About Knowledge Exchange Concordat

Universities are major contributors to society and the economy at local, national and international levels. A key and growing part of the role of universities is proactive ‘knowledge exchange’, which is defined as a collaborative, creative endeavour that translates knowledge and research into impact in society and the economy.

The Government is committed to a strategic, long term approach to knowledge exchange. In return, it expects that universities are able to demonstrate the value of what they do and commit to pursuing excellence and sharing good practice. The concept of a Knowledge Exchange framework was highlighted in the Industrial Strategy Building a Britain Fit for the Future in 2018 as a way in which the contribution of universities to that strategy could be demonstrated and further developed.

As highlighted in the report of the McMillan Group in 2016, University Knowledge Exchange (KE) Framework: good practice in technology transfer, there is no single profile of knowledge exchange that is appropriate to all universities. What is best for a given university is very context driven through the discipline portfolio it has and the environment in which it is located. One size will not fit all.

There have therefore been two core challenges around identifying metrics that would allow the scale of KE activity to be measured, and in developing a framework through which the whole range of universities can describe and explain their own specific approach to KE. A technical group chaired by Professor Richard Jones of the University of Sheffield has provided advice to Research England on the development of a metrics-focused knowledge exchange framework, and proposals for a pilot study have been published.

This consultation addresses the second challenge through the work of a joint UUK/Research England task group chaired by Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor at Keele University. It is proposed that a KE concordat be produced that provides a mechanism by which universities can consider their performance in the wide range of aspects of knowledge exchanges and make a commitment to improvement in those areas that are consistent with their priorities and expertise.

The aim of this concordat is therefore to give universities and their staff and students clarity of mission and to support their development, give partners an accurate representation of the approach that individual universities are taking to KE, provide clear indicators of their approaches to performance improvement, and give our governing bodies and government broad confidence in the activity that is taking place in universities. It also aims to stress how collaboration between universities and partners in various aspects of KE can be beneficial to all participants.

In this document, a series of high-level principles are proposed that aim to cover the range of necessary underpinning activities for effective knowledge exchange. Within each there is a set of enablers that give specific areas that could be considered desirable.

It is important to recognise that the concordat does not provide a prescribed recipe for effective KE in all institutions and for all universities. Rather it sets out examples of good practice in processes and approaches that would enable universities to fulfil a knowledge exchange role whether across the whole spread of their disciplines or for particular specific activities and relationships. These examples have drawn upon the advice and expertise of the task and finish group.

It is hoped that the level and quality of engagement with the concordat will be taken into consideration by Research England (and other funders as appropriate) in evaluating requirements for the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) and other KE funding. The views of funders and other stakeholders were sought in parallel to this document. This document therefore outlines the aims, principles, suggested enablers and the approach to implementation of the Knowledge Exchange Concordat.


Professor Trevor McMillan

Vice-Chancellor, Keele University

Chair, UUK/Research England KE Concordat Task and Finish Group

Chair, Research England KE Framework Steering Group

Endorsement from Alistair Jarvis, CEO, UUK and Gordon McKenzie,CEO, GuildHE
We are very grateful to Trevor McMillan and the task and finish group for developing the thorough and helpful content of the draft knowledge exchange concordat. We have worked closely with the group to develop this consultation paper. Higher education engages in a wide range of KE activities, from working in partnership with businesses and charities to apply key research, scientific, technological, medical and cultural breakthroughs to developing key skills and attributes such as entrepreneurship that will drive productivity and growth to supporting company start-ups by students and staff.

The data collected annually through the HE–BCI survey demonstrates the impressive scale of knowledge-exchange activity across all types of institutions, and the Industrial Strategy recognises the importance of universities and colleges to future economic and social growth. The commitment of the government to the 2.4% target for research and development spending demonstrates the value of higher education knowledge exchange. To support the implementation of this commitment and the effective and accountable investment of planned additional funding, we believe that the sector should enhance and improve its KE practice and demonstrate its KE strengths. The aim of the draft concordat is to enable institutions to do this in a clear, flexible and appropriate way.

The KE concordat provides a key opportunity for the sector to demonstrate effective strategic leadership of KE within institutions, outline the KE activity and practice that are relevant to their strengths and circumstances, identify where improvements or innovation might add value, and support staff to develop.

Whilst this stage of the development of the KE concordat is focusing on the views of the sector, it is vital to the effectiveness of KE that it is undertaken through effective partnership with funders, businesses, the public sector and charities. The value of partnerships is embedded in this draft concordat and we will be working with Research England to engage with a wide range of partners. Our aspiration is that the implementation of the KE concordat will add significant value to partners as well as institutions.

We encourage and welcome your feedback on the KE concordat.

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive Officer, Universities UK

Gordon McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer, GuildHE

Knowledge Exchange Concordat Operations Group

Operations Group

Francesca Cowley

Project Coordinator, NCUB

Matthew Guest

Policy Manager (Place, Knowledge Exchange & Industrial Strategy), GuildHE

Myles Hanlon

Policy Researcher – Knowledge Exchange Concordat, Universities UK

Tamsin Mann

Director of Policy and Communications, PraxisAuril

Fariba Soetan

Policy Lead – Research and Innovation, NCUB

Dr Tim Shuttleworth

Senior Policy Adviser, Research England

Greg Wade

Policy Manager, Universities UK

Louise Wall

Senior Policy Adviser, Research England

Strategic Group Chair

Professor Trevor McMillan

Vice-Chancellor, Keele University

Chair, KE Concordat Strategic Group

Evaluation Panel Chair

Dr Phil Clare

Deputy Director, Research Services (Knowledge Exchange & Engagement), University of Oxford

Working Together

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