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What is knowledge exchange?

Knowledge exchange (KE) is a process which brings together academic staff, users of research, and wider groups and communities to increase the impact of research. The process encourages the sharing of ideas, data, experience and expertise, which is mutually beneficial to all parties involved.

Engaging with external organisations often generates new ideas, creating opportunities to explore new avenues for research. It can also make teaching more relevant to students’ job prospects, improve teaching practise, and provide additional funding sources.

There is a growing recognition that universities have a vital role to play in the economic prosperity, quality of life and cultural enrichment of their communities. Engaging in KE helps us meet the increasing expectations of Government, policy makers, the public, funding bodies and the Research Councils.

Why do knowledge exchange?

Knowledge exchange activities can help you to increase the impact of your research. Impact is defined as the ‘demonstrable contribution of research to changes that bring benefits to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life’.

Collaborating with external partners, whether from the public, private or third sectors, or from other academic institutions, can give your research an advantage

There are many benefits to engaging in KE activity including:

  • Opportunities for additional income streams that support excellent research
  • Making a difference to society
  • Testing the practical application of your research
  • Gaining access to the latest technology and facilities
  • Developing mutually beneficial links with leading external contacts
  • Gaining new ideas and insights for cutting edge research projects
  • Strengthening your academic profile
  • Helping increase the employability of students
  • Providing opportunities for student projects and placements
  • Contributing to the success of our economy

What does knowledge exchange look like?

Business and industry, policy, practice and the public are our main target groups for activities. In practice, a lot of knowledge exchange engages across these audiences. Through mutual exchange and collaboration, the process also benefits academic teaching and research.

Examples of KE activities include (but are not limited to):

  • Collaborative research projects
  • Consultancy services
  • Commissioned/contract research
  • Providing specialist University facilities, equipment and testing services to companies
  • Continuing professional development and training (CPD)
  • Knowledge Transfer partnerships (KTPs)
  • IP exploitation
  • Licensing technologies, tools or training materials
  • Briefings and other ways of communicating research
  • Events with external audiences
  • Secondment and placement positions

Funding may be available for some knowledge exchange activities

For more information, please get in touch:

Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)

A new Knowledge Exchange Framework(KEF) has been developed by Research England. This framework is intended to increase efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public funding for knowledge exchange and to further a culture of continuous improvement in universities.

There are two strands to the framework:

  • Principles and good practice
  • KEF metrics

A steering group is overseeing the development of the principles and resources for good practice in knowledge exchange.

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

As evident in Figure 1, Solent University performed very well in the recent KEF assessment, ranking in the top 10% of institutions for ‘Local Growth and Regeneration’, ‘Skills Enterprise and Entrepreneurship’, and ‘Working with Business’ and the top 20% for ‘IP and Commercialisation’. The rankings for ‘Public and Community Engagement’ and ‘Working with the Public and Third Sector’ are not a true reflection of the excellent work that has been undertaken and the success that Solent has achieved; but more a symptom of the decision not to submit an ‘optional’ narrative regarding our knowledge exchange activities.

Diagram showing knowledge exchange metrics for Solent University

The KEF builds on the Higher Education Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey, which currently collects financial and output data related to knowledge exchange. The annual HE-BCI survey provides information on a range of activities, from business and public or third sector involvement in research, to consultancy and the commercialisation of intellectual property. It also explores other activities intended to have direct societal benefits such as the provision of continuing professional development and continuing education courses, and the provision of lectures, exhibitions, and other cultural activities.

Research England then uses elements of the data to inform the allocation of the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).

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