Westminster Higher Education Forum

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Next steps for the Knowledge Exchange Framework - responding to KEF 2021, the use of metrics, and assessing the potential for wider public benefit

Morning, Tuesday, 7th September 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference follows the publication of the first iteration of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and will examine priorities for the sector, and the progress of the upcoming review.

It also takes place in the context of several major policy developments relevant to the discussion, including the Research and Development Roadmap and the Strength in Places Fund, aiming to help boost R&D in the UK, and with reforms to knowledge exchange targeting greater resilience and better outcomes.

Areas for discussion include:

  • next steps - priorities and strategies for HEIs following the first cycle
  • metrics - evaluation of the Framework’s measures of impact, and use of clustering
  • wider impact - assessing the public benefit of KEF activities, and the ways that HEIs and exchange partnerships can contribute to broader national goals

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are already due to attend from the Intellectual Property Office and DAERA, NI.

The agenda

  • Progress with the KEF Review and outlook going forward
  • Priorities for KEF following the first cycle - fostering university-wide approaches, supporting HEIs with taking part, guarding against increasing bureaucratic pressures, and linking to HEIF
  • Improving the Framework’s use of metrics - measuring impact, metric presentation and clustering, and accounting for local and contextual factors
  • Assessing the public benefit of KEF - impact on levelling up goals, harnessing the Framework for post-pandemic recovery, and reaping the benefits of research and innovation
  • Deepening stakeholder engagement in knowledge exchange - insights from international practice
  • Next steps for the Knowledge Exchange Framework

Key areas for discussion:

Progress with the KEF Review and priorities following the first cycle:

  • knowledge exchange and engagement strategies:
    • lessons learned from the first iteration and the sharing of best practice
    • assessing ways to foster university-wide approaches
  • supporting HEIs with taking part:
    • considerations around post-pandemic pressures faced by HEIs, and guarding against increasing bureaucratic burden
    • the role of collaboration and partnerships between universities in improving the quality of knowledge exchange
    • ways to improve researchers’ and institutions’ awareness of ways to engage with policymakers
  • funding allocation:
    • the outlook for using the KEF for allocating funding
    • what more needs to be done for ensuring the framework is sufficiently robust for this purpose
    • discussing the link between the KEF and the HEIF

Improving the Framework’s use of metrics:

  • measuring impact:
    • considering the data used for the KEF
    • how the Framework can better measure outreach and impact
    • assessing the extent to which the metrics adequately measure the impact of institutions with differing missions
  • presentation of metric data and the use of clustering:
    • the wider implications of comparing general performance between specific clusters
    • the impact on understandings of particular institutional clusters’ strengths and weaknesses
    • potential ways to harness insights for improved performance and policy decisions
  • local and contextual factors - options around accounting for regional variability, and controlling for disparities in deprivation when measuring local regeneration scores

Assessing the public benefit of KEF:

  • impact on levelling up goals:
    • assessing the extent to which the framework and its associated activity has contributed to efforts to drive economic growth in deprived regions
    • options for increasing the incentives for HEIs to participate in this area of the Framework, and add value to local communities
  • post-pandemic recovery:
    • the role of partnerships in creating jobs, as well as university-driven local innovation and entrepreneurship
    • ways to deepen ties to local businesses and employers, and drive up graduate skills levels
    • assessing local variability in key challenges to tackle in the post-pandemic period
  • reaping the benefits of research and innovation:
    • translating research and development into tangible societal benefits
    • the potential for high-level research to impact directly on the lives of those in deprived areas, and the role of high quality knowledge exchange and the KEF in facilitating this
    • dovetailing with other recent policy on driving R&D and innovation

Deepening stakeholder engagement in knowledge exchange:

  • collaboration - discussion of strategies for strengthening links between knowledge exchange partners
  • stakeholder priorities - and broadening the range of stakeholders involved
  • learning from international examples - exploration of the insights from overseas best practice in collaboration and engagement

Relevant developments:

  • the Knowledge Exchange Framework:
    • the recently published first iteration of the framework detailing the contribution of English HEIs to economic goals, research partnerships, and local communities, among other areas
    • along with the announcement of a review, currently underway and conducted by Research England, to inform the development of the framework in the future 
  • the Knowledge Exchange Concordat - the ongoing development of the Knowledge Exchange Concordat, which has been gathering signatures from HEIs for its development year, expected to complement the KEF by setting out best practice in KE for HEIs
  • Universities and the UK’s economic recovery - the recently published UUK report:
    • predicting a key role for HEIs in upskilling existing employees, training new workers for key sectors, supporting local business and regenerating local economies and communities
    • recommending deepening partnerships locally, and in the areas of skills, and innovation, backed by dedicated government funding
  • the National Centre for Academic and Cultural Exchange (NCACE) - the recently announced virtual centre for facilitating knowledge exchange between the UK’s higher education and arts and culture sectors, led by The Culture Capital Exchange and supported by £1.1m in funding from Research England
  • Celebrating two years of the Knowledge Exchange Unit in UK Parliament: our achievements, learnings and next steps - the Knowledge Exchange Unit reviewing its work so far, and setting out its strategy for 2020-2021, including priorities such as:
    • improving the UK research community’s understanding of ways to engage with policymakers
    • encouraging the HE sector to better reward institutions and researchers engaging with Parliament, and incentivise further action
    • strengthening knowledge exchange practices to support the Government to tackle issues around the COVID-19 pandemic
  • other major policy developments, including:
    • the Research and Development Roadmap - outlining the Government’s long-term plans for the UK’s R&D output, supporting transformative research, and committing to:
      • £22bn of public investment in R&D by 2024-25
      • reforms to knowledge exchange to encourage resilience and ensure better outcomes from public funding
    • launch of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA) - the new funding agency designed to accelerate high-risk, high-reward research, and with legislation expected to be introduced following its announcement in the Queen’s Speech
    • the Strength in Places Fund - the UKRI fund investing in research and innovation projects that aim to stimulate economic growth in specific areas of the UK
    • the Higher Education Restructuring Regime - the offer of financial support to HEIs at risk of insolvency, on condition that:
      • providers ensure they are benefitting local communities
      • provision of courses is geared to contribute to both local and national economic goals

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from DAERA, NI and the Intellectual Property Office.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as senior university leaders, local authorities, LEPs, businesses and entrepreneurs, industry representatives, student union representatives, research funding bodies, teaching unions and other professional bodies, HE regulators, academics, consultancies and think tanks, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Dr Hamish McAlpine

Head of Data and Evidence, Knowledge Exchange Team, Research England


Fariba Soetan

Policy Lead, Research and Innovation, National Centre for Universities and Business

Mark Pearson

Head, Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise, Royal Holloway University of London

Rebecca Riley

Administrative Director, City-REDI, University of Birmingham and Head, Research and Office for Data Analytics, West Midlands Combined Authority

Professor Trevor McMillan

Vice-Chancellor, Keele University

Patrick Speedie

Co-founder, IN-PART

Ceri Nursaw

Chief Executive, National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education

Simon Bond

Innovation Director, SETsquared

Emily Morrison

Head, Institute for Community Studies, The Young Foundation

Professor Jane Robinson

Pro-Vice Chancellor, Engagement and Place, Newcastle University and Co-Chair, Economic and Social Recovery Task Force, UUK

Dr Iain Thomas

Chair, Praxis Auril and Head, Life Sciences, Cambridge Enterprise, University of Cambridge

Dr Andrew Wray

Head, Knowledge Exchange, University of Bristol

Dr Jeremy Hague

Director, Knowledge Exchange, Nottingham Trent University

Tomas Ulrichsen

Director, Policy Evidence Unit for University Commercialisation and Innovation, University of Cambridge