The Institute for KE Practice (IKEP), Nottingham Trent University

IKEP’s workplan is co-designed by an Advisory Board comprising members of each academic School.  Board members champion KE development within their School and across the University. They also advise on HEIF pump-priming investment for innovative KE.  

1. Please provide a brief description of the KE project/ case study and why you believe it is considered good practice or innovative (and for whom).

The Institute for Knowledge Exchange Practice (IKEP) was established in 2022 to support capacity building and professional development for academic and professional service staff.  Through IKEP we help our staff commercialise intellectual property and to develop new commercial products and services. IKEP also supports our professional engagement with business and the community, including policy makers and influencers.  

IKEP is creating an innovative, co-designed approach to growing KE at NTU and we are talking to other universities about sharing good practice.

2. Where did the idea for the project/ programme come from? Was this related to a strategic objective? How did you secure senior buy in?

There were already two institutes at NTU supporting development in teaching and research.  However, there was no focal point for the development of knowledge exchange. A proposal for a new Institute was discussed at the University’s Extended Executive Team, which includes our Executive Deans of School, and it received unanimous support.  

3. What impact/ outcome has this project/ activity had on your university? Students? Local economy? Staff? Other external parties, e.g. businesses.

While it’s still early days IKEP, alongside the development of individual School KE plans based upon the KEF, has started a new discussion about the role that KE can play in enhancing teaching, research and practice. It also supports our strategic commitment of enriching society.

As a large modern university, with nearly 4500 employees, it’s sometimes difficult to meet people with common interests or to find potential collaborators. An early win is that colleagues are working across disciplines and getting to know each other better. This has led to the development of KE Practice Networks, proposed directly by staff who want to engage across themes, regardless of discipline.  IKEP supports the networks with a small budget and provides support to help them develop their annual programmes, sometimes including external stakeholders.

4. How did you measure impact?

We seek to demonstrate the return on investment of IKEP and this is relatively straightforward for commercial income. It is more challenging to measure non-commercial impact and it’s sometimes difficult to evidence qualitative impact and benefits such as social value, for example. One of the key objectives of IKEP is to develop our skills and capability to evaluate knowledge exchange and to pilot new methods of evaluating KE within NTU. Through expert workshops and the creation of a resource bank, IKEP is supporting colleagues to articulate their own impact ambitions and develop appropriate plans to capture the difference that their KE makes.

5. What types of resources were required to implement this project?

IKEP is resourced through HEIF and its activities are coordinated by two team members, with the support of others within the Knowledge Exchange Department. Academic colleagues and professional support staff across the University also play a crucial role in the delivery of its programme. An example of a great team effort is the support provided by the IKEP Annual Conference organising committee who have developed an exciting and imaginative programme for this year.  

6. What are the governance structures in place to oversee it?

IKEP is the development arm of the University’s Knowledge Exchange Department, which is led by me and overseen by Sarah Want, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for KE and Civic Engagement.  It’s workplan is developed and governed by the Advisory Board which also ensures that the activities of the Institute are aligned to aims of the School Knowledge Plans.

The Head of KE Development and Evaluation provides the day-to-day leadership and co-ordination of IKEP, supported by our Knowledge Exchange Development Officer.

7. Describe any challenges that you have had to overcome either before, during or after implementing this project?

We soon learnt that there wasn’t a shared understanding of ‘knowledge exchange’ and for many people KE was equated solely to IP Commercialisation and consultancy. IKEP has enabled us to develop a broader and more inclusive understanding of knowledge exchange and the many ways this is manifested in teaching and research.

8. What advice would you give others in trying to engage with hard-to-reach groups? Have you considered EDI within your strategy?

Engaging with underserved groups is a feature of many aspects of our knowledge exchange. For example, through the European Social Fund we have worked with those disadvantaged in the labour market. In one of our skills programmes, we have attracted 31% of participants from Ethnic Minority Backgrounds. In this case, partnership with a leading local business network was key to this engagement.

At the end of our first full academic year, we will be undertaking an Equality Impact Assessment of IKEP to ensure that we are not inadvertently creating barriers that prevent people accessing training and development opportunities.

9. Next steps?

We will continue to grow IKEP’s engagement with university staff and we are ambitious to grow the influence and impact of the Institute. We will explore how IKEP can create new opportunities to share good practice with other institutions and to support collaboration.

The role of student and graduate knowledge exchange is often overlooked. Therefore, we have invested in a new evaluation approach that seeks to understand the benefits to student and graduates to beneficiary organisations. This is a theme we will explore further.

We will continue to develop our growing on-line resource bank of KE training materials.

Most importantly, we will continue to listen to colleagues and partners to support knowledge exchange that makes a lasting impact upon the economy and society.


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