Minister announces new direction for knowledge exchange funding

Minister announces new direction for knowledge exchange funding

26 September 2019

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore has today announced a new strategic direction for university knowledge exchange funding to drive the high performance needed to deliver the government’s commitment to raise research and development investment to 2.4% of GDP.

The measures announced at the Research England Engagement Forum event in London today, Thursday 26 September, include:

  • Confirmation that Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) will rise to £250 million by 2020/21
  • Roll-out of the first iteration of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), with the first results anticipated in 2020
  • A comprehensive Research England-review of the current HEIF funding method, aiming to put the KEF at the heart of the approach
  • The launch of a joint call with the Office for Students (OfS), making £10m available for projects that evidence the benefits to students of being involved in knowledge exchange

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Our universities are rightly admired around the world for the strength of their research and teaching. Through their knowledge exchange activities they are turbocharging economies at a regional, national and global level.

“I am delighted to confirm we are increasing Higher Education Innovation Funding to £250m from next year. This will further strengthen the links between universities and their partners in industry and elsewhere, ensuring that our economy and society are able to make the most of the amazing work happening in our universities.

“It’s also great to see progress being made on a Knowledge Exchange Framework, which will give university knowledge exchange the status it deserves as a third mission alongside research and teaching.”

Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, will distribute additional HEIF funding as part of the 2020/21 annual funding round. This represents an increase of over 50% since 2016. This additional investment will allow universities to do even more knowledge exchange, helping to deliver on the priorities set out in the government’s Industrial Strategy, and contributing to meeting the target to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

Knowledge exchange, through which the benefits of research are disseminated, is an important element of meeting the 2.4% target by stimulating collaboration between universities, businesses and other organisations.

The minister also announced that he has written to David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, endorsing the proposals for a staged roll-out of the KEF later this year. Research England will publish further detailed implementation plans later this year and anticipate the first results being published in late spring 2020.

The minister also welcomed the complementary work being undertaken by Trevor McMillan and Universities UK on the Knowledge Exchange Concordat, and asked Research England to provide advice on institutional policies on IP that can help deliver the 2.4% target. Research England will work with the devolved funding bodies and draw on the recent Mike Rees review of university-investor relations.

Research England are also committing to a comprehensive review of the HEIF funding method. This review will aim to put KEF at the heart of our approach, and will also consider how the priorities of the OfS can be fully reflected in both the funding formula and associated accountability regime.

Research England anticipates that the outcomes of this review will inform funding in the later part of the next funding period, which runs from 2020 to 2024/25.

Through a joint call, the OfS and Research England will provide £10 million to support a range of projects that will provide evidence of how knowledge exchange benefits students, demonstrate effective practice and disseminate knowledge to the higher education sector, and address issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. It is anticipated that evidence from the funded projects will also feed into the major review of the HEIF funding method.

Alice Frost, Director of Knowledge Exchange, Research England, said: “This is an important day as we ensure that we have the tools to deliver the government’s 2.4% R&D target. The Minister has set an important strategic direction for the future of our policy and funding for knowledge exchange.

“The Knowledge Exchange Framework will now move forward for first results in Spring 2020, and we are undertaking the first ever fundamental review of the HEIF method, aiming to put KEF at the heart of HEIF. This is in the context of continuing rising resources for HEIF, now reaching £250 million per year from 2020-21 for the next plan period.

“The Knowledge Exchange Concordat is an important development to strengthen the delivery of universities.  The Office for Students will continue as our key partners in knowledge exchange, and our new call on student benefits will also feed into the fundamental review.”


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Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. It distributes over £2.2bn to universities in England every year; works to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity; and supports and challenges universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. Research England is part of UK Research and Innovation alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK.

  1. Further information on HEIF may be found at:
  2. Further information on the KEF may be found at:
  3. The review of University-Investor relations conducted by Mike Rees on behalf of Research England can be found at:
  4. Details of the £10m joint Research England/Office for Students call can be found at:
  5. The deadline for bids is 13th December, and an information session will be held in London on the 22nd October. Details of how to sign up for this session are in the call information linked above.