Knowledge exchange framework (KEF)

These pages provide information on Research England’s work to develop a knowledge exchange framework. We will continue to add useful documents and resources.

The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) is intended to increase efficiency and effectiveness in use of public funding for knowledge exchange (KE), to further a culture of continuous improvement in universities by providing a package of support to keep English university knowledge exchange operating at a world class standard. It aims to address the full range of KE activities.

Research England is working with various stakeholders to develop the KEF, including Universities, learned societies, PraxisAuril, the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), the devolved funding councils and other UKRI councils.

Why we are developing the framework

The Government asked HEFCE to lead on developing the knowledge exchange framework, most recently in the Government’s Industrial Strategy ‘Building a Britain fit for the future’ in November 2017. Research England is continuing this work as part of its broader knowledge exchange policy and funding remit.

There are two strands to the framework:

For further information, please contact KE Policy.

Principles and good practice

KE framework champion

Professor Trevor McMillan, the Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, acts as the KE framework champion, overseeing the programme of work from the perspective of university leadership.

Professor McMillan chairs a steering group which brings together university leadership, academic experts and higher education (HE) expert practitioners. This group will also advise on the value of the KEF metrics exercise for good practice development within universities.

Good practice resources

As part of good practice resources, a review was conducted on good practice in technology transfer: the processes of exploiting university intellectual property through spinning out companies or licensing.

Research England will also develop a library of good practice resources which will be made available here.

For further information, please contact KE Policy

In November 2017, the Universities Minister issued a commission to HEFCE to provide more information about university achievements in serving the economy and society for the public, businesses and communities. Research England assumed responsibility for this as part of its wider knowledge exchange policy and funding remit in April 2018.

The KEF metrics exercise aims to provide timely data that describes and compares institutional-level performance in knowledge exchange.

Professor Richard Jones of theUniversity of Sheffield, chairs a technical advisory group (TAG) to advise Research England on the development of the KEF metrics approach. The group’s members were chosen to provide expertise in knowledge exchange metrics and external insights on performance. Professor McMillan and the KE steering group will advise on the value of the KEF metrics exercise for good practice development within universities.

Call for evidence

An initial call to submit evidence to the technical advisory group was conducted by HEFCE at the end of 2017. The responses to this, together with other technical work have informed the development of the metrics framework.

A total of 106 responses were received and an overview of responses is available here.

Cluster analysis of higher education institutions

A key objective of the KEF is to enable fair comparison of institutions across a diverse sector. Research England have commissioned work to produce statistical clusters of institutions, based on their underlying assets and capabilities that drive their potential KE performance.

The technical report of the cluster analysis is available here.

Note on the relevance and use of UKRI (Research Council) data in the development of the KEF

The KEF team have examined a wide variety of data and information on knowledge exchange activities currently collected from universities and researchers themselves. We have prepared a technical note to consider the relevance and use of two UKRI data sources in the development of the KEF: Research Council grant funding to institutions and research outcomes as disclosed by researchers to Researchfish®.

Next steps

The technical advisory group has provided advice to Research England to enable consultation with key stakeholders, including the HE sector.

For further information, please contact KE Policy

In November 2017, the Government asked the former HEFCE to lead on developing the knowledge exchange framework, to support the Government’s Industrial Strategy ‘Building a Britain fit for the future’.

Research England have provided advice and recommendations to the Universities minister and in November 2018 the Universities minister Sam Gyimah MP accepted our recommendations.


Consultation responses on the proposals for the knowledge exchange framework were invited from any higher education institution, association, organisation or individual with an interest in knowledge exchange through an online consultation survey. The consultation closed on Thursday 14 March 2019.

The proposals that were the subject of the consultation are set out in detail in the consultation document, its annexes and associated linked documents. These documents together represent the most up-to-date information and final proposals for the design and implementation of the KEF.

An export of the online consultation questions is provided for reference only as a downloadable document. However, the consultation has now closed and no further responses will be accepted.

Submissions are currently being analysed by Research England and we anticipate publishing an analysis of responses in early summer 2019.

A link to a video walkthrough of the KEF visualisation is available below.

Knowledge Exchange Framework Dashboards Demo
(Credit: Jisc Analytics Labs & Research England)


Any questions regarding the consultation survey should be directed to Sacha Ayres, Senior Policy Adviser for Knowledge Exchange - 0117 931 7385.

KEF pilot

In January 2019 we called for English Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) eligible for Research England funding to express interest in participating in a pilot exercise to further test and refine the KEF proposals. The pilot exercise will feed into a raft of evidence, including from a consultation, on how the KEF will operate in England. Research England received an extremely high response rate, with interest expressed from every proposed KEF cluster across England. To reflect this exceptional level of interest, we increased the pilot group from a previously published size of between 12 and 16 institutions to 21 institutions.

The 21 universities selected are drawn from all of the proposed KEF clusters, and represent a diverse range of English higher education institutions (HEIs), with a good geographical cross-section of institutions from across the country. Please refer to our news item for the full list of participants.

Any questions regarding the KEF pilot should be directed to Hamish McAlpine, Head of Knowledge Exchange Data and Evidence - 0117 931 7293.