PraxisAuril has welcomed announcements by Chris Skidmore, Universities Minister, that signify a ‘new strategic direction for university knowledge exchange funding’ including a rise in HEIF to £250 million from 2020/21.
The announcements, which were made at Research England’s Engagement Forum in London (26th September), confirm the place of Knowledge Exchange alongside teaching and research as a core university mission. This underpins the central role given to KE in the Government’s Industrial Strategy (2017).
PraxisAuril has always highlighted the importance of HEIF through its advocacy activities, including in many consultation responses to Government, emphasising its flexibility and power to leverage many other sources of external funding for a wide range of KE activities. It supports not only projects but KE professionals that work at the intersections of research and external audiences; raising awareness of KE as a set of activities that have the potential to engage many different audiences for economic and social benefits. Commenting on the announcement Sean Fielding, PraxisAuril Chair said:
“The UK is one of the best countries in the world for Knowledge Exchange and this would not have been possible without the HEIF scheme. A consistent, reliable source of funding to support collaborative partnerships is absolutely crucial and gives the UK system a real competitive edge.”
Alongside the HEIF announcement came confirmation that the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), the development of which so many PraxisAuril members have contributed to, will roll out from 2020. The KEF has stimulated new conversations about KE which PraxisAuril has welcomed. We look forward to working with Research England as the project is implemented. This includes consideration of how the KEF will be put ‘at the heart’ of HEIF evaluation so that KE inputs and outputs are better understood and valued. Better understanding of the teaching element of the HEIF budget, now held by the Office for Students, will be delivered through a joint OfS/Research England call for projects to provide evidence of how KE benefits students. This will also feed into the HEIF evaluation review.
With these announcements it is clear that knowledge exchange is at the heart of the Government’s commitment to raise R&D investment to 2.4% and that there are both opportunities and challenges ahead for KE practitioners as the people at the “sharp end” of policy implementation: building partnerships, generating new ventures, managing regional projects and creating significant leverage for their institutions. PraxisAuril looks forward to supporting members at this exciting time; continuing to develop, promote and connect our world-class KE community.
Details of Chris Skidmore’s announcements at the Research England Engagement Event can be found on the Research England website, where you can also read the Minister's letter to David Sweeney, published subsequently.