Research England selects Knowledge Exchange Framework pilot group

Research England selects Knowledge Exchange Framework pilot group

7 February 2019

Research England has selected 21 English universities to take part in a pilot Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), which will run between February and May 2019.

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 to a January 2019 call for expressions of interest to take part in the pilot exercise, with interest expressed from every proposed KEF cluster across England. To reflect this exceptional level of interest, Research England 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.

English HEIs not involved in the pilot exercise can contribute to how the KEF could work by completing a survey ( as part of the consultation, which is open until 14 March 2019.

Research England’s Director of Knowledge Exchange, Alice Frost, said: 

‘We are very pleased with the enthusiasm expressed by the sector to engage with the KEF through this pilot exercise. The high level of interest has allowed us to build a pilot group that includes universities from every one of the proposed KEF clusters and with a wide range of other characteristics. Having a fully representative group of pilot institutions is important to ensure the KEF is a robust and useful framework for universities and other users.’

The KEF aims to provide institutions with new ways to understand, benchmark and improve their performance, and to provide business and other users of HEI knowledge with another source of potentially useful information. 

Research England will work with the pilot group to test the specific metrics and proposed narrative statements, as well as the cluster membership, and how results should be presented, during a series of workshops between February and May 2019.  

The outcomes of these workshops will be published in a report evaluating the pilot, alongside an analysis of consultation responses. Research England anticipates publishing these documents in early summer 2019, with final decisions on how the KEF should progress in 2019-20 in late summer 2019.

Research England published a document detailing proposals for how the Knowledge Exchange Framework could work, for consultation, in January 2019, seeking the higher education sector’s views on the proposals. The proposals set out in the KEF consultation document aim to implement a Government policy priority for the KEF set out in the Industrial Strategy White Paper in 2017.

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


  1. Pilot participants:

    Cluster E

    • Coventry University
    • University of Plymouth
    • University of the West of England
    • Manchester Metropolitan University

    Cluster X

    • London School of Economics and Political Science
    • Lancaster University
    • University of Essex

    Cluster J

    • Teesside University
    • University of Worcester  

    Arts specialists

    • University of the Arts London
    • Arts University Bournemouth
    • The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama 

    Cluster M

    • Solent University, Southampton
    • Cumbria University  

    Social Science and Business (SSB) specialists

    • Bishop Grosseteste University  

    Cluster V

    • Imperial College London
    • University of Southampton
    • University of Oxford
    • University of Sheffield  

    Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) specialists

    • Cranfield University
    • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine  
  2. The KEF consultation document can be found at -

  3. Link to KEF consultation survey -

  4. The KEF consultation document details the proposed design and implementation plan for the first iteration of the KEF for English HEIs. The consultation proposals build on three KEF documents published in November 2018: Summary of KEF call for evidence responses, KEF Cluster Analysis Report, and KEF Technical Note. The document includes a letter from the previous Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gyimah, to Research England Executive Chair, David Sweeney, requesting that Research England proceeds with the KEF as proposed in their advice to the minister.

  5. The aim of the KEF is to give comparable, bench-marked, and publicly-available performance information about higher education institutions’ (HEIs) knowledge exchange activities. It aims to allow universities to better understand and improve their own performance, as well as provide businesses and other users more information to help them access the world-class knowledge and expertise embedded in English universities. 

  6. The KEF call for evidence was published in 2017 by Research England’s predecessor, the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

  7. Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. We are responsible for funding, engaging with and understanding these institutions, and working with devolved funding bodies and the Office for Students to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity. We support and challenge universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. We distribute over £2.2bn to universities in England every year in the form of quality-related research (QR) funding, and via the Higher Education Innovation Fund. We are responsible for administering the Research Excellence Framework, used to inform QR funding, and for delivering the forthcoming Knowledge Exchange Framework. We also support specific activities with dedicated project funding, including the £900m UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, and the £100m Connecting Capability Fund. The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 established Research England as a Council of UK Research and Innovation alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK.