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17 October 2017

UK proposes knowledge excellence framework

Universities could lose access to grants under government plans for a knowledge sharing benchmark to help close the UK’s commercialisation gap on the US.

Author: Callum Cyrus, reporter

The UK government’s minister for universities, science, research and innovation, Jo Johnson, (pictured) has proposed a knowledge sharing benchmark to help assess the commercialisation performance of UK institutions.

The plans, dubbed the Knowledge Excellence Framework (KEF), seek to further improve revenues from the UK’s commercialisation sector, which was worth £4.2bn ($5.6bn) in 2015-2016, according to the Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey.

Johnson’s policy will be considered by Research England, part of the UK Research and Innovation agency. Research England is headed by David Sweeney, director of research and knowledge exchange at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), where Johnson had been speaking at the annual conference.

The minister warned universities could be penalised for failing to meet the KEF, potentially losing access to the government’s grant program for knowledge sharing, Higher Education Innovations Funding (HEIF).

An extra £18m ($24m) will be allocated for the Rutherford Fund, a government-owned vehicle launched in July 2017 to lure foreign research talent to UK fellowships. The money takes Rutherford’s total to $118m, enabling 200 more fellowships to start in 2017 than originally planned.

Johnson also unveiled the first four collaborative university projects to be funded by the government’s £100m Connecting Capability Fund (CCF), aimed at expanding cooperation between universities. 

The projects, which will share £20m between them, are:

  • In the east of England, Essex University, University of East Anglia and University of Kent will address the region’s productivity challenges through company development and entrepreneurial skills growth.
  • In the north of England, the universities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield will partner to expand the financing for commercialisation.
  • In the south of England, the SetSquared partnership of the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey will be funded to better help small and medium sized-enterprises scale up.
  • A fourth partnership between London’s Francis Crick Institute and the universities of Oxford, Birmingham and Dundee will seek to generate therapeutics to tackle age-related diseases.

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