Knowledge exchange: what is it and why does it matter?

Knowledge exchange (KE) is a process that brings together academic staff, users of research and wider groups and communities to exchange ideas, evidence and expertise.  By sharing knowledge with others you can disseminate your research to interested organisations and people, and your research can benefit from the expertise of those who work in relevant fields.  During this week we’ll be sharing some ways in which you could share your research beyond academia, as well as hints and tips for beginning a new collaboration.

Over the last few years, knowledge exchange has become increasingly important in HE policy thanks to the introduction of a number of new initiatives designed to help us measured and improve our KE performance.  These complement a number of existing initiatives, all of which are interlinked and described below.

The first of these is the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), which measures our KE performance over the past three years.  This is a new initiative which is designed to make university KE performance more accessible to potential partner organisations.  Research England (RE) recently published the first iteration of KEF dashboards which can be found here.  RE recognises that not all institutions will be equal when it comes to KE: we all have different goals, different strengths and operate in very different kinds of location.  As a result, they’ve chosen to cluster similar institutions together in order to compare their performance.  At the moment our KEF performance isn’t linked to funding, but the likelihood is that it will inform our Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) allocation in future years.

Many aspects of our KEF performance are informed by the data we submit annually to the Higher Education Business Community Interaction Survey (HEBCI).  Each year we submit data that captures our activities in relation to collaborative research, consultancy, CPD, public and community engagement and commercialisation.  Our HEBCI performance also informs the amount that we receive for our HEIF funding, which many of you will have benefited from over the last few years.

Our HEIF funding is used to support and develop our knowledge exchange activities and is overseen by the HEIF Funding Panel.  The Panel issue regular funding calls and ensure that our activities are in line with our HEIF strategy.

The final piece of the puzzle is the Knowledge Exchange Concordat (KEC); another new initiative which is a set of principles designed to help us assess our KE performance and decide which areas we’d like to improve.  We will submit our response to the KEC for the first time later this year.  Over the last few weeks, our Heads of Department have been helping RDS and the Head of External Engagement to assess our progress towards each principle, which will inform our response and the areas that we choose to improve.

Tomorrow we’ll be sharing more about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), which are just one of the ways that you could involve external stakeholders in your research activities.