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Update on the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and driving our ambitions for London

By ucypcac, on 30 October 2017

In his speech at the recent HEFCE conference (12 October 2017), the Universities Minister Jo Johnson set out some ideas around the development and assessment of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF).

Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise and London), UCL.

Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise and London), UCL.

How ready are we for this? Put simply, we are very ready.

Knowledge exchange and innovation is one of three key activities, alongside research and teaching, that the UK government actively supports universities to do. The KEF will complement the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), to which our sector already responds.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the UK government has recognised the importance of knowledge exchange since the Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) was introduced in 2001. Since then it’s provided direct financial support to English universities through the HEIF grant allocation, for which UCL receives the maximum allowable award.

Jo Johnson’s vision for this third framework builds on existing processes. We already write a five year business plan to win our HEIF funding: and these are published by HEFCE. The HEIF funding is allocated on the basis of how well universities are doing in their interactions with businesses and the community, which we report annually through the Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey. Ideas around KEF go further, too: some aspects of it were in REF 2014: these have been removed from REF 2021, but there is much discussion about institution-wide impact and KEF could be seen as the successor to this idea.

We are also in a good position as we respond to HEFCE’s recent publications on best practice in the sector, and in particular the recommendations of the McMillan Review: Good practice in technology transfer. These have fed into the thinking and development of the recently published UCL Innovation and Enterprise Strategy 2016-2021. We are already putting this strategy into action – check our progress – with a focus on clarity of governance on IPR (intellectual property rights), support for business partnerships and research commercialisation. The UCL Innovation and Enterprise team is also influencing government thinking on an ongoing basis through our close involvement with relevant external bodies, such as PraxisAuril where Martin Davies, Director of Business and Innovation Partnerships, is a co-chair.

Spreading the benefits: the wider London and UK agenda

Government wants to see best practice in knowledge exchange spread between universities, and to see universities having an impact on their region. Many government reports and initiatives point us in these directions, not least the Industrial Strategy, the recent Connecting Capability Fund announcements and the Science and Innovation Audits. We have many opportunities to support innovation and enterprise and knowledge exchange in our ‘place’ and to share best practice with other universities: a couple you may not know about is that UCL has initiated work with universities in London to look at how we are developing student entrepreneurship and how this can benefit our local communities, and we are also exploring how we can share best practice in entrepreneurship with universities in the north of England.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, visiting UCL in October to mark the launch of his 'T-charge' and promote action to tackle London’s air quality.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, visiting UCL in October to mark the launch of his ‘T-charge’ and promote action to tackle London’s air quality.

The Mayor of London, too, recognises the importance of universities to London, and has described London as the HE Capital of the World. Currently we are supporting the GLA in their wider interactions with the London universities, for example helping to organise an event in November with senior leaders from these universities that will be chaired by myself.

London’s Global University: in London, of London and for London

As a university, when we committed to UCL 2034, my Vice-Provost responsibility included setting out a high-level implementation plan and developing a cross-faculty London strategy.

Where are we with that right now?

Firstly, I am really delighted that Professor Andrew Brown has been appointed as Pro-Vice-Provost (London) and UCL 2034 London strategy lead. In this role he will work with myself and with many of you and across London over the coming months.

Andrew has outstanding experience and background for this role, both professionally and personally. He brings great knowledge of London, of HE and UCL, a deep understanding of the importance of place and location for a university that, coupled with our global networks, gives real insight to UCL as London’s Global University. He has contributed significantly to the improvement in education in London, and has strong connections with local authorities and a variety of leaders within London. Most recently he has served as Interim Director and Pro-Director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and as Pro-Vice-Provost (Enterprise) at UCL.

Secondly, UCL 2034 sets out an ambitious strategy for UCL as London’s Global University. I am occasionally asked what this means, whilst there are many answers to this beyond this article, it seems to me the simplest expression is embedded in the place-based nature of universities – we are absolutely in London, shaped and influenced by London, reflecting so many aspects of its cultural and global diversity, innovation, its comprehensive nature – coupled with the global nature of London and ourselves. Not just our students and staff coming from over 150 countries, but our global reach through alumni in over 190 countries.

UCL graduates Jacob and Matt talking about their start-up CityStasher at UCL BaseKX, UCL's entrepreneurial hub in the heart of King's Cross, London. Look out for their story as progress against UCL 2034 strategy.

UCL graduates Jacob and Matt talking about their start-up CityStasher at UCL BaseKX, UCL’s entrepreneurial hub in the heart of King’s Cross, London. Look out for their story as progress against UCL 2034 strategy.

UCL is so completely integrated in London, so very much of the nature of London, that there is an overwhelming range of priorities we could have in our support for London. Together with Andrew and our London Champions  from across UCL, we have now agreed seven of eight* priorities which the UCL 2034 London strategy will focus on. These are:

  • Mobilise our world leading educational research and expertise to help build capacity and excellence across London’s education system;
  • Through our high impact legal research and activities, support London as a global centre for legal services, dispute resolution and the promotion of the rule of law;
  • Work with London government, the property sector and communities to bring evidence and the latest modelling to bear on urban design and place making;
  • Build partnerships with London SMEs and high-growth businesses, to bring economic benefit to London and the U.K.;
  • Use our relationships with the leaders of London, including the Mayor and GLA, Local authorities and others, to support the ambition to maintain London as the greatest city in the world;
  • Develop and enhance UCL’s reputation as a cultural leader through an innovative and engaging programme of activity that leverage UCL’s world leading research and scholarship and its unique cultural and heritage assets through partnership and co-production;
  • Work with local partners to enhance the lives of those who work, live and study in our neighbourhood; and

      *     A priority on mental health is being developed.

Next steps:

From priorities we need to go to action: much is already happening and we will be updating you on this as we publish the UCL2034 London strategy.

Read more on London.

Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise and London)

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