Knowledge Exchange Framework: KEF 2022 results announced

Spin-off companies from Russell Group universities boast largest annual turnovers, data reveal

September 27, 2022

Spin-off companies from large Russell Group universities are leading the sector when it comes to annual turnover, results from England’s second Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) show.

Of the 27 higher education institutions listed in the top quintile for the estimated average turnover of their companies founded on their research, just over half (14 in total) are Russell Group members, including the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield and Southampton, as well as UCL and King’s College London.

City, University of London, the University of Bradford, the University of Bath and the University of Surrey are among other universities to also score the highest marks on this metric linked to commercialisation and intellectual property, part of one of seven knowledge exchange “perspectives” assessed by the KEF.

Drawing largely on data taken from the long-standing Higher Education Business and Community Interaction survey, though supported by narratives provided by institutions and data from Innovate UK and Elsevier, universities are divided into quintiles based on their performance on each perspective, which include working with business, continuous professional development and graduate start-ups, promoting local growth, research partnerships and working with the public and third sector.

Several Russell Group universities also rate highly for the “public and community engagement” perspective, but a number of music schools, including the Royal College of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, also feature in the top quintile, as does the University of East London, the University of Lincoln and the University of the West of England.

Universities are also grouped into “clusters” so their results can be compared against similar institutions, though no overall ranking is provided.

Announcing the results, Research England said the results would “provide even better public information on the rich and diverse ways English universities continue to engage with society and our economy, locally, nationally and internationally”.

David Sweeney, executive chair of Research England, said: “Knowledge exchange is integral to the mission and purpose of our universities, and its importance in contributing to societal and economic prosperity is strongly supported by the government.

“Today’s new version of the Knowledge Exchange Framework takes further forward the vision and potential of [knowledge exchange] activity, providing richer evidence to demonstrate universities’ strengths in different areas when set alongside their peers.”

The framework is the second iteration of the KEF. For the first time, the KEF includes university activity conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic, with data indicating what Research England called the “remarkable resilience of the English higher education sector during a period of disruption and instability”.

In February, Research England published a review of the first iteration of the KEF – which is not currently used to inform funding, although this has been mooted as its eventual aim – to inform how it develops in the future. The review suggested a timetable for the alteration of knowledge exchange funding would be published in mid to late 2022, potentially leading to changes from 2023-24.

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