The importance of partnership in the Knowledge Exchange Framework

The importance of partnership in the Knowledge Exchange Framework

9 January 2019

Research England has today published a consultation on the design and delivery of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). The KEF is one of the contributions that Research England is making to the delivery of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, alongside other UKRI contributions, such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Well-tailored relationships between universities and businesses are vital to deliver growth and productivity, and for a healthy future economy across the UK. Of course knowledge exchange (KE) and impact from the research base is much wider than just economic growth. We are also concerned with driving societal, environmental and cultural impact.

The KEF aims to provide vital information for universities to demonstrate their achievements and to identify comparator institutions who may give good practice insights. It should also make important evidence available for policy makers and funders of university research, teaching and knowledge exchange to understand individual and collective university progress in delivering the Industrial Strategy and other societal goals. And it should provide insights for users on university KE performance, including to bodies such as Innovate UK who want accessible information to underpin discussions with business partners and with universities on commercialisation opportunities.

The opportunity to work with colleagues across the newly formed UKRI has added another level of insight to this work. Research England has developed the KEF proposals based on its deep understanding of the university sector, and wide engagement with stakeholders. Research council experts have advised on research data and KE insights from their funding, and Innovate UK has brought its deep understanding of business-university collaborations and commercialisation.

It is important that universities and other stakeholders understand and interrogate the proposals out for consultation today so that they have confidence in the KEF. The next steps of development through the consultation, pilots and wider work, such as in the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s HE-BCI review and further development work, are all then very important. This work should culminate this summer when Research England make decisions on operationalisation of the KEF.

Alongside this important dialogue with the HE sector, work is needed to further develop how the wide range of university KE user communities to can gain value from the KEF. So we would also like to hear from businesses, public and third sector partners, local authorities, and other interested parties, to ensure the KEF provides the evidence we need to drive greater impact from the research base.   

Today’s proposals provide early exposure of the important technical work that has been going on, led by Head of KE Data and Evidence at Research England, Hamish McAlpine, on data visualisations for the KEF. Innovate UK is particularly interested in this work, and will play a part among other stakeholders in the next development stage, in advising on how data can be presented in ways that help businesses, investors and Innovate UK staff make best use of the KEF.

The KEF should provide us all with important information on how well we are doing – funders, universities and partners. Alongside the KEF, we are also developing a KE Concordat to help us understand the good practices that got us to where we are, and how we can go further in a culture of continuous improvement. It is critical that we look not just at how well we have done, but how we apply lessons to ensure greater impact in the future.

Development and implementation of this Concordat is being led by Professor Trevor McMillan, the Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, working with Research England and Innovate UK, and across UKRI and with wider stakeholders.

A culture of continuous improvement – in both universities and businesses – will be a vital component in achieving the Government’s target of 2.4% of GDP to be spent on research and development. Research England and Innovate UK are committed to furthering and embedding such a culture throughout the university, research and innovation systems.