in the community to develop key skills in HE students, innovation in assessment, inclusive learning and teaching, experiential and entrepreneurial learning in practice.