Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
Universities grow knowledge exchange activity for the benefit of businesses and communities
Knowledge exchange activity on the part of UK universities continued to grow in 2015-16. Income from knowledge exchange in England grew by 3 per cent, with income across the UK reaching a record £4.2 billion in total, according to HEFCE’s annual ‘Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction’ report.
Within this total, income from intellectual property, such as licensing, increased by 37 per cent to a record high of £140 million. Formal spin-offs based on intellectual property generated by universities increased by 18 per cent, to 168 new companies. In total, university spin-off companies now employ over 18,000 people and in 2015-16 attracted external investment estimated at over £1.1 billion.
Income from engagement with businesses grew significantly faster than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth over the same period. In particular, engagement with small and medium-sized enterprises showed strong increases, with university income from contract research increasing by 13 per cent and from consultancy by 14 per cent.
The report also shows how university knowledge exchange activity benefits graduates and society. Universities and colleges helped to launch over 4,000 graduate start-up companies, and in total, these are estimated to have created over 22,000 jobs.
In terms of engagement with business and society, there were over 23 million attendees at free university events such as lectures, exhibitions and performances, with over 52,000 days of academic staff time committed to delivering or supporting these.
Speaking at HEFCE’s annual conference today, Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson welcomed the report.
David Sweeney, Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE and Executive Chair Designate of Research England, said:
‘The 3 per cent increase in knowledge exchange activity shows how universities in England have embedded it as part of their core mission. It is good to see such consistently strong engagement with businesses and communities. The Knowledge Exchange Framework will help universities in deriving greater value for their partners from this activity. It is clear that the sector will have a critical role in supporting the government’s aim of increasing research and development spending to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027, not least through helping to deliver the forthcoming industrial strategy. I look forward to further strong engagement between universities and businesses of all sizes.’
Read the Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction survey 2014-15 (HEFCE 2017/23).
- Higher education institutions (HEIs) help organisations of all sizes and sorts to become more competitive, innovative and productive, through offering their wealth of knowledge and expertise. The term ‘knowledge exchange’ (KE) is shorthand for the multiple interactions between HEIs and businesses, public services, charities and communities to create social and economic benefit. These interactions include joint research and development projects, consultancy, training and setting up new companies. Knowledge exchange is critical to a world-leading higher education system.
- The Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE‑BCI) survey is in its 16th year and is an essential source of information on university KE in the UK. ‘Business’ in this context may refer to private, public, and third-sector partners of all sizes. ‘Community’ in this context means society as a whole outside HEIs, including all social, community and cultural organisations, individuals, and the public, both nationally and internationally.
- The survey records information on a wide range of interactions with external partners and the wider world, such as collaborative and contract research, consultancy, continuing professional development, regeneration and development programmes, the exploitation of intellectual property and other activities with a direct social benefit, such as hosting museums and giving public lectures.
- As well as displaying selected data at the national level we have also, for the first time, presented data at the UK regional, sub-regional, county, local enterprise partnership region and individual institutional level as maps, reflecting the aim of the Government’s industrial strategy green paper to have ‘recognition of the importance of place at its heart’. This data is available at www.hefce.ac.uk/ke/hebci/data/.
- This report builds on data published in previous HE‑BCI survey reports, the most recent of which – ‘Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction Survey: 2014-15’ (HEFCE 2016/19) – was published in August 2016 and analysed 2014-15 data.
- The data is collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. HEIs provided data for activity occurring during the academic year 2015-16. Data on strategy and infrastructure relates to the end of the academic year (July 2016). All publicly funded UK HEIs provided data for this report.
- This report also makes international comparisons on key intellectual property indicators from the USA and Japan. These are reported in Annex B of the report.
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