Tagged / RKE Operations

Your chance to influence research and knowledge exchange support at BU – deadline looming

The deadline is looming for your chance to influence how you receive research and knowledge exchange support! The RKE Operations team are implementing improvements to the way we work and we want your feedback. Contribute by completing this short survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GTHQG3F by 9th February 2014 – and we’ll do our best to make sure you receive the kind of support you want.

Jenny Roddis

What’s the importance of RKE Ops?

 The Research and Knowledge Exchange Operations (RKE Ops) team are here to help academics apply for external funding.  There are so many funders out there with so many different guidelines that it’s not always easy to find out how, who and what you should be applying to.

Costings of all proposals (including those that we are not the lead on) need to be undertaken by RKE Ops before proposals reach the submission stage.  Costings are undertaken by RKE Ops to ensure that a) they are complete and include full costs, b) that they include indirect and estates costs at current BU rates and c) that they include inflation at the BU rate.  Proposals need to be added to RED in order to track our bidding activity, which is in turn reported on and used for KPI’s, HEBCI and HESA returns; and RED generates the APF (Activity Proposal Form explained below).  The costs need to be added to our costings system, pFACT, for accurate costings and audit purposes. 

In addition to this, Legal Services need to check whether we are agreeing to any terms and conditions in advance of submitting the bid – and, if so, what these are.  We also need to check for any potential financial issues in advance of submission that need to be noted (for example, the risk of exchange rate fluctuations).  The APF (Activity Proposal Form from RED detailing the costs and income) and CAF (Contract Agreement Form from Legal Services detailing any legal or financial risks) need to be signed by a BU authorised signatory before the bid can be submitted; this gives approval for submission. This approval ensures that the appropriate senior staff (DDRE/DoP/Dean/UET members/Board members) are aware of the risks and commitments which arise from us undertaking the project, assuming it were to be awarded.  Some proposals will also have to go through the Quality Approval process, which is processed by RKE Operations.

The RKE Operations team will need to go through all of the above processes before the approval process can be completed.  In addition, an intention to bid form needs to be completed at the beginning to establish what processes an application may need to go through and the timescales required.  If you are intending to bid then please contact the Support Officer for your School to obtain a form (they have been tailored for each School).

The purpose of having a centralised group is that we connect all the necessary processes for academics (Finance, Legal, School signatories) and we’re there to help ensure that the application has the best possible chance of being funded.  If academics are successful then they will receive a contract and that contract has to go through certain processes in order to obtain the money and ensure it goes to the correct place.  Most importantly, if this information is never recorded on RED then it has a knock on effect on several things.  BU receives additional money from HEFCE based on the funding that we have received throughout the year.  Small pots of money add up to large sums and if these are never recorded then we lose out on additional funds from HEFCE.  Also, there are KPI’s with targets for R&KE funding to be obtained by academics in each of the Schools.  By not recording funding this will have a detrimental effect on the Schools targets for meeting the KPI’s.

If you’d like more information on RKEO as a whole then please see this helpful leaflet: R&KEO Leaflet

Revision to the Activity Proposal Form Process

Currently all research and knowledge exchange bids require an Activity Proposal Form (APF) to be signed off by the applicant, Dean and depending on the value members of UET and the Board.  To date the APF has focused on financial issues, primarily the financial recovery of a proposed bid or grant.  Currently the APF process has been a paper based system rather than one which allows for electronic approval.  This is about to change with one important addition!

The APF has to date not required any sign-off with respect to bid quality, yet submissions of poor quality endangers both personal and institutional reputations. In future all bids will require a dual sign-off one focused on financial issues and one focused on quality.  The quality will be determined by a senior academic within a particular school, typically the Deputy Dean for Research/Knowledge Exchange and other nominated assessors.  This will all be wrapped up in a new paper-free system. 

The redesigned APF process will introduce a formal three stage approval process which will work as follows:

Stage One: An Intention to bid form will be completed by the Principal Investigator (PI) in conjunction with RKE Operations and approved before the PI can progress with the bid.  As part of this process, the PI will nominate a quality approver from a School’s approved list.  Out of curtsy the PI is expected to inform the nominated Quality Approver that they will receive the bid in due course.   Once the form is completed and RKE Ops have entered the details on RED, the Authorised School signatory will be sent the bid electronically, which they will receive in the form of an email containing a link.  Clicking on the link will direct them to the APF Approval Screen to make their decision.  If UET/Board Member approval is required then it will follow the same process and they will receive the link also.

Stage Two: Each School’s Deputy Dean Research/Knowledge Exchange has provided a list of Quality Approvers.  Training is being provided to the Quality Approvers during February and March.  When the bid is ready the Quality Approver will be sent the bid electronically to confirm that it is of sufficient quality to be submitted for external funding and they will approve the bid via link as per Stage One.  Sufficient quality is defined as ‘without causing reputational damage to the individual or BU’.  The Quality Approver will be required to justify their decision and may also provide feedback to help the applicant fine tune the final bid.  If a bid has been through the Internal Peer Review Process this step will be largely automatic.  Quality approval is only required for: (A) competitive research bids (e.g., RCUK, Charities etc.) regardless of value; and (B) competitive knowledge exchange bids such as tenders and contract research bids where the value is in excess of £50k.  If a bid is declined by a Quality Approver RKE Ops will inform the Dean and RKEDO Internal Peer Review Team to trigger support and guidance to the PI to improve the quality of the bid if there is sufficient time.  The Dean will be responsible for informing the PI that their bid has been declined on the grounds of ‘Quality’ and will provide them with feedback.  Appeal can be made directly to the PVC who will adjudicate differences of opinion on the basis of their own review of the bid. 

Stage Three: Final approval is only required if finances within a bid have changed  significantly changed from those set out in Stage One.  RKE Ops will decide whether this is the case and whether re-approval is required. 

For all stages of approval, all approvers will be sent an email containing a link to the bid; relevant documentation will be provided in the link; comments can be added to say why a decision was made (these will appear on the APF); and no log-in to RED is required.

The APF Process is being piloted in HSC throughout March and the official go-live date for all Schools will be 2 April.  The RKE Operations team will provide the PI with the Intention to Bid form.  Jo Garrad, RKE Operations Manager, will provide a user guide explaining the new process once the pilot has been completed.

Launch of the Research & Knowledge Exchange Office

Following the announcement by the Vice Chancellor in August 2011 that CRE would move from Finance & Commercial Services I am delighted today to formally launch the Research & Knowledge Exchange Office (R&KEO) with the remit of supporting all research and knowledge exchange (formally enterprise) activity at BU.

Under the new arrangements our existing research and knowledge exchange units will report directly to me forming a collection of discrete, but cognate elements.  Administrative support for the new R&KEO will be based in the Research Development Unit working in support of all the different teams. An overview of the status of each team is provided below.

Research Development Unit – This will continue to be led by Julie Northam and has been expanded to also include knowledge exchange development. Two new posts will be advertised later this month: a research development officer to focus specifically on research ethics, governance and conduct, and a commercialisation and KTP officer.

RKE Operations – Previously CRE Operations, this will continue to be led by Julia Taylor.  We are currently reviewing the R&KE processes and systems, with a view to improving the already excellent service delivered by this team over the next 3-6 months.

Business Engagement Unit – This is a new unit to be established as part of the HEIF-5 strategy.  We will soon advertise for a Business Engagement Leader, followed by four Business Engagement Consultants each related to the investment themes set out in the HEIF-5 Strategy.  It is hoped this team will be established from January 2012 and will work closely with the BU Foundation in developing BU as Knowledge Broker.

Graduate School – Professor Tiantian Zhang joins BU as the Head of the Graduate School in January 2012 when we will formally re-launch the Graduate School.  Until then Fiona Knight, and the School PGR administrators are keeping everything running smoothly.

DM Centre for Entrepreneurship – The CfE is led by Professor Dean Patton and has recently moved into the Business Engagement Centreof the 6th floor of the EBC and currently in the process of seeking potential tenants initially around the two specific themes as set out in the HEIF-5 Strategy, namely: (1) digital and creative; and (2) tourism & leisure.

You can access a structure diagram of the new R&KEO here: R&KEO structure diagram

I will ensure future developments with the R&KEO are announced regularly via the BU Research Blog.

Matthew Bennett