Research England report details how the first version of the Knowledge Exchange Framework will work

Research England report details how the first version of the Knowledge Exchange Framework will work

16 January 2020

Following a consultation and a pilot exercise with the English higher education sector during 2019, Research England has published details of the first version of the Knowledge Exchange Framework.

The KEF is a largely metrics-based, institutional-level framework providing easily accessible and comparable information about English universities’ performance in seven knowledge exchange perspectives, from commercialisation to engaging with their local areas. This will support universities in developing their KE strategies and in testing performance against their peers. Potential partners in business and the public sector will gain insights into university strengths. 

Science and Universities Minister Chris Skidmore, said:

“We’re supercharging our research community with the biggest uplift in R&D investment on record. This investment is supporting our universities to work closer than ever before with businesses to share their world-class knowledge and develop and scale up these ideas into future successes.

“I welcome Research England’s report which will take us one step closer to a developed Knowledge Exchange Framework, clearly setting out different universities’ unique strengths and expertise in different areas.”

Director of Knowledge Exchange at Research England, Alice Frost, said:

“This first iteration is a significant step to deliver insights and fair comparisons on the valuable work which universities do with partners of all kinds. Over twenty years our universities have developed ever closer links with key stakeholders, delivering benefits for institutions and their students and unlocking knowledge for the benefit of their partners. 

“This exercise will bring a justified focus on the progress which had been made and which we expect to continue as the government invests more in research and innovation. 

“I am pleased that we have been able to incorporate so many suggestions made by universities during the consultation and pilot phases.” 

Although the KEF is low burden as it is based on data which is already reported by universities, broad support from the sector for accompanying narrative has resulted in Research England confirming its proposals to request short narrative statements. The statements will describe each university’s public and community engagement, their local growth and regeneration activities and the broader context in which they operate.

No decision has yet been made about how the KEF will link to funding, and the current £213m Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) will continue to be allocated using the current method. See letter from the universities minister to Research England Executive Chair, David Sweeney, published 10 October 2019.


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  1. The timeline for the various KEF milestones is below:
  • January 2020 – Decisions: Publication of KEF phase 1 decisions report
  • February 2020 – Clustering and templates: Publication of narrative templates and cluster groupings
  • March-April 2020 – Workshops: Information workshops on the KEF metrics and narrative statements
  • May 2020 – Submission: Submission of narrative statements to Research England
  • Summer 2020 – Publication: Publication of KEF results


  1. Knowledge Exchange Framework: Decisions for the first iterationsee the Knowledge Exchange Framework page.


  1. More information about the templates universities will need to use to submit narrative statements will be published in February 2020. Research England will also run information workshops on the KEF metrics and narrative statements in March and April 2020.


  1. Research England will publish the first KEF results for all institutions that receive Research England knowledge funding in summer 2020 via an online visualisation platform similar to that previously published. Following the publication of the results, Research England will undertake an evaluation and may make further changes to future iterations of the KEF.


  1. 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. UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.  
    Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.