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.

KEF Implementation

In March 2020 we published the KEF clustering and templates report giving further detail on clustering and narrative statements to be included in the first iteration of the KEF.

We will be hosting four identical KEF information workshops to assist institutions in the preparation of the narrative statements. At the workshops we will set out expectations and provide an opportunity for discussion and questions.

Each HEI eligible to participate in the KEF may send up to two representatives to a workshop. The dates and city centre locations of the workshops are as follows:

  • Wednesday 18 March 2020 – Liverpool
  • Thursday 19 March 2020 – York
  • Tuesday 24 March 2020 – Bristol
  • Wednesday 1 April 2020 – London

To register your attendance please visit our Eventbrite page here:

In January 2020 we published the KEF decisions report setting out how we will implement the first iteration of the KEF.  The report explains our decisions on its design, including the metrics, inclusion of narrative statements and how and when we expect to publish the results. The KEF forms part of our KE policy work and will sit alongside the sector-led KE concordat, which is currently in development.

Detailed descriptions of the source data for each metric (e.g. the HE-BCI table references) are presented in a separate download alongside the report.

Consultation and pilot outcomes report

In January 2019 we published a consultation on our proposals for the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). We launched this consultation in response to the commission set out in the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper, asking us to develop a Knowledge Exchange Framework, detailed in a November 2017 ministerial letter.  An offline export of the consultation questions can be found here and a video walkthrough of the proposed KEF dashboard is available below.

At the same time, we also invited English Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to participate in a pilot exercise to further test and refine the proposals outlined in the consultation. We selected 21 institutions in order to provide a broad geographical, subject and cluster distribution across England.  Participants engaged in a series of workshops between March and May 2019.  

We have now published the KEF consultation and pilot outcomes report which presents a summary of the main themes emerging from the consultation responses and the pilot discussions.

Next steps

These findings are being used to inform the ongoing development of the KEF, and we expect to publish decisions on implementation later this year.

Any questions regarding the analysis should be directed to Sacha Ayres, Senior Policy Adviser for Knowledge Exchange, at or +44 (0)117 931 7385.

Background and development information about the Knowledge Exchange Framework

The Framework

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

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.

There are two strands to the framework:

  • KEF metrics
  • Principles and good practice

The development work that has been undertaken for each strand of the framework is outlined below.

KEF Metrics

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

Professor Richard Jones of the University of Sheffield, chaired 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 advised 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 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®.

KEF consultation

As detailed above, we launched the KEF consultation in January 2019, together with a video walkthrough of the proposed KEF dashboards.

KEF pilot

Between March and May 2019, 21 English Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) participated in a pilot exercise to further test and refine the proposals outlined in the consultation.  Please refer to our news item for the full list of participants.

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.

For further information about anything relating to the Knowledge Exchange Framework, please contact