Universities can build on their leading role in society and develop links between UK institutions, industry and local communities by committing to better exchange of information, knowledge and skills.
The Knowledge Exchange Concordat, published today, will help universities and other providers of higher education and research work more effectively with each other, businesses and other organisations at a vital time as the UK continues to fight back against Covid-19. It will provide a better structure for the sharing and development of life-saving research and in-demand skills by outlining good practice and showing what works, helping the UK economy prosper and enhancing society.
Knowledge exchange (KE) refers to any action through which knowledge and research is shared between universities and partner organisations and turned into impact in society and the economy. The breadth of ways in which this is achieved has been well demonstrated by the response to the current Covid-19 crisis. The many contributions by universities, highlighted in the #WeAreTogether campaign, includes vital research into tests and vaccines, protective equipment has been developed and shared, healthcare students have graduated early and enrolled in the NHS and university staff have used their knowledge and skills in different ways to support the fightback and their students.
UK universities received £4.9 billion from knowledge exchange activities in 2018-19, helping fund activities to boost scientific, technological, medical and cultural breakthroughs.
More effective knowledge sharing between universities and businesses will also demonstrate to UK government that the sector is playing an active role in helping reach the target spend of 2.4% of GDP on research and development by 2027. This in turn will be vital in the recovery of the UK from the current crisis and ensure that UK remains a global leader in addressing the challenges that lie ahead.
The concordat, which outlines good practice and eight major guiding principles for institutions to follow, has been drafted by Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University and Chair of the UUK & Research England KE Concordat Task and Finish Group. It is delivered by Universities UK and GuildHE, and supported by Research England, the National Centre for Universities & Business and PraxisAuril.
Amanda Solloway, Minister for Science, Research & Innovation, said: “I welcome the initiative taken by the higher education sector to set itself high standards in knowledge exchange and commit to a long-term programme of continuous improvement, engagement and capacity building in their Knowledge Exchange activities, through the Knowledge Exchange Concordat.”
Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University and Chair of the UUK & Research England KE Concordat Task and Finish Group, said: “I am pleased to see the release of the Knowledge Exchange Concordat today. Effective knowledge exchange activities increase the impact of university research and education, and our responsibilities to social development and economic growth. The concordat provides a framework in which our universities can have the approaches in place to facilitate our staff and students to continue to have a major impact.”
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “Effective knowledge exchange, driven by our world-leading universities, will ensure the development of key skills that will drive productivity and support new business.
“The concordat will support universities to promote the many different forms of knowledge exchange and business partnerships that make our diverse sector so impactful. The way UK institutions are working alongside UK government and industry to fight coronavirus is indicative of the excellent work already being done in this area”.
Gordon McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer of GuildHE, said: “We are pleased to be launching the Knowledge Exchange Concordat with Universities UK. Small and specialist institutions play vital roles in local, national and international knowledge exchange ecosystems by working with businesses and other organisations large and small to deliver social, cultural and economic benefits. We look forward to supporting our members and the wider sector in embedding the Concordat's principles."
David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “I am pleased to see the publication of the KE concordat and very much welcome that its development has been sector-led.
“The concordat provides the means to continuously improve institutional KE performance and I see it as critical in assurance of our funding, especially driving efficiency and effectiveness.”
Joe Marshall, CEO of the National Centre for Universities and Business, said: “Universities’ knowledge exchange activities play an incredibly important role in attracting, supporting and enhancing businesses and other organisations. The Concordat is an important vehicle for universities to proactively show their commitment to collaboration with others and demonstrate to external partners that through self-improvement they want to build better and deeper partnerships.”
A high-level implementation plan, supporting this publication, will be published later in the year.
Universities UK (UUK) is the collective voice of 136 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to create the conditions for UK universities to be the best in the world; maximising their positive impact locally, nationally and globally. Universities UK acts on behalf of universities, represented by their heads of institution. Visit: www.universitiesuk.ac.uk
GuildHE is an officially recognised representative body for UK Higher Education. Members are universities, university colleges and other institutions, each with a distinctive mission and priorities. They work closely with industries and professions and include major providers in technical and professional subject areas such as art, design and media, music and the performing arts; agriculture, food and the natural environment; the built environment; education; law; health and sports. Many are global organisations engaged in significant partnerships and producing locally relevant and world-leading research. Visit: www.guildhe.ac.uk
The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) is an independent and not-for-profit membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports university-business collaboration across the UK. Visit: www.ncub.co.uk
Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, is responsible for funding, engaging with and understanding English higher education providers. They create and sustain the conditions for a healthy and dynamic research and knowledge exchange system in the higher education sector. Visit: re.ukri.org
PraxisAuril is a world-leading professional association for Knowledge Exchange practitioners with an extensive network of more than 5,000 knowledge exchange professionals from more than 182 member organisations, as well as key sector stakeholders and industry experts. The organisation has provided a great deal of support and advice for the Knowledge Exchange Concordat and will help in developing and implementing the next steps. Visit www.praxisauril.org.uk